Ghost Devices – How To Remove Them


What Are Ghost Devices?

When you attach a device to your computer, such as a keyboard, mouse, USB thumb drive and so on, Windows makes a record of this device along with the driver information it needs to manage it. When the device is unattached this information is not removed, leaving behind what are known as ghost devices.

These entries accumulate over time and basically clog things up. It doesn’t have to be this way…

Spring Cleaning

Everything in your home needs a good cleaning from time to time and your computer is no exception.

There are many ways to clean up your computer and getting rid of junk is one of them. Junk can be defined as anything that is unnecessary, disk-hogging, or system-slowing clutter. Ghost devices qualify.

Removing Ghost Devices

There is the manual way. This is probably for geeks because they like to get their hands ‘dirty’ and take things apart even though they are working perfectly. I’m guilty of that and have often wondered how I’m going to put it all back together– much to my parents’ chagrin in my younger days.

Then there is the software method which is probably better for those who don’t care about the mechanics so much but just want to get the job done.

The Geeky Method

To get rid of unwanted drivers, devices, or services, use the following steps:

  • Open the Start menu and choose Run
  • Type in cmd and click OK
  • At the command prompt, type: set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 and press Enter. (Note that nothing seems to happen. This is expected. You are actually setting an environment variable which is going to help you to see hidden devices.)
  • On the next command prompt line, type devmgmt.msc and press Enter. This will launch the Windows Device Manager Console.
  • In the Device Manager Console, from the View Menu, select Show Hidden Devices.

Note:  Make a backup of the registry before making any changes. Do not tamper with System Devices. You can break your system if you remove something you shouldn’t.

The Non-Geeky Method

Codeplex has written a utility to accomplish all of the above with no fuss and no muss. It is called GhostBuster. There is a Portable Version, also.


This application enumerates all devices, detects ghosted devices and removes these if they match selectable devices types and/or devices classes with a single mouse-click.


Change Log:

  • Added WMI based RestorePoint support. Note this is experimental code, it creates a ‘GhostBuster Restore Point’.
  • Removed test code from program.cs.
  • Improved counting.
  • Changed color of ghosted but unfiltered devices.
  • Changed HwEntries into an ObservableCollection.
  • Added Properties Form.
  • Added Properties MenuItem to Right-Click Context Menu. It shows a dialog with some more information on the driver properties found in the registry.
  • Added Hide Unfiltered Devices to Right-Click Context Menu. This will hide all unfiltered and non ghosted devices and will condense the list’s size.

Note: If you choose to have GhostBuster create a System Restore Point, be sure you have System Restore enabled first. It will break if you don’t do this.

Final Words

Even though I have called using GhosterBuster a non-geeky method there is nothing non-geeky about this entire endeavor.

Ghost Buster is a small but powerful utility. It does it’s job. Period. Use it wisely.

Once again, you will probably see no performance benefits from removing ghost devices. It won’t speed up your computer any more than cleaning your Registry will noticeably speed things up. What it may do, however, is give you that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from knowing that you have taken one more small step toward make your computer run as good as it possibly can.



About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

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