Thursday, February 26, 2009

Removing Scanners, Cameras and Webcams from "My Computer"

Warning: Blog Entry Contains Original Content

I recently performed a massive search for information regarding removing a newly materialized "Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000" icon within my "My Computer" window on my Windows XP laptop. Obviously, the icon came about through the installation of a new ... you guessed it ... Logitech QuickCam installed recently into the rats nest of USB devices now procreating in my office workspace. I purchased the webcam to inflict undue stress and anguish on unsuspecting Skype contacts who haven't grown accustomed to my face. It's really a fate worse than SPAM on an iPhone, but of course, I digress.

The real estate in my "My Computer" window is at a premium these days. I have a half-dozen perma-mounted network drives, an external DVD burner, a USB thumb drive-based TrueCrypt volume, and pretty icons for my Creative ZEN and Windows Mobile device. Yet another barely useful icon in "My Computer" wouldn't do. There must be a way to irradicate this infiltrator. But how?

A quick search – or to use the new technological verb, "google" – for removing icons from "My Computer" listed lots of near misses, including a fairly prevalent references to tools such as TweakUI (one of my favorite Windows powertoys, BTW) for hiding icons found in My Computer. Unfortunately, while almost everything, including actual drives, can be hidden, this annoying new webcam icon seemed to be considered a permanent fixture with no clear way to remove it. The Logitech QuickCam forum made reference to an "unsupported Windows hack" to remove such things, but hacks were clearly taboo in their forum's forum.

Then I decided to do what any good geek with little regard for safety of their Company-given laptop would do: Start... Run... regedit. A global search for this unwelcome visitor found several references, all far too scary to consider whacking. Then I came to learn of the MyComputer registry key and things started getting interesting. Apparently this is how/where TweakUI'esque programs hide certain icons from "My Computer". But there were no Logitech references to be found in this hallowed Registry key hierarchy. Hmmm.

Back to Google (the site, not the verb). Under MyComputer, I found something called a NameSpace, which seemed to house things like my ZEN and Mobile Device's class IDs, but again, no webcam. But then, after hours of wasting the company's time, I found ... wait for it ... DelegateFolders! More googling found that this is where the sometimes annoying "Shared Documents" is inserted into "My Computer". Could it be that additional delegation was being done to add my webcam? You betcha!

One of the Class ID registry keys under DelegateFolders has a default value of "Scanners & Cameras". Obviously, this had nothing to do with webcams, right? Well, those with a keen eye and lots of free time may realize that webcams are listed under the "Scanners and Cameras" control panel within the Windows Control Panel. Hmmm. Sure enough, after backing up my Registry and whacking the Class ID with the default string of "Scanners & Cameras", I was finally free of that pesky yet benign icon forever.

In summary, thank you for bearing with me. In more of a technical summary, this is how one would remove all scanners, cameras and webcams from one's "My Computer" window:
  • Close "My Computer"
  • Make a backup of your Registry by selecting the top of the displayed tree (ironically called "My Computer"), then pulling down File... Export.
  • Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace\DelegateFolders
  • Select each Class ID sub-key (keys with ugly names like {E211B736-43FD-11D1-9EFB-0000F8757FCD}) and look for a "(Default)" value of "Scanners & Cameras".
  • Delete the key
  • Double-click "My Computer" on your desktop
Questions, comments, warnings, suggestions and threats are all welcome.