When Windows goes wrong, try Kernel Mode Drivers Manager

Whether your PC is slow, unstable, or perhaps infected by malware, checking your system’s kernel mode drivers is often a good place to begin diagnosing your problems. And you don’t have to install any third-party software to get started: just running MSINFO32 and browsing to Software Environment > System Drivers will give you a basic view of what’s currently installed.

If that’s a little too basic for your liking, though, you could try Kernel Mode Drivers Manager. It’s still very straightforward to use (you don’t have to be a geek to figure out what’s going on), but the program also provides a number of useful extras to help you get a better understanding of what’s happening on your system.

The program starts by displaying all the core details you need, of course: driver file name, publisher, description and so on. And it sensibly sorts this list by driver load order, so you can immediately get a feel for how important specific drivers might be.

You can remove Microsoft kernel mode drivers from the list, to help you concentrate on everything else (right-click the list, select Hide Microsoft Drivers).

The program can highlight suspect files, too (right-click, select Highlight Suspicious Modules). We wouldn’t place too much reliance on this, in our experience it raises a lot of false alarms, but if you think your system might be infected by malware then it could at least give you some files to check first.

And if you do spot a driver you don’t recognise, or otherwise want to research, then it’s easy to find out more. Just right-click it, select Search on Google > Filename, and a browser window will open with the search results for that driver name.

The program can also check a driver’s digital signature. Right-click the file and select Verify File Signature to confirm which company has signed it.

There’s an option to copy some or all of your drivers to a folder somewhere, helpful if you need to analyse them further (or just want to back up your driver files).

And, perhaps most conveniently, the program can save your drivers list to a log file (and this can be triggered from the command line for easy automation). So if some problem does pop up in the future then you can review previous logs and look for changes.

We have a few issues with the program. The menus ignore usual Windows conventions, for instance (the first is called “Menu” instead of “File”, for instance); the default settings are a little odd (it won’t “highlight suspicious modules” unless you choose that option manually); lots of options are only available on the right-click menu, when they should also be visible on the regular menus; driver image size is only available in hex, and so on.

These concerns are all relatively minor, though, and once you’ve figured out how the program works then it proves a simple way to explore your installed drivers. And as an extra convenience, it’s highly compatible, running on 32 and 64-bit systems, and on Windows 2000/ XP/ Vista/ 7/ Server 2003 and 2008, making the Kernel Mode Drivers Manager potentially a very useful addition to your portable troubleshooting toolkit.

Photo Credit: chaoss/Shutterstock

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