Windows

How do I . . . manage Windows devices with Device Remover?

The built-in Microsoft Windows tools for assessing the condition of attached USB devices are barely adequate. This is where a tool like Device Remover can fill in the gaps. Jack Wallen shows you how it works.

One of the weakest aspects of the Windows operating system is the built-in device management system. With the default tool, it can be a real chore to get really detailed information about the hardware you have on your system. For example, if you plug in a USB flash drive, there's little insight you can gain about it outside of basic information (type and name of drive as well as contents of the drive). If you wind up having to troubleshoot that drive, you're going to need much more information.

There are a lot of alternative tools for every function of the Windows operating system, but one tool goes far and beyond the standard built-in application. Device Remover is a piece of freeware that replaces the built-in Device Manager tools found in Windows. And Device Remover is compatible with every version of Microsoft Windows since Windows XP (including Windows 7).

(Editor's note: The developer has confirmed that Device Remover is also compatible with Windows 2000.)

With Device Remover you can:

  • Easily remove devices on the fly
  • View detailed information about devices
  • Troubleshoot devices
  • Mass edit multiple devices
  • Manage on-the-fly drivers, registry entries, and file backup
  • Detect new hardware

At first look, Device Remover can be intimidating. It's not really. Although you can see more information than you will probably ever need, you don't have to bother with such low-level information to make Device Remover worth using.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Let's take a look and see how Device Remover can be installed and used.

Getting and installing

As with any Windows application, installing Device Remover is simple. Download Device Remover either the .exe or the .zip file from the download section. NOTE: Due to bandwidth limits the developer asks that you download the .zip version.

(Editor's note: The developer has recently added several more download mirrors: Standalone Main File, Full Installer, Zipped Full Installer.)

Once you have the file on your drive, unzip it with your favorite decompression package (mine is 7zip) and double-click on the resulting .exe file. The installation is simple and will end with a new submenu in your Start menu called Device Remover.

In that submenu you will find:

  • Device Remover: The executable for the application
  • Device Remover Cleanup: This tool is used to clean up any mess left behind in case Device Remover is accidentally closed.
  • Device Remover Startup Helper: This is how you configure Device Remover Startup options
  • Uninstall: Remove Device Remover
  • View log files recorded from within a viewer

You are now ready to run Device Remover.

Basic usage

By default, when you start Device Remover the Debug Console will open. When the Debug Console is open and displayed on your desktop it will remain on top of all windows (Figure A).

Figure A

You will see more information than you will ever need about a device from this window.

If you don't need the debugging console, you can get rid of it from the options window (more on that later).

Once you get beyond the Debugging Console, you will see the main window for Device Remover (Figure B).

Figure B

This is the primary user interface for Device Remover.

At first glance you might think Device Remover is a rather complex tool:

  • Device Tree
  • Selected Device Properties
  • Application Messages
  • Command line
  • Devices List
  • Drivers and Services
  • Memory Loaded Drivers
  • System Processes and Handles
  • Device Events
  • Print Device Tree
  • Search for Device
  • Search for Service/Driver
  • Reload Devices Tree

As the name implies, the primary reason you would want to use Device Remover is for adding and removing devices from your Windows machine. Let's see exactly how that works.

Adding removing USB flash drive

In Figure C you can see that the listing of drives does not include the Sandisk Cruzer that I am about to insert.

Figure C

If you look at the log you can see that I recently removed the Cruzer drive.
Now I will insert the drive and click the Reload Devices Tree, and the Cruzer will be listed in the Disk Drive Tree, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The tree listing doesn't automatically refresh by default.

In order to see the Devices Tree listing auto update upon removal or addition of a Device, click on the View menu and check Update Devices List on Device Change. To remove this same device, select the device and click Remove Selected.

Viewing hidden or nonpresent devices

There are times that you want to see hidden devices or devices that are not currently present on your system. Device Remover allows for this behavior. The option to show hidden or detached devices is found in the Device Remover Display Mode submenu of the View menu in the Device Remover Tool bar. To see hidden devices, click on the Device Remover Display Mode submenu and check Show Only Hidden/Detached Devices. When you check this, the Devices Listing tree will change, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

In this view you can see how much information a mouse-over gives you on a particular device.

Obviously these are not devices you are going to want to remove. This feature is best used for gaining information about a device on your machine. In Figure D you are seeing information about the Filter Manager. You can find information there or you can check out the Selected Device Properties Window.

Creating services and drivers

An interesting feature with Device Remover is the ability to create a service or driver. To do this, click on the Drivers and Services tab and then click the Create Services button that will appear in this tab. When you click this button, a new window will appear (Figure F). Make sure you know exactly what you are doing when creating a service. This feature is not for the faint of heart as it can create instability and decrease performance and system security.

Figure F

This is a feature that must be used with caution as it can effect stability, performance, and security of your system should a device or driver be created improperly.

With the service creation you can actually create kernel-level services and drivers. Again I will warn: USE WITH CAUTION.

Searching

One of the features I use the most with this tool is the search feature. When trying to scan through the enormous amount of drivers and driver files on a Window machine, it helps to be able to search. With Device Remover you can actually search for a device or a driver. Say you need to get information about the USBSTOR driver. Click on the Search for Service/Driver button, enter "USB" (no quotes) in the text field, and hit the Find button. The results (shown in Figure G) will give you plenty of information about this driver/service.

Figure G

You can get even more information by hovering your mouse over the entry in the listing window.

Final thoughts

We have only scratched the surface of what this tool can do. Once you start using Device Remover you will find more and more uses and more and more reasons for it to become your default device manager.

Stay on top of the latest XP tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows XP newsletter, delivered every Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

Editor's Picks