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Driver Cleanup Slims Down Win10 RecoveryImage

When I wrote a blog post on May 11 entitled “The Importance of DriverStore Cleanup,” little did I know the post would turn out to be both useful and prophetic. But after investigating the disk layout for the recently-released Build 10122 of Windows 10, I was struck by the difference in size for the RecoveryImage folder on my two test machines. The Dell Venue 11 Pro showed that folder with a size of 2.4 GB, while the same folder for the i7-4770K desktop weighed in at a hefty 20.4 GB instead. “Hmmmmm” I found myself wondering, “could drivers somehow be involved in this difference?”

10122-drivers

After the upgrade on the desktop PC, I found only 14 drivers in the DriverStore for Build 10122.

A bit of spelunking into the causes for such a difference revealed that the RecoveryImage folder includes a sub-folder named Drivers. Further spelunking showed me that this folder is 1.7 MB on the Dell, and 18.1 GB on the desktop. That sure seems to suggest that drivers can occupy a LOT of space when the Windows installer uses a current image to generate a recovery image during the installation process, don’t it?

Further investigation shows over 120 sub-folders in the /Drivers/Regular directory tree on the desktop PC, where many (80%) of those folders include duplicate content with anywhere from 2 to 40 other such folders. Alas, the names of the entries therein appear to be auto-generated, and aren’t easy to puzzle out completely, though an inspection of their contents will help point seriously interested investigators at the relevant drivers represented therein. By comparing those names to other images of the same drive and a backup from the DriverBackup utility, I was able to determine that my duplicates came primarily from two sources: the Nvidia graphics card in that PC, and the RealTek audio circuitry on its MSI motherboard.

I take three lessons from this encounter:

1. It’s a good idea to check your driver store before any Windows 10 (or other Windows) upgrade to see how big it has grown. If it’s over 5 GB in size, you’ll want to prune it to reduce the size of the RecoveryImage that Windows 10 builds automatically during the install process.
2. It looks very much as if when Windows supplies drivers via Windows Update, multiple copies of the same driver often wind up in the driver store. Any time you get a driver from WU, it’s probably worth checking the store to see what new inventory has showed up on its shelves, so to speak. The CodePlex RAPR.EXE utility is just what you need for this task.
3. It’s probably a good to best Windows maintenance practice to check your driver store anywhere from 2 to 4 times a year, to eliminate clutter therein. Those who, like me, enjoy fooling with drivers and obsess about keeping them up-to-date will need to check at the higher frequency; those who avoid drivers except under duress can check at the lower frequency.

The urgency of these tasks (especially item 1 above) will be inversely proportional to the size of the boot/system drive where the upgrades occur. Those with tablets that have only 64 or 128 GB of storage will find this effort quite rewarding, but the payback for the work diminishes for those with 500 GB or more in their boot/system volume. I want to keep monitoring the driver store to see if my theories about WU driver delivery have any merit, and I’ve already proven to myself that item 3 is worth doing, if only because I tinker so much with drivers that I tend to load my driver store down pretty heavily over time. YMMV on that last item, as the old acronym goes!

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