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Clean up leftover “ghost” devices from your PC with GhostBuster

07 June 2012, Mike Williams

Every time you connect a new device to your PC, Windows will install the appropriate driver, if necessary, and add a reference to the Registry so that your hardware can be utilised more quickly in future. And under normal circumstances there’s no need to worry about any of this: it just works.

Over time, though, your system may build up a collection of “ghost” devices, hardware which was connected to your system at least once, but you no longer use (an old webcam which broke long ago, a USB drive a visitor used, whatever it might be). These will increase the size of your Registry a little, and can require Windows to do just a little extra work at boot time, but fortunately there’s an easy solution: just use GhostBuster to detect and remove them for you.

Launch the program and within a few seconds it’ll display a list of all your devices, with those it considers “ghosts” highlighted for you. Browse the list, checking the Device and Description columns to identify devices you know are no longer required.

"Ghost" devices are clearly highlighted in GhostBuster's list

When you spot something you’re sure is surplus to requirements, right-click it and select Add Device (or Add Class to choose everything in that section). Your selections will then be highlighted in red, which means they’re marked for deletion. (Right click and select Remove Device or Remove Class to undo that last step, if you’ve made a mistake.)

Once you think you’ve selected everything, check the “Create System Restore Checkpoint” box. Accidentally deleting an important device could cause you significant issues, so it’s a very good idea to have some form of backup to hand. (And while you’re most unlikely to need it, we wouldn’t recommend you try this unless you also have your Windows DVD and a full system backup to hand, too.)

We are just being cautious here, though, because for the most part GhostBuster worked very well: we used it to remove more than 100 leftover devices from a test PC with no ill effects at all. Of course it made no significant difference to our system performance, either, but if you’re just looking for another PC cleanup option (or you’re troubleshooting specific device issues) then GhostBuster could prove very useful.

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