It’s time to give your Windows system a clean of all the old and unnecessary drivers on it. This will free up your storage space and you might see some performance improvements. We’ll show you two great methods to tidy up those drivers.
Not only does your system retain previous driver versions for current devices, it also stores drivers for devices you stopped using long ago. You might want to keep the former, but the latter can go!
If you have your own methods to share on removing old drivers from your Windows machine, please let us know in the comments below.
Remove Previous Driver Versions
When you update an existing driver, Windows will keep the old version stored on your system. This is so that you can easily roll back to the working version if the new one causes trouble.
Old drivers do take up space, though, so if you’d rather forgo that protection then you can remove them all. Remember, if you regret your choice, you can usually find previous drivers from the device manufacturer’s website.
To get started, press Windows key + R to open Run. Input cleanmgr and click OK. Select your main system drive from the drop-down and click OK. Disk Cleanup will then open. Click Clean up system files. You might need to select your system drive again.
This will then bring up a window containing a list of things you can delete to save system space. Feel free to tick the boxes of other items, but the pertinent one for us is Device driver packages. Once selected, click OK and it will delete your older driver versions.
Remove Old Device Drivers
If you’ve had your system for a long time then you’ve probably gone through lots of different hardware. Speakers, mice, keyboards, and all sorts of devices can install their own drivers to your computer.
The drivers for these devices will remain installed, even if you don’t use that device anymore, but just hidden from view. We’re going to show you how to reveal and delete them.
Step 1: Reveal Hidden Drivers
There are two different methods you can use to reveal your hidden drivers. Both achieve the same thing but feel free to use whichever you feel most comfortable with.
Option 1: Using Command Prompt
Perform a system search for cmd. Next, right click on the relevant result and click Run as administrator.
This will open the Command Prompt with elevated permissions (though it’s not the only method for opening a administrator Command Prompt). Copy and paste the following:
Press Enter. You won’t receive a confirmation message, but the change will have taken place.
Option 2: Using Environment Variables
Perform a system search for Edit the environment variables for your account and select the relevant result.
In the User variables section at the top, click New…. In the new window, input the Variable name as devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices and the Variable value as 1. Then click OK.
Step 2: Delete From Device Manager
Now that we’ve revealed the hidden drivers, it’s time to remove them. Do a system search for device manager and select the relevant result.
Once opened, go to View > Show hidden devices. This will give you a list of all your active and inactive devices. Those which are inactive will be grayed out.
Right click the inactive device and click Uninstall device to remove it completely. You’ll need to do this in turn for each device you want to uninstall.
Drivers Be Gone!
With these two methods, you can ensure that your system only has up-to-date drivers for devices that you’re actively using. Depending on how many drivers you’ve had stored, you’ll now have a good chunk of free storage space.
If you’re after more tips on how to get the most from your Windows drivers, see our guides on finding and replacing outdated drivers.
Do you have another method to find and remove old drivers? How often do you clean out your drivers?