The Ghosts of Computing Past – Part 2October 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Backup, Computers, Hardware | 2 Comments
Sometimes the weirder problems are not software at all but rather device problems or conflicts. While you don’t have to worry about IRQ settings and such like the old days, the device drivers sometimes have to be updated to work with the evolving computer. Drivers are basically bits of software that communicate between the operating system and the hardware.
To see if you have hardware issues, right click on My Computer and select Manage. In there, you’ll find a bunch of tools. First we’ll look at Device Manager.
Devices with problems will show with a yellow or red mark. Or if the computer doesn’t have drivers for the device, it will show as a yellow question mark.
If you know the device is long gone, right click and select uninstall.
To fix the item, double click to open it. You can see the possible issue, driver version and other details there. If it’s telling you there’s a driver issue, click the Driver tab and click Update Driver.
You may first want to do a web search for the drivers online. Best to stick with the makers web site first. Typically, it’s under Support, Downloads, model number. You can compare driver versions with what’s installed although developers have a bad habit of using several numbering systems. You may also find that the makers drivers will be a big improvement over the generic Microsoft drivers that may be in use.
Another place to check for issues is the Event Viewer, found above Device Manager in the Management console. Particularly, you want to look at System. Red flags indicate a problem, yellow a warning.
The error 4226 I mention in TCP Connection Limits is one example of a yellow. A security measure was reducing some Internet performance.
If you’ve changed hardware over the years, you’re bound to have some junk collecting. I used to have a video card with a TV tuner, for example. Even though the hardware is long gone and the software uninstalled, it left vestiges that caused occasional video playback issues. It acted like I was missing a codec (a compression-decompression routine used to shrink audio and video file sizes like MP3) but codec tools didn’t help.
Turned out to be the vapours of hardware past. The old services were being called but “failed to run” as the device was not present. More so, neither was the service. As it was time to upgrade the video drivers, it was time to clean the space and tackle the issue.
As with other areas of Windows, Device Manager does not natively show you everything. So if you’re trying to fix something you can’t see…
This site tells you how to turn on the visibility of hidden devices. A simple command line setting change, then you can show the hidden items in Device Manager from the View menu. (each time you run it)
What you’ll see is stuff you shouldn’t mess with, like chipset devices with numbers, plus hardware you have at some distant time plugged in. The ghosted entries are not currently “installed”. You’ll recognize some things you use occasionally, like a USB device. But also lots of real ghosts. If you no longer have the hardware, you can right-click and uninstall it. I found quite a few ghosts this way, especially for the old video card. Each software update seems to have added another version. I also found 5 hidden devices with problems, none of which were installed. 4 of them were now causing System Errors – with no hardware and software on board.
After you finish uninstalling the old devices, reboot the system and recheck that the System errors have ended.
If not it means your Registry is still calling them. Back up your Registry either from the File menu of RegEdit (export) or by creating a System Restore Point. (Accessories, System Tools, System Restore)
Then you can use a registry tool to try and find the entries that are still calling the long gone hardware. Most registry cleaners search for all issues but don’t seek missing hardware. The free RegSeeker has a Find Tool you can use to search by product or maker name. It also has a backup tool and a checkbox to backup changes before deletion. Or you can just use Find in RegEdit. (from the Run command)
Just don’t get too aggressive or you may have to reinstall some stuff. Some software is simply not coded to standards, thus appearing to be an error. But if the entries refer to old or departed stuff, you can clean.
This combination of clearing hidden devices and old registry calls did the trick. No more system errors.
For software cleanup, see Part 1