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Normally this isn’t a problem because you install Windows on a machine and that’s it.

Some IT shops will install Windows on a machine, seal it with Sysprep, and then create a ghost image of that machine, take that image and install it on a different model, ghost that; install it again on another model…well, you get the point. The net effect is that you can have a single image for many different configurations because the end installation of Windows has seen and loaded drivers for the hardware once before. IMNSHO* this is just lazy. Most large companies manage to cope with a machine and model specific image library. But that’s just me.

Ghost devices can also show up if you don’t “uninstall” the device with device manager before you physically remove the device when replacing it with a new one or removing it altogether. Windows won’t find it when it boots up and will simply hide the entry in device manager because it is assuming that it might come back some day. An example of a legitimate ghost device would be a thumb drive or other external USB device that you simply don’t have plugged in right now.

The downside of this is that all of the devices that are no longer present are still registered along with all of their settings in the registry. Windows is looking for those devices every time you start your computer. Aside from the startup issue, this shouldn’t really cause a problem however, I learned about this because I did have a problem with a network card on a system and left over settings were screwing it up. Until I learned about this and removed the non-present devices, nothing I did would make things work correctly.

Here are the instructions in a Microsoft Knowledge base article on how to see the hidden, non-present devices on your machine. Give it a try. You can’t hurt anything and you might be amazed by what you see.

The good news is that once you can see them, you can uninstall them.  Right-click and choose unistall.  The usual caveats and disclaimers apply.  Somethings it won't let you unistall and there was at least one thing I tried to uninstall under System devices that caused me to freeze up.  A simple reboot fixes the problem.

Just because I can...


posted on Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:39 PM