Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get rid of old device drivers hidden in Vista

In a recent edition of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, “Troubleshoot Vista System Drivers More Efficiently with These Tools,” I told you that while many of the most common driver problems have been solved, you may still incur strange or erratic problems related to drivers in Vista. I then showed you a couple of tools (Driver Query and Driver View) that you can use to gather information on device drivers. However, I was reminded that Windows Vista retains old drivers even if you upgrade or change hardware.

For example, Vista knows that removable USB devices aren’t always connected, but it retains the drivers so that they will be ready the next time you connect the device. So what happens to that driver if you never connect that device to your computer again?

Over time these unused, but still installed, drivers can cause problems if they inadvertently become enabled. They can cause hardware conflicts or just cause the system to behave erratically. Fortunately, in addition to using the tools described in the previous article, when you’re troubleshooting a problem in Vista that you suspect is related to a driver, you can locate and remove any old and unused drivers by enabling a special feature in Device Manager that allows it to display non-present devices.

In this issue of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you how to use this special feature in Device Manager.