As I was navigating through the registry on my Windows 8.1 machine, I found myself presented with the error message:

Error Opening Key:  
DRIVERS cannot be opened.  
An error is preventing this key from being opened.  
Details: the system cannot find the file specified.

I noticed this occurred the moment I tried to navigate through the HKLM\Drivers key. After reopening registry, I noticed the Drivers key had completely vanished. Only after reopening the registry for the fourth time, did it reappear, but only to vanish again after a while.

What could be causing this behavior? Is it by design? Is it being hidden briefly for some bizarre reason? Or is it perhaps being deleted and recreated, perhaps by a program. If this is the case, it could well be a driver itself doing this.

Could the random appearance/disappearance of the HKLM\Drivers key be due to the permissions against this key?

What is the Drivers key used for? I notice it is not documented and does not appear in most screenshots of HKLM.

This has a MAJOR impact on my strategy to take backups of the registry. If such a massive part of it randomly disappears and reappears, it suggests taking a backup of the registry may well be futile as the registry is so volatile.

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(Click image to enlarge)

  • 1
    This key is related to critical boot drivers. If you delete them, they will be automatically created before shutdown. And windows will load them in the boot process.
    – Wasif
    Jun 5, 2020 at 2:29
  • @Wasif Hasan -Thank you, your information is very enlightening. Can you possibly provide a link to any documentation on this key? I have scoured the internet but could not find anything. Your comment also hints at why I only saw them just after booting my machine and not after my PC had settled.
    – IqbalHamid
    Jun 5, 2020 at 11:44
  • posting answer for you, accept and upvote if it is helpful!
    – Wasif
    Jun 5, 2020 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


This registry key is related to the drivers. During the boot process, the first step to boot the Windows system is to load the drivers marked as bootable drivers then the usual drivers are loaded to the memory. If the registry key has been deleted, they will be recreated during the shutdown process according to the memory. I think it is a expected behavior to protect the machine in case we misconfigured the registry keys.

But still the key is stored in %windir%\System32\config. You could find other keys of HKLM there but they are not accessible because they are in use.

More help: https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/lync/en-US/d1c2c2a9-8301-4458-a9be-e1b2efcdb523/hklmdrivers-registry-hive-is-getting-deleted-and-comes-back-after-logoff-and-login?forum=w8itprogeneral

  • 1
    Thank you, especially for the link to where the hives are stored. I can see the drivers file even though it does not appear in the registry as viewed through regedit. Having been able to study the situation a little more, I am now in a position to resolve my backup issues.
    – IqbalHamid
    Jun 5, 2020 at 15:49

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