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{{item.title}}, identify changes in netscaler build files with, file integrity monitoring, how to remove "ghost" nic devices from windows, applicable products.

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Symptoms or Error

Unidesk 2.X releases  before 2.8.3:  After Desktops have been backed up and restored to a new CachePoint, the NIC doesn't come up. Even after restarting to apply changes and rediscovering the disks, the driver does not appear to install correctly. This can also happen during layer changes on a desktop.

For all versions of Unidesk & App Layering : The underlying problem is that every new instance of a VMXNet3 network device is detected by Windows as a completely separate device. Unlike E1000-compatible devices, which re-use the same device nodes, every new MAC address on a VMXNet3, even if it's in the same virtual PCI location, causes a new device detection. So these devices accumulate in the registry as no-longer-present devices. When Unidesk is attempting to merge multiple VMXNet3 device nodes from multiple layer sources, we sometimes fail to merge them properly. This can result in Windows not being able to bring up any network interface until the excess nonpresent device records are removed.

VMware is aware of the VMXNet3 proliferation problem. They may recommend an MS patch referenced in this VMware KB: http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1020078 . However, Unidesk has observed this patch to break the VMXNet3 driver when included in an OS layer update, so we do not currently recommend it. If you apply this patch in an OS layer version, you may wind up with desktops with a non-functional VMXNet3 device, and uninstalling it from the device manager does not actually remove it.

The following instructions apply to Windows 7 and 2008.  Startingin Windows 8, you no longer need to start Device Manager in Nonpresent Devices mode.  Just run DevMgmt and Show Hidden Devices, and you will automatically see the grayed-out nonpresent devices too. For Windows 7, close any open instances of the Device Manager.  Open an Administrator Command Prompt and type the following:

Set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 Devmgmt.msc

This brings up the device manager with the flag enabled that allows you to see non-present (or ghost) devices. In the device manager:

  • Select View > Show Hidden Devices .
  • Expand the Network Adapters List.
  • Uninstall ALL of the VMXNet3 network adapters (there will likely be several; also do not delete drivers).
  • Uninstall any unknown devices.
  • Leave the other network devices alone.
  • Select Action > Scan for Hardware Changes .

Windows should now re-discover the VMXNet3 device and install it properly. Because this information is stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, it should be sufficient to clean this up in the OS layer, and it should fix it for any other machines.

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How to Bulk-Remove All Hidden Devices in Device Manager? (Sample PowerShell Script for Single Devices)

So a while back I put this together to clear devices and then re-scan:

I used it to deal with malfunctioning USB devices, I let this script run and it deleted every USB device it could find from Device Manager, and then re-scanned for hardware so connected devices would start working again. (It was great because this would even uninstall the mouse and keyboard drivers, and then reinstall them when it re-scanned; if I didn't do that then I'd have to force a restart which is never a good thing.)

Now I want to see about doing something else. I've read that sometimes drivers for "hidden" devices can cause problems if they get outdated, so I wanted to see if there was a way to use this (or something like this) to do that? It gets tedious having to do go through and do it manually by expanding every single category.

tnpir4002's user avatar

  • Device drivers do not go outdated (until Microsoft removes the APIs they use) and neither will this cause problems. Windows Update will update all drivers it can anyway. –  Daniel B Apr 2 at 8:00
  • Maybe so, but the fact remains that removing hidden devices has solved problems for me before, and all I'm looking to do is make the process simpler and faster. –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 17:29
  • Related but not an answer, switching Device Manager to View by connection and then deleting the USB Host controller is a one-step way to refresh all the child devices and have them re-detected... –  Keith Miller Apr 2 at 17:43
  • @KeithMiller that's a capability I'd never known Device Manager had. Next time one of these problems pops up I'll give that a try. Thanks! –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 18:40
  • Thanks for the original script! It helped with neighbour's wireless device which is detected as a new instance each day polluting the device list. –  Konstantin Pelepelin Apr 23 at 18:12

2 Answers 2

Found an answer: https://github.com/istvans/scripts/blob/master/removeGhosts.ps1

This script has options that let you see "ghost" devices on your system without removing them, removing only certain of them (you can narrow it down by keyword), or removing them all. If anybody else has the same question as me this is how you do it. I've tested it on two of my systems, one running Windows 10 and another running Windows 11, and it does the trick.

Why do you wish to remove drivers critical to the OS operation.

Find the problem and deal with that.

Go to the USB section and disable one, try, disable next, try, disable next, try and so on.

You should be able to find the problem USB driver this way.

Remember if USB is an issue, deleting Video, Audio, or Network will not help you solve anything. Take a much more targeted approach.

Also, two more things:

(1) Get the manufacturer's Hardware Diagnostics and check all hardware.

(2) Get the manufacturer's Driver Update App and update all drivers.

It gets tedious having to do go through

Tedious takes a bit of time but better than breaking things.

Followup: MSCONFIG allows you to load minimal drivers and that may help with the above to find the problem driver if more than one.

John's user avatar

  • Nothing wrong with that solution, but not all manufacturers have driver update apps. One problem I encountered in the past that I'm at a loss to explain was with my Zune--somehow my system had the same device installed three times, with two of them hidden as disconnected, but it was interfering with my ability to sync them. I had to uninstall all three and then reinstall it to get it to work again. Problems like that are what I'm looking to fix. –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 3:07
  • And, the USB drivers I'm referring to are hardly critical to the OS operation. External peripherals can always be reinstalled with fresh drivers, which is what my script does--it removes drivers for whatever device IDs I give it, and then runs a hardware scan to get the drivers to reinstall fresh. That's fixed so many issues for me in the past it's a proven method. –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 3:12
  • Lastly, the reason I asked if there was a way to do this is because I'm an advanced user, and the manual approach has solved enough problems for me that I wanted to see if there was a more expedient/efficient way to go about it. –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 3:15
  • What I laid out is the very practical way. You can try MSCONFIG to temporarily stop drivers from loading but that probably will not be a lot faster. –  John Apr 2 at 10:41
  • Again, that's a perfectly valid solution but it doesn't offer quite the same benefits in terms of speed and efficiency that I'm looking for. If this approach (or the manual way at least) hadn't yielded dividends for me in the past I wouldn't be looking for a way to speed it up now. But it's not my first step--that's why I have the other script for more targeted application, if I know which device category is causing the issue. –  tnpir4002 Apr 2 at 17:25

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Top Contributors in Windows 10: Ramesh Srinivasan  -  neilpzz  -  CatteryDeveloper  -  questions_  -  Reza Ameri   👏 👏

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How to remove hidden devices shown in device manager using pnputil.exe

I have used pnputil with remove device flag and it is not removing the hidden devices. Any thoughts here?

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Thank you Dave. I have a requirement of creating installer which takes care of installing device driver and uninstalling them as per need. On uninstall, I need to make sure and remove if there are any hidden drivers.

it is speciific device drivers which are hidden

Thank you, Dave, for the quick help here.

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GhostBuster: remove ghosted devices on Windows


GhostBuster is a free portable open source program for Microsoft Windows devices to enumerate and remove so-called ghosted devices on the operating system. We reviewed GhostBuster back in 2012 for the first time.

A ghost device refers to a device that was connected to a Windows machine in the past but is no longer connected to it. Whenever you connect a new device to a Windows PC, Windows stores records of it in the Registry.

This can be a mouse or keyboard, a hard drive, computer monitor, or any other device.

These records remain on the system when you disconnect the device again and they are not removed automatically. While you can use the Windows Device Manager to remove individual items, programs like GhostBuster provide you with a better, easier to use interface.


You can run a portable version of GhostBuster or install it. The program enumerates all devices and highlights ghosted devices so that you can distinguish them from active devices right away.

Devices are grouped which improves accessibility. You can hide all active devices with a right-click and the selection of "hide unfiltered devices" from the context menu.

This makes it a lot easier to go through the list of ghosted devices before you decided what to do about them.

The right-click menu offers interesting options that help you analyze individual devices. You may use it to open the device properties which you may find useful as it reveals detailed information on the selected device which you may need to identify it properly.

device properties

Another option is to open the device's entries in the Windows Registry.

The right-click menu lists options to add the selected device to the removal list. Other options include adding devices by class or wildcard.

GhostBuster lists the selected action under "match type" in the table. It is recommended that you check the "create System Restore checkpoint" option before you hit the "remove Ghosts" button. The action requires elevation but should complete without issues.

GhostBuster's latest version supports additional features like the option to create a system restore point prior to removing devices from the system.

Closing Words

GhostBuster is a useful administrative tool for Windows to remove records of devices that you won't connect to Windows again, to remove records of device connections, and to remove device information to start anew when you connect the device the next time to the Windows machine.

Related articles

  • Find out which devices have been connected to your pc
  • Manage non-present devices on Windows with Device Cleanup Tool
  • Remove Old Windows Device Drivers

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Worked OK on XP and Vista (still does, as the elderly machines are still running!) but doesn’t seem to do its stuff on Win 10. Have three machines running Win 10 pro, 64-bit and get no deletion working from Ghostbuster on any of them.Tried running as administrator but no joy on that.

Unfortunatelly It doesn’t work

this is not working


Simple and efficient

Xp startup +-7 seconds faster when cleaning up the unused devices…

Very nice tool, thanks a lot for sharing !

Great tool. I had a several month old issue on my Win 7 Pro laptop’s LCD where it showed a lighter area about 2 inches wide from top to bottom. Since running Ghostbuster, and upon reboot, it is gone. My screen is back to normal. Wow! All along I thought this was a hardware issue. Apparently not. :-D

Thanks, Martin.

Doesn’t work. I am seeing devices that are live on my system right now listed as “Ghosted”.

Also unsure if it is listing a device as Ghosted if it is merely turned off (like a 2nd monitor I have that I rarely use). If that counts as Ghosted, then you’ll need to be very careful at what you remove.

DriverStore Explorer and DeviceCleanup are good portable alternatives.

Not working for me either, W7Pro. After clicking ‘Remove Ghosts’, nothing happens, even run as admin.

Would be great…if it worked. Oh and didn’t flag up on Windows as potential malware.

How does this differ from Device Cleanup Tool? made by http://www.uwe-sieber.de/misc_tools_e.html

Thanks. I need this app for my new previously owned Win 7 machine.

Excellent tool, I’ve been using it since the day you review it on every windows installation

Another nice and relatively new tool i’d recommend is

“XTR Toolbox”

https://github.com/Zeeex/XTR-Toolbox xtrtoolbox.blogspot.com

Was among the best freeware apps of february 2018 on the German chip.de http://www.chip.de/bildergalerie/Freeware-des-Monats-2018-Galerie_130718114.html

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