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Driver Cleaner is a program that helps alleviate this problem. When you run Driver Cleaner, it cleans out all traces of a video driver -- .SYS files (the actual driver itself), support DLLs, language resources and anything else that is out of date that a video driver might leave scattered around a computer after being reinstalled or updated.
The program has support for removing drivers created by just about every popular video card maker, including Intel Corp., ATI Technologies Inc., nVidia Corp., Realtek, SIS, S3 Graphics Co. and Intel Corp.
The best way to run Driver Cleaner is to uninstall any support applications for a given video card, boot into Safe Mode, uninstall the video adapter from Device Manager (don't reboot!) and then run Driver Cleaner. This ensures that the cleaning process only runs when there is no driver actually installed. On the next reboot, the system will use whatever default or generic driver is available until the user installs his own choice of video driver. The program logs all of its own actions. You can set it to back up any changes made to the Registry (which also gets cleaned as part of its actions) and is also self-updating.
Driver Cleaner comes with a tool called Cab Cleaner. This tool cleans third-party hardware drivers from the DRIVER.CAB file, which keeps Windows from mistakenly reinstalling third-party files from its driver cache after they've been cleaned.
One final note: cleaning DRIVER.CAB requires at least 400 MB of free space.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
This was first published in July 2005