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How to reduce unnecessary drivers in Windows 10

Ed Tittel | Nov. 6, 2015
Like its predecessors, once you've run Windows 10 for a while, it can suffer from driver bloat. But using DriverStore Explorer and some simple techniques, you whittle down the number of obsolete or unused drivers that might be slowing you down.

It's important to note that the process documented says nothing about cleaning up older versions of drivers already present in the Windows driver store (in the %SystemRoot%\System32\DriverStore directory). The focus of this article is on investigating the contents of that driver store, and removing older and/or obsolete items to reduce its on-disk footprint.


There's an important downside to consider when removing elements from the driver store. If you remove all drivers except for the most recent one(s), you will not be able to use the Roll back driver option in the Properties window for the related device in Device Manager to revert to an earlier version of the driver, should the current one prove unstable. A more conservative approach to pruning your driver store might therefore be to keep the two most current drivers for any given device, rather than only the most current one. I myself do not follow this approach, except for drivers that are updated frequently or when using a beta driver. When only one driver is present for a device, the Roll Back Driver button is greyed out and inaccessible (see Figure 1).

fig1 norollback device
Figure 1: When only one driver version is in the DriverStore, roll back is not an available option.

Getting the lowdown on device drivers in Windows 10

For all modern Windows versions (Vista and newer) there's an excellent tool available to explicitly observe and manage the Windows driver store. The tool comes from CodePlex, Microsoft's free, open source software and source code repository, and it's called DriverStore Explorer (aka RAPR.exe). To forestall inevitable questions, version 0.5 dated December 30, 2012 is indeed the most current version as of this writing, and it works quite well with Windows 10, which it predates by almost three years.

To operate on the driver store, you must run RAPR.exe with administrative privileges (right-click the filename and then select Run as administrator from the resulting pop-up menu). Next, you must enumerate the items in the driver store, which produces a display that looks similar to Figure 2. (Driver Store Explorer will show the drivers present for the devices on your PC rather than for the devices present on the machine whence this screenshot originated, my Surface Pro 3.)

fig2 sp3 drivers
Figure 2: That's it! My cleaned-up Surface Pro 3 Driver Store includes only 33 drivers.

To give you an idea of what can happen to this repository for driver files, I've seen the total item count on this same machine go as high as 112, of which over 30 items were duplicated Intel drivers of one sort or another. If you click on any of the column heads shown in this display, the listing will re-sort itself to match.


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