Display Phantom Drivers in Windows 2000/XP/2003

Posted on January 8, 2009 by Daniel Petri in Windows Client OS with 0 Comments

How can I display hidden (phantom) drivers in Windows 2000/XP/2003?

There are times when you’ll need to manually remove old, obsolete, hidden (phantom) drivers from your system. Looking in Device Manager does not show all the installed drivers, just the ones that are configurable by the GUI.



To force your system to display these old and hidden drivers you’ll need to follow these steps:

Method #1:

Note: Credits to this tip go to Amir Meron, John Bryce.

  1. Go to Control Panel and double click on System. You can also right-click My Computer (if the icon is shown on the desktop) and choose Properties.

Note: A faster way for opening up the System applet is to press the Windows logo key ΓΏ on your keyboard and then press Pause/Break at the same time.

  1. Go to the Advanced tab and click Environment Variables.

  1. In the System Variables section click on the New button.

  1. In the New System Variable dialog box, under the Variable Name value enter devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices (just copy the value from here and paste it there) and give it a variable value of 1.

Click Ok.

  1. In the Environment Variables window notice how the new variable appeared in the System Variables section. Click Ok.

  1. In the System Properties window click Ok.
  2. Log off and log on.
  3. Open Device Manager (Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager).
  4. From the View menu click Show Hidden Devices and notice the change.

Method #2:

You can perform the same task by using the registry (or even create a logon script that will add the following key to the registry):

  1. Open Registry Editor.
  2. In Registry Editor, navigate to the following registry key:


  1. Create the following value (DWORD):


and give it a value of 1.

Note: As always, before making changes to your registry you should always make sure you have a valid backup. In cases where you’re supposed to delete or modify keys or values from the registry it is possible to first export that key or value(s) to a .REG file before performing the changes.

  1. Close Registry Editor and reboot.

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