Tag Archives: Windows

Removing a bad Windows driver, the hard way

From the “don’t touch what isn’t yours” department…

Yesterday I wanted to do some administrative chores related to a large stack of bills that were cluttering the dining room table. I grabbed my Surface Book from my laptop bag and plunked it on the table. My son’s Dell laptop was nearby, with his fancy Razer gaming mouse plugged into it. “Hey, free mouse,” I thought. I plugged it in to the Surface Book, opened it up, and went to get a diet Coke. By the time I came back, Windows and/or Razer had managed to install some kind of evil driver from hell™ that rendered every USB device plugged into the system inert.

That includes the built-in keyboard and trackpad, BTW, as well as anything plugged into the Surface Dock. The clipboard still worked great, though.

I tried rebooting and that didn’t help. Trying to search for a solution with just the on-screen keyboard slowed me down a bit, and I had other stuff to do last night, so I let the broken machine sit forlornly overnight and went back to it this morning.

The touch screen functioned normally, which was helpful so that I could open apps. When I looked at the “recent updates” list, I saw that a Razer device driver had been installed when I plugged the mouse in– but it was a version labeled as being from 2012. Why this happened, I don’t know. This was clearly the culprit… but Windows 10 doesn’t give you a way to remove an individual device driver update from the settings interface. Nothing relevant appeared in the add/remove programs list. There was no “undo the last update” button, and I didn’t have a recent backup. Device Manager didn’t show any driver at all for a Razer HID device of any kind… so back to the search I went.

First I tried installing Razer Synapse, their all-in-one utility. All that did was invite me to sign up for a Razer account. No thanks. Then I poked around various arcane parts of %systemroot% but didn’t find anything suspicious. Re-running Windows Update didn’t force a new version of the driver either.

To make a long story short, the answer is here: I had to run pnputil.exe -e to figure out which driver store package had the bad driver, then remove it with pnputil.exe -d -f. Once the offending driver was removed, all of my USB peripherals miraculously resumed their normal operation.

Moral of the story: don’t plug in your son’s gaming peripherals. Lesson learned.

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Me and my Gateway LT3103U

I know, I know. I’ve complained in the past about the limited value of netbooks, and now… well, confession time: I bought one, a Gateway LT3103U. I’m going to be using my MacBook Pro as my primary machine, which means I want to leave it plugged in to its monitor etc. at home. Because I’ll be commuting by Caltrain I wanted something small and portable to use for light writing, surfing, and so on.

I asked a large social alias at Microsoft for recommendations and got back a dozen or so. Some recommendations were based on price, some on battery life, and some on overall price/performance. I don’t need ultra-long battery life, and while I won’t say price was no object, I didn’t feel like it was the most important factor.

Why the LT3103U? In a word, the screen. It’s a beautiful, clear, sharp 1366 x 768. I experimented with a few 1024 x 600 screens at my local {Best Buy, Costco} but they were just too darn small. The Gateway also has a pretty nice full-size keyboard. It’s no Lenovo, but it’s miles better than most of the ones I tested. Performance with Win 7 is quite nice. Would an Atom N270 be faster? Maybe, but on the other hand I’d have to suffer the squinty little screens common on those devices. (Here’s an LT3103U review for your consideration.)

I found instructions to make a bootable Win 7 USB stick and built a Windows 7 Ultimate x64 stick. It worked flawlessly, and I commend the instructions to your attention. I don’t know how long the install took because I started it right before bed, but it was done when I got up 🙂

Chris Moates had notes on getting Win 7 drivers set up for the LT3103U. I didn’t burn the Gateway driver DVD (I don’t have a USB burner), so I just ran Windows Update on a wired connection. It found the correct ATI and wireless drivers with no problem, so all my hardware is fully functional (although I haven’t tested multitouch; that may require the Synaptics touchpad driver).

Now I need to install Windows Live Writer on it and see how it blogs 🙂

Update: I took it back to Best Buy. It was a delightful little machine, but it was just too small– the keyboard and screen are both better suited to someone with Arlene’s hand size than mine.


Filed under General Tech Stuff