Recipe 3.13. Revealing Hidden Devices


You want to find a hidden device that you've never heard of but that a program says you have installed.


Using a graphical user interface

  1. Click Start, then right-click My Computer and select Properties.

  2. Select the Hardware tab, then click Device Manager.

  3. Select View, then select Show Hidden Devices from the menu.

  4. Note the appearance of dozens of new items appearing under Network adapters, system devices, and a new non-Plug and Play drivers device grouping.


For security and management reasons, Windows XP separates software from your PC's hardware through a part of the operating system called the Hardware Abstraction Layer, or HAL. Unlike the old days of DOS where software had direct, uncoordinated, and often catastrophic access directly to hardware devices, the HAL is like a huge secure device driver overseeing all things hardware connected to the operating system, requiring that programs send data to and get data from hardware through it. This provides security benefits to data and stability to the operating system, and helps negotiate or avoid software and device conflicts. If a piece of software needs to work with a piece of hardware, it must do so with a device driver, which accesses the hardware through the HAL.

Many programs can attach themselves to your system as if they were a piece of hardware, by using device drivers so they can control specific features of real hardware devices or the data passing to and from them. Examples are video card acceleration and tweaking utilities, data transfer accelerators, virus protection, and desktop firewalls for networking.

Just like normal device drivers, the device drivers associated with applications can be removed by right-clicking them and selecting Uninstall, but you have to be able to see them first, so we use this recipe to make them visible.

See Also

Tidbits of information about hidden devices and safely removing them can be found at,, and in Windows XP Hacks, published by O'Reilly. Some relevant information from Windows XP Hacks can be found at

Windows XP Cookbook
Windows XP Cookbook (Cookbooks)
ISBN: 0596007256
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 408

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