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Vista and XP: Remove/View Hidden/Not Connected Devices in the Device Manager

The device manager does not show devices that are not currently connected. Here’s how to remove them.

In the world of MP3-players, USB-drives, and plug-and-play everything, you computer can get really full of “installed” devices. The device manager typically does not display these devices if they are not connected; however, if the drivers are causing problems, this makes it very difficult to remove these items.

Here’s how to display these:

If you want to do this only one time:

    1. Click Start
    2. Click Run
    3. Type cmd.exe in the textbox and click OK
    4. Type set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 and hit ENTER
    5. Type cd\windows\system32 and hit ENTER
    6. Type start devmgmt.msc and hit ENTER
    7. When the device manager opens, click the View menu
    8. Click Show Hidden Devices

    Typically hidden devices will be gray. Uninstall the device that you believe is causing the problem. As soon as you close the cmd box, the hidden devices will be hidden in the device manager again.

If you want it always to show these:

    1. Right-click on My Computer
    2. Select Properties from the context menu
    3. Click Advanced tab
    4. Click Environment Variables
    5. Click New
    6. In the variable name put devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices
    7. In the variable value put 1
    8. Click OK 3 times

    Now anytime you open the device manager and select Show Hidden Devices from the View menu, you should see the nonconnected, hidden devices as well.

David Kirk
David Kirk
David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.


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