How to Disable Automatic Driver Updates in Vista/Windows 7

Although in general you want to keep your computer up to date, including device drivers. But if you have a driver related problem, installing an older version can sometimes solve the issue. And in that case you do not want Windows Update to automatically update the driver again. It could also be that there is no driver for your hardware in Windows 7, but a Vista driver works. In those cases you want to manually install it and not rely on the Windows driver update service.

But in Vista and Windows 7 you can easily disable the automatic driver updates. Just follow these steps:

  • Open the Control Panel
  • Select System and Maintenance
  • Select System
  • Now click Advanced system settings in the left-hand panel (if the UAC is turned on, click Continue to proceed)
  • Next, click the Hardware tab
  • Click the Windows Update Driver Settings button
    Disable automatic driver updates

Now you need to select the driver update option you want to use.
The default option will automatically check for drivers and update them. To disable automatic driver updates in Vista, select either the second or third option and click OK.

In some cases this appears not to work, and then there is another method to disable automatic driver updates in Vista and Windows 7. This involves the local group policy editor, which can be started from the Start meny by typing “gpedit.msc” followed by Enter.

Once started, in the Local Group Policy Editor, navigate to the following: Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Driver Installation.

Turn off Windows Update device driver search prompt

Next, change the setting for Turn Off Windows Update Device Driver Search Prompt
to Enabled. After clicking OK and closing the Local Group Policy Editor, just restart and that’s it.

Since the Local Group Policy Editor is used, this second option is limited to the Professional and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. The Home versions do not have this option.

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3 comments December 17th, 2010

How to Update Printer Drivers in Vista

Most printer manufacturers provide extensive software packages to support their printers on Windows, including Vista. Apart from the actual printer driver, which ensures Vista can communicate with the printer device, the software will generally include a control panel, a print manager, and often additional programs. All-in-one printers for example have software to support the scanning and faxing functions.

Due to the size and complexity of the printer software, the installation will normally include a setup or install program. Running this and following the installation instructions (to the letter) will install the printer on your Windows Vista computer.

Updating a Printer Driver in Vista

The large printer manufacturing companies, like HP, use in-place update software these days, so you will automatically be notified of updates. Installing the printer driver update is then also done for you. But not all manufacturers have such sophisticated processes in place, and you also should consider if you want to run all these automatic schedulers on your PC.

If you want to manually update your printer driver in Vista, is is possible to use the same installation procedure as used for the initial installation. That is, download the printer driver update for Vista and run the setup or install program.

It can be possible  to first uninstall the existing printer software though. What is important is if the printer driver update software is a full install, or an update. When you download a printer driver update for Vista, the website of the manufacturer will mention this type of information in the release notes. If it is a full installer, you can first try running it, but if it fails, simply uninstall the printer software in the Control Panel first. Then reboot and try it again.

If the installer does not work, or there is no setup or install program, it is possible to manually update the printer driver in Vista. This process is outlined below:

First open the Control Panel from the Vista Start menu.

Next, click the Printer link under the Hardware and Sound category.

Now select and right-click the Printer for which you want to update the driver.

  1. In the popup menu, select Run as administrator, and in the submenu, select Properties.
    Printer properties in Vista
  2. If the UAC comes up, click Continue.
  3. Next, click the Advanced tab, and then click the New Driver button.
    New Vista printer driver
  4. In the Add Printer Driver Wizard, click Next, then Have Disk and finally Browse.
  5. Now navigate to the location of the Vista printer driver update, and then click Open and OK.

This process will use the driver information file (.inf) to find the printer driver update and install the required driver files onto your computer.

Don’t forget to turn on your printer when you update the printer driver. It is easy to forget since the printer will show in the list, but it will be grayed out rather than show in black. But the printer should be turned on to allow communication between Vista and the printer, otherwise the driver update installation might fail.

1 comment October 30th, 2010

False Positives in Driver Updates

Programs that automatically update device drives on your system need to match the hardware in your system with the devices in their database. Once a match is found, they check the driver version to see if it is newer, so the update can be recommended.

That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Well, in a way it is, but still it is possible that a driver update program recommends a program that should not be installed on your system. We call this a false positive. There are two possible reasons for a false positive in driver updates, a device mismatch and a driver version mismatch.

Device Matching Logic

In order to understand, we need to look at how a device is identified in Windows. If we open the Device Manager, select a device and then right-click it to see the Properties, we can select the Details tab. In the list of properties, we select the Hardware Ids:

Device Hardware Identifiers

As you can see in the screenshot, a device can have multiple hardware ids. The top one in the list is an exact match of the device, where the brand, model, type and even revision number would match. Going down the list, the device match is broader, but still specific, that is why all these identifiers are present in the list of hardware ids.

But Windows allows for the use of compatible drivers, so that, if an exact match on the driver is not available, the device can still be used with a compatible driver. This may result in reduced support for the device, not all functionality may be available, but at least the device works.

If we select the Compatible Ids in the property list for the same device, we see:

Compatible Device Identifiers

Again, we see a list of identifiers, where the top one would be the preferred match, and the lower ones are broader matches.

When a driver is needed for a device, Windows will always first try to find a driver for the device based on a hardware id match. If none can be found, a driver match based on the compatible ids can be used.

So if an existing driver has a match on a hardware id, while an update is recommended that matches on a compatible id for the device, we consider that a false positive.

Driver Version Comparison

Apart from a list of devices that is supported by a driver, a driver also has a date and version. The date and version are actually combined in a single identifier, like:

“03/22/2010,6.236.0322.2010”

The first part is the date, and the second part is the version number. Windows checks for new drivers based on the driver date, the version is optional. So if a driver program recommends a driver update based on a newer version, while the date is older than the currently installed driver, this is again a false positive.

In the Device Manager, you can select the Driver tab to see the date and version of the currently installed driver:

Driver version and date

Drivers do not always have complete date and version information, and even the date format is not always consistent. Driver programs obviously need to factor in these aspects when recommending driver updates.

In our tests, we found DriverFinder to have the best device driver matching logic.

Add comment July 19th, 2010

How to Check the Hardware ID for a Windows Device

All hardware equipment uses an identifier to uniquely identify itself. This allows operating systems to recognize them and install the necessary software for them. In Windows this generally means that a device driver for the hardware is installed. The hardware identifier is a combination of the bus type, the hardware manufacturer (or vendor) and the device identifier. In some cases additional sub-system identifiers and revision information is included to distinguish between variations of a device.

So when you are looking for a device driver for a piece of hardware, it is useful to know the hardware id of the device. This can tell you which manufacturer made the device and help you find a device driver.

The Windows Device Manager

The hardware id for a device in Windows can be found in the Windows Device Manager. To check the hardware id for a device, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Device Manager from the Control Panel. You can also type “devmgmt.msc” at the Run option in the Start menu.
  2. In the Device Manager, right-click the device, and select Properties in the popup menu.
  3. Next, select the Details tab.
  4. Now select the Hardware Ids in the dropdown list.

Windows Device Manager device details

As you can see in the screen shot, there can be multiple hardware ids for a device. The top one is the most specific identifier, and going down, the identifiers are more generic. The reason this is done is to allow a device driver to be selected based on a match to any of these hardware identifiers.

The hardware manufacturer in this example is Realtek, which is identified by VEN_10EC.

Obviously this is a device for which a driver is installed already, and the manufacturer and model for the device are shown, but the hardware id is also available for unknown devices and not recognized devices.

Driver finder programs use the hardware id and the compatible id to find a matching driver for a device as well.

113 comments July 3rd, 2010

How to Change the Path for Windows Device Drivers

When you are using hardware devices in Windows, Windows will install a device driver for each hardware device. Many devices are supported by Windows itself, but in some cases you will need to install additional drivers. Windows can search the Internet for a device driver, or you will be prompted for a location where Windows can find the driver for the new hardware device.
But in some cases even supported devices are not recognized by Windows. That could be because the driver is missing or corrupt, but it could also be that Windows does not look in the right place for the driver. The location where Windows looks for device drivers by default is the C:\Windows\Inf since the inf files are used to match a device with a driver.
Since the installation path for Windows can vary, this path is actually configured as %SystemRoot%\Inf, where the %SystemRoot% refers to an environment variable that always point to the right installation path for Windows.
This driver location is stored in the Windows registry. The registry key that is used to store the driver path is:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\DevicePath
Windows device path in registry

So if you are getting unexpected errors indicating device not recognized, check the device path in the Windows registry. If the %SystemRoot%\Inf value is not present in the DevicePath, then change it or add it.

The DevicePath variable can also be extended with additional locations for drivers. If for example, you have a network location where you store device drivers for all PC’s and hardware devices, you can add that to the variable. Just separate the path with a semicolon. E.g.: %SystemRoot%\Inf;\\\\Drivers

OEM manufacturer’s also use this option to include additional drivers in the default Windows setup.

Of course, always make a backup of the Windows registry before you make any changes!

Still can not find a device driver? Use DriverFinder to locate drivers for you automatically.

Add comment June 18th, 2010

Fix Windows 7 Error Code 10

Since Windows 7 is relatively new, not all hardware is compatible with Windows 7 yet. Microsoft always recommends people to use the hardware compatibility check feature to find out if the computer hardware is compatible with Windows 7. Some hardware devices, however, might never become compatible since manufacturers do not create new drivers for older devices anymore.

As a result, you can experience a variety of device errors in Windows 7, one of which is device driver error code 10. In itself, error code 10 in Windows 7 means that the device cannot start, but there can be different causes for the error.

Microsoft’s recommendation is to first update the drivers using the Device Manager. This should help solve problems that are related to outdated, incompatible and even corrupt drivers. But also make sure you install the latest Windows 7 updates, as software improvements in the operating system can also help fix device related issues.

Ok, an error code 10 can happen for all kinds of devices, and one of the more common devices is the audio device. Apart from driver issues, also make sure you check the status of the Windows Audio service. If the Windows Audio service is not running, you can have the right drivers installed, but the device will not work.

For USB devices the error code 10 will result in the device not being accessible. In that case, uninstalling USB devices in the Device Manager is a common solution. You can try uninstalling the USB device that has the problem, but very often it is necessary to uninstall all USB devices, reboot and then wait for the USB devices to be reinstalled. Make sure to unplug the external USB devices before you reboot, so you can add them one by one again.

For older hardware, the code 10 error can also be the result of hardware conflicts. In most cases, you will see that the hardware device will not appear on the hardware compatibility list, but it is useful to check the resource usage on the device in the Device Manager. On desktop computers, this kind of problem can be solved by changing the BIOS settings (IRQ assignments, memory ranges), or even unplugging conflicting hardware. Obviously that is only feasible if you do not need that specific device.

Windows 7 Device Drivers

Since the most common cause of error code 10 in Windows 7 is incorrect device drivers, you should always try to get the right drivers for the device. Checking on a regular basis can pay off, as drivers are updated frequently. Using the Microsoft Update feature is one way to check, but there are a number of limitations with that.

The first limitation is that you will only get real Windows 7 drivers, which are signed drivers that have the Microsoft approval. You will not get unsigned drivers or drivers that are not for Windows 7. So if there is a Vista driver for your device, which might work in Windows 7, you will not get it. Even Windows XP drivers sometimes work in Windows 7, possibly in compatibility mode.

The second limitation is that Windows Update will automatically install new drivers. This assumes that the update will succeed without problems, replacing or overwriting the old driver. In quite a few instances however, it is better to first uninstall the existing driver before installing the new driver. Quite a few audio manufacturer’s recommend this practice to prevent driver update problems.

So make sure you use a variety of methods to update the driver for your device and fix error code 10 in Windows 7.

Add comment May 12th, 2010

How to Disable USB Notifications in Windows Vista

When you plug a USB device in a Windows computer, you will see a small popup in the notification area of the taskbar informing you of the USB device. If it is a known device, the driver will be installed and the device will be ready for use.

If there is no driver for the device, or the device is not recognized, you will be informed of that fact as well. In some cases the driver installation and device activation actually will show several of these popup messages in the notification area. This can be the case if the USB device has multiple functions.

Unfortunately there are also scenario’s where these popup messages in the notification area do not seem to make sense. No USB device is being plugged, only existing USB devices are present, or maybe no external USB devices are present at all.

If you are not interested in the USB notification messages in Windows, you can actually disable them. Basically you tell Windows to not report and USB errors on the USB controllers.

To disable USB notification messages, simply open the Device Manager in the Control Panel and open up the branch called Universal Serial Bus Controllers.

USB controller in device manager

You will see quite a few devices in the list, but we are only interested in the Host Controller devices. Right-click the first entry and select Properties in the popup.

Next, select the Advanced tab and then select the checkbox named Don’t tell me about USB errors.

Disable USB notification messages

Click the OK button and repeat these steps for the other Host Controller devices.

When you are done, close the device manager and you should no longer see and USB device notifications in the Windows taskbar.

Keep in mind that if you were receiving the USB notifications because of real USB errors, they will be now be ignored. If possible try to address the errors first. Power management and bad cables (connections) can also be the cause of erratic USB notification messages.

1 comment March 30th, 2010

Signed Drivers and Unsigned Drivers

Device drivers in Microsoft Windows can be signed or unsigned. But what is the difference, what are the risks, and how can you find unsigned drivers? Find out the answers and learn how to make sure your system is not affected by bad drivers.

Continue Reading 3 comments February 19th, 2010

How to Roll Back a Driver in Windows

Updating your Windows system is generally a good thing. Bugs are fixed, new features are added and problems prevented. Driver updates can be part of a Windows update or it can be a separate driver update. But if things go wrong after the update you want to uninstall the update. With device drivers you can use the driver roll back.

Continue Reading Add comment December 4th, 2009

What are Network Drivers?

network driversNetworking was once limited to businesses, where a client/server set-up involved many PCs (the clients) being linked to a central server. The aim is generally that all PCs can access data that they are allowed to see from anywhere on the network. Clients can also use central services such as shared printers.

With many homes now having multiple PCs and using them for entertainment purposes, networking is becoming more common. Messages can be sent from one PC to another while any data, such as music and videos, can be distributed around the network. A more informal type of network is the internet, with millions of computers around the world being able to connect to numerous sites.

Whilst internet connections are via a modem or router, PCs need a network interface card, either built into the motherboard or inserted into a slot. Each of these cards has a network driver, which is a form of device driver or PC driver. This handles all communication between the computer’s operating system and the network card so that it can interface with other points on the network.

Why We Need Network Drivers

There are a bewildering number of network cards available from a variety of manufacturers. Each of these may be fitted into various motherboards and there are several different types. Many are PCI cards, although 10/100 types are the most common and Gigabit cards are now providing additional speed. Although relatively new, wireless networking is becoming increasingly popular. This is especially true in home networks where it reduces the need for unsightly wires.

All these options make it impossible for the operating system to deal with the many combinations. This problem is overcome by the use of network drivers, which are developed specifically for each network card and have versions for the different operating systems. A network driver provides a link between the operating system and the network card. Its role is, like any other device driver, to interpret the high level commands issued by the operating system into a form that the network card can understand and conversely to translate network card messages for the operating system.

A network driver needs to be more adaptable than any other device driver because, not only does it have to deal with requests from the operating system, it can also receive packets of data from anywhere on the network. Additionally, it has to handle a number of administrative tasks such as compiling traffic and error statistics, setting addresses and modifying transmission parameters.

Why You Need to Update Network Drivers

The efficient operation of a network is vital because problems can impact on the whole network rather than simply affecting a single PC. A network fault on one computer can cause a bottleneck that brings the whole network to a halt or at least slows its performance.

Problems are often due to faulty, out-dated or corrupt network drivers and so it is important that you install new drivers as they are released. Manufacturers generally develop new drivers to fix known faults, improve security or to provide enhanced performance and so you should take advantage of these features.

To install new drivers, access Device Manager. Depending on the operating system you use, this may be available from the Control Panel or by right-clicking My Computer then choosing Manage.

Device Manager will list the types of device in the right pane and you need to select Network Adaptors and the network card you have installed. Right click it, select Properties and then the Driver tab. Afterwards, click the Update Driver button to download drivers and install the latest version on your PC. When you complete the process, restart your computer.

Add comment November 19th, 2009

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