Solved How do you get rid of useless, unlabeled drivers?

Microsoft Wireless desktop 3000 keyboard...
April 30, 2012 at 08:28:58
Specs: Windows 2000 Pro
This replaces my preceding question. I'll state the problem in more-general terms, which should evince more-useful answers.

The Device Manager shows currently installed device drivers, including drivers marked with a black exclamation point on a yellow triangle. Though associated with a particular device, * the Device Manager doesn't recognize them. And (perhaps not surprisingly) they can often be "uninstalled" without in any way affecting the device's operation. ** Yet, when you restart the computer, they're back like crabgrass. (As is well-known, "uninstallation" does not actually erase the driver.)

So here's the question... How do you get rid of them, once and for all? That is, how do you locate them on the hard drive, then blast them into oblivion, so Windows can't reinstall them at the next restart?

I'm interested in all information directly or indirectly connected with this issue. Thanking you in advance, I remain yours truly, etc, etc, etc.

* I've found a USB driver (Microsoft rev 5.0.2183.1) that appears to be generic -- it's used with a lot of devices, of varying types. This >>isn't<< the sort of driver I'm talking about.

** Uninstalling a required driver usually causes the associated device to immediately stop working.

See More: How do you get rid of useless, unlabeled drivers?

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April 30, 2012 at 11:00:05
I haven't got a Win2000 system to check it on but if you right-click the errant drivers in Device Manager, choose 'properties' then 'driver details' it should show the location and name of the driver files. You need to be a bit cautious because you may find that a driver consists of more than one file in more than one location, & these may be shared with other, in-use drivers, but if you're not certain as to whether it's safe to blow them away, just rename them & see if it has any detrimental effect.

"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us..." Pink Floyd

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April 30, 2012 at 11:34:01
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. And a huge DUH!, as well! Talk about dense...

If you click the Driver tab, then the Driver Details button, All Is Made Clear. As you suggest, simply renaming the drivers, then restarting the computer, is safe (provided you're not killing the drivers for a USB device the computer boots from).

This approach also makes it easier to remove the "hidden devices" drivers.

Thank you for pointing out what I should have known. If it works, you will receive the coveted Best Answer Award. (Give me a few days.)

Thanks again.

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May 3, 2012 at 10:17:14
✔ Best Answer
I finally have some answers. Hopefully they'll be useful to others.

The original problem concerned drivers for the Windows 3000 wireless desktop using the v6 2.4GHz dual transceiver. The OS repeatedly loaded three unneeded drivers that Device Manager didn't recognize and marked with an exclamation point. "Uninstalling" them did no good; they always returned.

The drivers were faceless; they had no names, and no references to files on the hard drive. (How can you delete something you can't find?)

I finally thought of using Reinstall. I had Device Manager consult Windows Update, which suggested two .INF files, HIDserve.inf and input.inf. The former didn't work, but the latter did. All three drivers were replaced, and when the computer was restarted, there they were, with no Exclamation Points of Dubity. Case closed -- I hope.

As for "uninstalling" drivers... I've been looking around the Web, and discovered there's some potentially misleading information about this. I hope the following is at least correct (even if not complete).

Uninstalling a driver doesn't remove it from the hard disk. Rather, it simply yanks it from RAM, and the device stops working. When the computer is restarted, there's a good chance the driver will be relocated, and the device will again operate. This protects you from Dumb Mistakes, but it makes it harder to remove drivers that don't belong and shouldn't be loaded (as in the situation that provoked this question).

Let's back up and look at the USB system. Its "thing" is locating and installing the right (or appropriate) driver for the device you just plugged in. Once the driver is working, Device Manager keeps track of the device and the drivers it uses, so it won't have to search the next time the device is plugged in. As far as I can tell, if you plug the device into different USB hubs at different times, there will be multiple entries, one for each hub. More about this later.

It's this information that's displayed when you run Device Manager. Uninstalling the driver removes it from memory (but not from the hard disk), and removes it from this list. (If that's wrong, someone correct me.)

When you have Device Manager display hidden devices (which requires adding the environment variable "devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices" and setting its value to 1), you'll see lots of gray-out drivers listed.

They're gray either because the device (though present) is not in use, or because the device has been removed altogether. In general, the "not in use" entries should be left alone. If the driver-properties information indicates it's for a device you intend to use again (such as Zip drive, a hard drive in a portable device, etc) leave it unmolested.

Drivers without any such information are problematical. Usually they're "generic" drivers (for such things as USB hubs and flash drives) and can be safely yanked. Even if you make a mistake, the USB system will correctly load them the next time the device is attached. And some of these entries will be for a device that has been installed to different USB hubs at different times. If every USB is currently where you want it, then it's okay to remove these.

Interestingly, many devices are considered "plug and play" -- even though they aren't USB! This includes hard drives -- so be careful about yanking their drivers. All my grayed hard-drive drivers were for drives no longer installed, so I pulled them. If you have any doubts, Google the model numbers listed.

There's more to it than this, but the patient and careful study of Device Manager's listings should reveal what you need to know. I removed about 100 unnecessary entries, and did no harm to my machine.

"Unfortunately", the entries are just that -- they reference the drivers, they don't load them. Removing them makes for a much-cleaner and more-easily understood Device Manager -- but your computer won't boot up any faster.

As for the non-plug-and-play drivers... I haven't learned enough about them to offer any advice. Caution is advised.

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