Most people who use a computer will know what a device driver is and what role it performs on your computer. To put it simply, a device driver is a piece of software that lets a hardware device talk to Windows. If you don’t have the correct driver installed, or no driver at all, the hardware will not function because Windows can’t communicate with it. That’s why it’s important to find the correct and latest driver so things can hopefully run more smoothly.
With so many different hardware devices there is a vast array of device drivers available, and the chances are that you have to remove the old driver software before you buy and install another hardware component. Most of the time this is not a problem and you simply use the software’s own uninstaller. This works most of the time and you can carry on with the new install of the hardware and software.
It’s very important that you remove old drivers, and when you remove them, they are uninstalled in the correct way. If you for some reason can’t remove the old drivers properly, you need to be able to get them off the system another way. Driver leftovers can be a cause of stability or communication problems with the new hardware, or in more severe cases such as changing the type of hard disc controller, preventing Windows from starting up completely.
One tool you could try to remove leftover driver remnants from your system is Driver Sweeper . It’s a fast and simple program and can help with a number of 3rd party drivers such as AMD and NVIDIA graphics, Intel and NVIDIA chip sets, Creative / Realtek / Asus sound chips, and JMicron or Marvell storage drivers etc. This obviously isn’t a complete list but does cover most of the more popular hardware devices which often have the biggest and most complicated drivers, and the most common for causing major issues on the system.
Some of you may have heard of Guru3D Driver Sweeper which is the same tool just released under different names after Phyxion’s partnership with Guru3D ended. This has since changed again, though more on that later…
Driver Sweeper needs installing so make sure to opt out of the offered adware. In the main window you can see there is a total of 16 brands of driver it can search for and delete the leftovers if any are found. Just put a tick by any driver you want to look for and click the Analyse button.
When the results are displayed you will see if there is any leftover data. You can then select what needs removing by making sure it’s ticked, there is a filter button at the bottom left to select or deselect only the files, folders or registry entries. Just to remind you, this tool is NOT a general uninstall tool for drivers and you should try to remove them using the official uninstaller first. Driver Sweeper is there to remove anything that gets left behind afterwards which could potentially cause problems.
Driver Sweeper will create a backup of whatever you choose to delete so if you make a mistake, all is not lost and you should be able to restore what was deleted. There is also a custom filter window where you can add an entry to be deleted if you have found something that should be deleted and gets left behind. And a slightly bizarre feature completely driver unrelated is the restore Desktop Icons window. Click Save and it will save the position of all the icons on your desktop, and then they can be restored back to those exact positions at a later date.
Driver Sweeper works on Windows XP, Vista and 7.
Sadly Driver Sweeper hasn’t been updated since 2011 so newer and future drivers will start to be a problem for it and items will be missed in the search process. The developer Phyxion is no more and Driver Sweeper is now under the control of Treexy who have given it an overhaul and a new name of Driver Fusion. This is now a shareware tool but the scanning and deleting, backup and restore, custom filters and desktop icon position saving all remain free to use.
Driver Fusion also has the same adware you need to opt out of during install and this program also requires .NET v4 to run. Usage is broadly the same as Driver Sweeper but the interface has had a makeover so it just means now the functions are in different places with different names. Driver scanning is now in Maintenence > Driver Inspection, icon saving is in Computer > Desktop and the log and restore functions are in Management.
This program is much more up to date than Driver Sweeper so in theory should be better at removing all leftovers from more recent drivers. Driver Fusion works on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8. A direct download link is under the green CNET button.
On a final note, both of these tools can be made portable by extracting them with Universal Extractor, which has the bonus of avoiding the toolbar adware in addition to making the programs portable.