How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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 “β€œ 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 “β€œ All Programs “β€œ Accessories “β€œ Command Prompt “β€œ right click and Select Run as”Β¦Administrator.

      1 command   How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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

      2 accesorries   How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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

    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 “β€œ
  5. devmgmt.msc

    3 dos window   How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

  6. In the Device Manager, go to View “β€œ 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   How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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

    5 uninstall   How To Easily Remove Old Drivers from Windows

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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15 Comments -

Hezee

what about unknown devices (yellow question-mark) is it ok to remove them as well?

thank you!

Saikat

The ‘Yellow Question Mark’/Unknown device could be because of various reasons…not necessarily a bad driver. Let me direct you to this detailed Microsoft Support article which explains it.

Hezee

thanks – it helped bigtime! ;)

Regine

Thanks.

Bonemonster

Thanks for putting this up, it has helped quite a bit. I do still have a question or a few. What is the most likely cause of GPU crashes, even after I have uninstalled all old drivers? I have 3 seperate GPU’s I can use: Nvidia 8400GS by XFX, ATI Radeon 3650HD by Visiontek and the onboard video )noe disabled) by Nvidia. No matter which option I choose games, such as Guild Wars or WoW, will eventually hang, crash, CTD or implode windows. This problem ONLYhappens when running 3D applications such as games. I thought it might be drivers but now I am not so sure. Also, how in the hell do I get a fix for the VPU Recover Error on the ATI card, not even Visiontek knows…

Saikat

Hi,
Your query falls a bit outside my area of “expertise”. And I haven’t faced a similar problem myself…I am more into Halo and Age of Empires.What I will do is forward your query to our writers network. We have some guys with pretty high geeky quotients out there…let’s see if they can come up with somehthing.

Saikat

One of my colleagues was very helpful with this suggestion:
I found a good forum thread about the VPU Recover Error, so I thought I would pass it along to you: http://www.flexbeta.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=9316. It basically counsels users to reinstall the graphics card driver, check the power supply unit, or increase the size of a computer’s virtual memory.
Another offered that your PC could be overheating. You can check both these out. Hope it’s a help.

U SUCK

Way to steal a post buddy.
howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/remove-old-drivers-after-upgrading-to-new-hardware/
This article was written on 08/1/07″

Saikat

Let me know if there’s another way to do a straightforward thing as removing old device drivers. Then I will willingly agree that I “stole” your “patented” method. I guess according to you, Windows also did not know about this and you were the first one to “discover” it. For your information, this method has been referred to for troubleshooting since the early days of XP. 2007 is pretty late. There’s a Techrepublic post dated 2006. Techniques are regurgitated on the net so that new readers and newbies can benefit from them. And from the 5-6 comments and 17 tweets, I guess it has helped at least someone.

Art_Teac

Umm, wouldn’t you achieve the same result if you reboot XP in Safe Mode, go to Device Manager and delete these orphan drivers?

Ivor the Insufferable

The difficulty I see, in this article and in some others, is that there’s no follow-up. No explanation or link is offered as to what the hidden device names are. I’ve found that there are a few that should be left alone. If I had their names handy from past misadventures, I’d give them here.

MUO needs to provide explanations of what the hidden devices are or might be, what can be removed, what’s best left alone.

Also, regarding another article, an explanation needs to be given on the process of rsstoring drivers backed up with DriverBackup. Every time I’ve seen this program recommended, no one, not the reviewer or any commenters, had any insights on how to restore these “backed up” drivers, nor any potential problems that might arise.

In short, please explain things more indepth and follow through on advice given here at MUO. As in the example given, if you’re going to talk about how to use a program to back up drivers, talk further about how to restore said drivers.

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

Altiris_Grunt

Outstanding post, Patriot!

dimitrios

10.000 thanks!!!!

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 :-)