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Removing Invalid and Unused drivers from Windows XP

Removing Invalid and Unused drivers from Windows XP

Over the time you have used your Windows based computer, you have possibly made several hardware changes. This causes a potential situation with older (unused) device drivers remaining in the Windows Registry (usually hidden).

This can cause your system to perform below its optimal ability, may cause conflicts with new drivers, and possible system errors. If you fail to uninstall such drivers before you physically remove the related hardware, Windows XP does not cooperate, by default, in letting you remove the drivers - they often become 'hidden' resources.

Wen a physical device is removed from the computer - without removing the software, the only way to uninstalling the old drivers is to alter Windows Device Manager to Show hidden devices.

However, there is a easy way to display the hidden devices, and thus be able to uninstall these drivers using the device manager. Follow either of these two simple steps (cut and paste from the text below):

Permanent Windows Setup Method: (show hidden devices settings)

  • Open Windows System Properties
  • Select Advanced tab, click Environmental Variables button
  • Click New under System Variables
  • Variable name=devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices, Variable value =1 
    Click OK, then OK.
  • Open the Windows Device Manager (see below)

Temporary (once-only) Setup Method: (show hidden devices settings)

  • Run cmd via Start > Run (opens the windows command prompt)
  • Enter set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1
  • Press Enter key
  • Enter devmgmt.msc (opens Windows Device Manager)
  • Press Enter key

Windows Device Manager (show hidden devices user):

Access the old devices, and remove (uninstall) their drivers after using either above method:

  • Open Device Manager
  • Click the View menu, select Show hidden devices (must be done each time you open the device manager)
  • Devices not present will have a lightened grayed (or washed out) icon
  • Right click the grayed out item and select uninstall to remove the device's drivers

Show hidden device drivers

Warnings about removing Device Drivers!

Not all devices that show up as unused are safe to uninstall. The following items should be left alone:

  1. devices from different hardware profiles (such as a docking station for laptop)
  2. removable PnP devices
  3. powered down devices (printers, scanners, external storage)

Should you have hardware such as old Motherboard's, Network Cards, Sound Devices or Printers that have lingering drivers, this will allow you to remove them. While PNP devices are not supposed to load their drivers when their accompanying hardware is not in use, they can malfunction. Be careful removing drivers of any sort, as removing the wrong driver(s) may cause a Windows system error (a Windows restore point will fix this).

To access Windows system properties:

* Right click My Computer then left click properties
* Hold the Windows key and press Break (or Pause)

To access the Windows Device Manager:

* Click Start, Run, then type devmgmt.msc (or start devmgmt.msc)
* From the command prompt type devmgmt.msc (or start devmgmt.msc)
* From the system properties select the hardware tab and click device manager