Cool trick for cleaning up your installed devices

I’m sure this isn’t new to everyone, but someone internally passed on these instructions for viewing all of the devices installed on your machine. Normally only connected devices show up in device manager, but this little trick will show every thing, allowing you to uninstall devices not currently connected:

  1. add DEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES=1 to your environment variables
  2. run devmgmt.msc
  3. View->Show Hidden Devices
  4. View->Devices by Connection
  5. Drill down the tree to find the USB controllers 
  6. Uninstall all the USB devices under these that you don't want any more

To re-enumerate the present devices:

  1. Select your machine at the top of the tree
  2. Action->Scan for Hardware Changes

This trick can be useful if ActiveSync no longer wants to recongnize your device correctly.

Comments (3)

  1. Edward says:

    This is one of the tips that I ususally pass on to other people. But why was it made so difficult? People with portable computers and external peripherals like storage and mice are forever plugging them in to different usb ports. The same device plugged into a different port, or through a hup causes the driver to be reinstalled.

    Some drivers allocate resources such as virtual serial ports. You can end up in a situation where the only serial port numbers available are above the range that some applications will accept.

    On Windows 2000 there was "Add/Remove hardware" in control panel that showed all the devices connected or not, on Windows XP it was changed to just "Add hardware", the only way to clear things out now is to use that trick with device manager, but only a few people even know about it.

    Why remove such a useful option?

  2. ShadowChaser says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    You have no idea how frustrating it is to have things like "Local Area Network #5", but no #1, #2, #3, etc 😉

    Go find the Longhorn guys and make them add a show all devices option natively! 🙂

    Why did they ever remove this? Did Dell phone up and whine that a few people were deleting devices and causing them support calls? This is by far my biggest complaint about XP – I hope they fix it in SP3..

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