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Remove Old Drivers After Upgrading to New Hardware

If you are experiencing weird issues after upgrading your hardware, or you’ve just upgraded to the latest hardware device and aren’t seeing the performance you’d like, you might want to remove the old drivers which are still installed for the old hardware, even though you can’t normally see them in device manager.

What you have to do is set a less-known flag to allow you to see non-present devices, and then launch device manager. You’ll then see the old devices in the list, and can uninstall the drivers for them.

In Windows 7 or Vista, the first thing you’ll need to do is open a command prompt in administrator mode. Type cmd into the start menu search box, and then use Ctrl+Shift+Enter to open in administrator mode. (You can also right-click on the command prompt and choose Run as Administrator)

Now paste in the following line:

SET DEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES=1

Then type in devmgmt.msc to start up Device Manager from the administrator command prompt:

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Once you are in Device Manager, go to the View menu and choose Show Hidden Devices, which will show all the device drivers including things that aren’t currently installed in your computer. 

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Notice how I have 6 mice in the list, even though I only have two installed (and my drawing tablet). The other 3 mice are old mice that I’ve used until they died…. the Geek tends to wear through input devices very quickly since he never leaves the computer…

image

You can right-click on the driver and then choose Uninstall from the menu to remove the drivers for that old hardware.

I’ve found that this can resolve a lot of weird issues, and even increase performance on some machines where you’ve upgraded a ton of times. This isn’t necessarily going to increase performance, but it’s nice to have a tidy computer nonetheless.

This tip also works the same in Windows 7, Vista, and XP.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/1/07

Comments (40)

  1. Bob

    You can also make this setting permanent by right-clicking My Computer, choosing Properties, going to the Advanced tab and click on the Environment Variables button. Under System variables click on the New button, and add the DEVMGR… variable name and value (“1″) to the list.

  2. The Geek

    Good point, Bob.

  3. Lamadredelsapo

    Great tip!

  4. alex

    it has to say (“1″) that exact way or only 1

  5. Asmodeus

    @Alex, just the 1 without the ” marks, same as setting a value in the registry.
    Nice tip geek but for those who may have a game pad especially a logitech pad do note that it will install “ghost” devices under the mouse and keyboard tree’s in the device manager. Typicialy these will be named logitech.The reason for this is because logitech and anyother gaming input device that runs a joy-2-key mapping program needs these for proper emulation.
    Enjoy!
    Asmodeus
    Hells Computer Tech.

  6. Ed

    Fantastic! The only person or place I could find that actually gave me a clean answer on how to get rid of an old USB driver left over from an uninstalled cell phone utility. Thank you for all three of your inputs.
    Ed

  7. Mark

    AWESOME tip. I was able to find a busted Palm USB driver, kick it out, and let it properly install.

    THANK YOU!

  8. SKEoD

    WOW thanks man, been looking two weeks for this. guess i need to explore my computer and options more.(thats what usually gets me into trouble)
    cant you see your process tree somewhere? then you would know if you need to leave that one installed such as for a joystick?
    had hard time getting ati radeon to work, guy on phone said to send it in for warranty, but i felt it was some old driver setting screwing it up. now it works great and i never sent it in for repairs.
    thanks

  9. Luis

    Thank You very much.
    It helped to solve a very annoying problem with my drawing tablet drivers.

    Thanks a lot

    –Luis

  10. Tompa

    Very very nice tip. Thank you very much, It helped me so.
    Best regards, Tom

  11. ched2k

    Hey thank you so much for this!

  12. Monte

    Doesn’t Vista come with this option already enabled? I know that both Vista systems I use already have the SHOW HIDDEN DEVICES option available from the VIEW menu in Device manager.

  13. onlyinmyhead

    Killer. Was banging my head against the wall for a while before reading this. You should see some of the crazy-complex ways some people post to do this same thing…

    Thanks!!

  14. Greg

    Very nice of you to post this, was having a nightmare via some longwinded method thanks

  15. Yev

    Awesome!

  16. Marc Routhier

    Thats great in vista but how do you do it in xp pro? I did a driver scan and found that i still have four processers installed. In device manager it does not show the processer at all. i have changed the processer several times. Can anyone help?

  17. Slikkster

    I find no difference using this variable in XP, and I’ve made tons of hardware changes over time. Yes, I copied and pasted correctly. Using XP Pro. Thoughts?

  18. Slikkster

    Belay my last…After finding the actual KB page from MS, I realized my issue: If you close the cmd prompt, the variable is cleared. The real answer is to make the change permanent as noted in the tips above.

  19. wolf

    Marc Routhier – Is it a QuadCore processor ??

    Quad and Dual core processor will show multiple instances of the hardware, it’s a windows thing.
    Also Dont worry about it, it will not affect your performance in any way, Windows wont constantly look for the missing hardware, it simply keeps the registry information in case the device is plugged back in.

    Good practice to keep the dev manager clean, but mainly look at USB devices as they can build up a hell of a lot over time, and also Hard drive partitions ( From external drives and flash drives ), if you move a USB device to a different port, windows will re-install it and create a new instance in the dev manager ( usually called #2, #3.. .etc ) again this wont affect performance, but if it gets out of hand, it could bloat your registry and cause headaches when you try to re-install some certain hardware.

    Some hardware shows up as invisible too, it may be a system critical driver that hidden to stop you accidently removing it, Dont remove it unless you know you can A: put it back, B: reinstall your OS / Repair install your OS.

    Always better to play it safe when your messing with hidden things ;)

  20. Marc Routhier

    I changed processors several times and was able to remove all the old ones. But it still does not show in system properties. Athlon fx55 single core. think it time to format and start over. Thanks again for all the help!

  21. wolf

    If it’s consistantly showing the wrong processor, it’s probably just how windows is displaying the CPU Version.

    http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php

  22. Marc Routhier

    Its not showing the wrong processor it does not show one at all in system properties, but it does show in the bios and device manager.

  23. Glen

    Thanks for the info! ;-)

  24. Steve

    I have windows vista basic and I need to get rid of a driver, for a game that I installed but I found out was not compatible with vista. Unfortunately one of the drivers reminds me every time I start up that its not compatible but I need to find it an delete it. Can anyone help me?

  25. rhonda

    Please Help HELP HELP…ME RHONDA…….I just bought a new hard drive for my Gateway GM5684e, it is not installing the operator system, it just keeps looping, one minute it says it is missing something for the system32 then another time it says that the registry or the other files are corrupt. I am trying to install Windows Vista

  26. eric

    so, if i find 6 entries of a device i can delete 5 ?or do i need to check somehow which ones i need or am using ?

    for instance i have one recluse keyboard but there are three entries can i delete two of the entries?

  27. Verlane

    I have this stupid thing that keeps popping up when I do a search…..LD-Finde.com. HOW do I get rid of it….I am just a beginner at this, and very frustrated! Thanks so much. Laney

  28. newbie

    can i uninstall my older GPU drivers from there?

  29. Aldo

    Yes, you can.

  30. Aldo

    It helps a lot when switching to a new MOBO and processor… it speeds up the system… Multi core processors require to uninstall each core, cuz each core is shown as a separate processor…

  31. Linda

    Thank you so much! I can’t believe that doing this just resolved months of teeth grinding due to my printer not working properly. There was like half a dozen entries where it looks like the printer driver had re-installed itself. I removed them all and reinstalled the driver and the printer works like a dream.

  32. Giselle

    Awesome!
    I just upgraded to a new tablet and was wondering why it wasn’t working right.
    I knew I had to uninstall the old drivers, I just didn’t know where.

    Thanks. :D

  33. Kari

    I still don’t get it……how do you know which one, to delete. And I uninstalled and delete my atheros wireless how do I get it back.

  34. Kari

    And how do you get your computer/laptop to use the current one and not the old?

  35. Richie

    Great Solution, Solved the problem as soon as the old drivers were permanently deleted form the system.
    Lots of researching before I came onto your site Thanks a Bunch!

  36. alex young

    piss off:)

  37. Bert

    I have 2 hidden usb drives in “Portable Device” category. I have removed drivers several times and each time I refresh or reboot; the drives come back and they show in “My Computer”. I managed to get them to stop showing in “My Computer” by going to “Disk Management” and removing the drive letter but then I end up with 2 “WPD”… I think driver that show in “DevMngr” and I cant remove these either without them coming back.
    What the heck do I do about this? I have even whacked all the USB and Storage Vols and they still come back. I have even tried Fsutil to delete the drives but I get a message saying the drives are not ready. These USB drives are not even connected to my system. Windows 7 Pro for OpSys. Note: I also have a PS2 mouse that keeps comming back. I use a MS 3000 Wireless mouse.

  38. vance

    ditto. win7 64bit sp1 stupid annoying ps2 mouse will not stay gone no matter what, system variable set to 1 or 21 it’s stil there.

  39. chan

    I have a problem if anyone can help me fix. I’m not good with computers. I have a w7 home premium. I was able to find out I do not have a network adapter and I don’t know where I can go to install in because it says in the.the device manager other devices instead of network adapter. I’m unable to go online but it still have wireless access … Help!!

  40. labouton

    I opened up the device mgr. and found 74 instances of isatap. Many of them are duplicates. Is it all right to delete those that are duplicates?

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