How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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I am a cleanup junkie. On my computer, I have the usual motley of cleaners, uninstallers and update managers installed. I thought my system was squeaky clean and safe as a house until I ran into some conflict issues. The culprit it turned out was an old sound driver.

Old hardware drivers are remnants of upgrades and un-installations. Like forgotten landmines, they often return to cause performance hiccups and driver clashes.

Normally, these old hardware drivers remain hidden as the Device Manager displays only the active devices. Using a special command, it is possible to force them into view. What is easy and neat about the whole thing is that the old devices appear grayed out ““ sighting and uninstalling them is just a matter of a keystroke.

So here is the short and easy method to prevent your computer from being bombed out by old driver leftovers. The process is the same for Windows XP and Vista.

  1. Open Command prompt window in the administrator mode.
    • From Start ““ All Programs ““ Accessories ““ Command Prompt ““ right click and Select Run as”¦Administrator.

      1_command

    • Alternatively, Start ““ Run ““ Type cmd ““ press Ctrl+Shift +Enter to run as administrator.

      2_accesorries

  2. Now type (or copy-paste) the following command in the window and press Enter.
  3. SET DEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES=1

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    This forces the invisible old drivers to reveal themselves in the device manager.

  4. Now, we have to bring up the Device Manager. Type this command in the following line and press Enter ““
  5. devmgmt.msc

    3_dos-window

  6. In the Device Manager, go to View ““ enable Show hidden devices.
  7. The Device Manager now lists out all devices which are active and which are not. The inactive devices appear grayed out.

    4_show-hidden-devices

  8. From the list, right click on the inactive device you wish to remove and select Uninstall to remove the driver.

    5_uninstall

In three minutes you have detected and demolished the old device drivers which were stealthily creating problems for your system. Hopefully, your system is back to its squeaky clean state. Mine certainly is.

If you liked this how-to, then you can check out this post on backing up hardware drivers too.

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Comments (18)
  • Isai

    My pc only has one USB that works in. the others are connecting but not successfully. but the ports are not dead because as you put in a USB,it responds well but not successfully installing

  • SPL

    Okay, so super old post, but I was curious if this was required prior to device manager allowing the ability to view hidden drivers. Or, is this different?

    • Saikat

      That ability has been there since XP. The screenshots are of a XP machine.

      It’s only that Windows does not display some types of hidden devices, even when you enable the Show hidden devices option. “Ghosted” devices, such as USB devices that aren’t connected to your computer, will not appear in the list. To view them on Windows 7, Vista, or XP, you’ll have to launch the Device Manager in a special way.

  • Haresh

    Thanks a lot for the tips! USB drives and Memory cards drive had stopped working. But, after uninstalling all the inactive drivers, everything works fine again.

    Thanks again :-)

  • dimitrios

    10.000 thanks!!!!

  • Patriot

    This method does not actually delete the driver. If you remove a piece of hardware from the Device Manager using this method, the driver will be reinstalled, automatically, if you run the hardware detection scan again.

    The only way of which I’m aware to permanently remove the actual driver files is as described here: http://winhlp.com/node/199

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.