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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.

When pruning drivers, I usually click on Driver Class and then look for multiple instances of the same driver on a class-by-class basis. To attempt to remove them, one need only click the check box at the left as shown in Figure 2, then click the Delete Package button at the right.

Here's the good news about working with RAPR: it won't let you delete any drivers that Windows is actually using unless you over-ride the program and use the Force Deletion button explicitly. The only times I've ever used this capability with the program is when multiple sources of good advice have urged removal of a bad or questionable driver so that it can be replaced with a different, working, and older version.

Figure 3 shows a short before and after sequence to illustrate what typical clean-ups involve.

fig3a rapr x220t b4
Figure 3a: Duplicate System devices and USB controller entries appear on my Lenovo X220T.

fig3b rapr x220t after
Figure 3b: After pruning, only the newer instances for each device type appear.

When you consider that drivers for a typical graphics adapter consume between 200 and 400 MB of disk space, and that most devices require at least 2-4 MB at a minimum, getting rid of unwanted entries can really free up some room.

When is Driver Store clean-up action needed?

An old saying on the Internet regarding system optimization and cleaning earns the YMMV acronym (Your Mileage May Vary). It means that different systems will inevitably exhibit different behaviors, values and so forth. With that caveat in mind, take a look at the properties for your DriverStore directory: if it's over 1 GB in size, I'd fire up RAPR and see what it can find; if it's over 2 or 3 GB, you'll definitely want to see what's in there and get rid of what you no longer need or want. I've seen some instances where the folder's size exceeded 4 GB, and read about some cases where it topped 10 GB. Trust me: you don't want to let things go that far.

The worst offenders I've run into include the various Intel chipset update utilities (e.g., the various Intel Chipset Device Software packages, often called "INF Update Utility") and the Nvidia drivers. Intel's tools seem particularly prone to depositing dozens of copies of the same driver in the driver store.

Note: For whatever reason, if you have multiple instances of devices on (or in) your PC, you must indeed have a separate copy of a driver package (oemnnn.inf) for each one – that's why you cannot always remove what might look like unnecessary duplicates of the same driver on a PC. But high counts of the same driver, or worse, high counts of multiple versions of drivers for the same device, usually warrant clean-up.


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