Master & Cmd-R

Removing uninstalled (missing) devices in Device Manager

Thanks to Rob for this great tip – I had no idea this was possible, so hopefully there’s others out there who will find this useful!

When you physically uninstall a device in Windows, the device drivers are often not uninstalled and will remain in your Device Manager, even though it’s no longer visible. Removing the drivers for these ghosted devices can clear up a lot of weird issues caused by driver conflicts, or more importantly, prevent issues from occurring in the first place.

Up to this point, my standard procedure to remove these old drivers was to reboot the machine in Safe Mode, which allows you to see all devices and drivers installed on the machine, even if they’re no longer present. This of course has the downside of taking extra time, as you now need to reboot to get into Safe Mode, and then reboot one more time to get back out again. And with servers being what they are, this can sometimes add as much as half an hour to what is probably a fairly simple hardware upgrade.

Here it is…

Your first step is to open up a command prompt, and type in the following:

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Starting the Device Manager from this command prompt is essential, as the command to show the missing devices only does it for that instance – if you leave this command prompt to open Device Manager it won’t show them!

Once Device Manager is open, click on View-Show hidden devices. In this case, we’re going to be removing an uninstalled Network adapter, so the only one that’s showing in the screenshot below is the one that is currently installed.

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Voila! Along with some other hidden devices, we find the network adapters that were uninstalled.

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(This is what Show hidden devices looks like if you haven’t run the command, or if you’ve mistakenly opened your Device Manager a different way – not from the command prompt. Note that while we can see the standard hidden adapters, we don’t see the ghosted ones like we do above.)

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Now that we can see our ghosted devices, it’s a simple matter of right clicking on the device and uninstalling it:

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Click OK  to confirm:

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And you’re done! No need to worry about running another command to reverse this, because as soon as you close Device Manager it resets to its defaults of not showing ghosted devices.