Device drivers: Installation and configuration

To install hardware devices on Windows servers, admins must install the appropriate device drivers first. Here are some guidelines for installing, configuring and troubleshooting device drivers.

System administrators frequently have to install hardware devices such as disk controllers and network cards on their Windows servers. To do so, they must install the appropriate device drivers on the server first.

Here are some guidelines for installing, configuring and troubleshooting device drivers, which provide the necessary interface between the application programs and the actual hardware, on Windows 2000 server system.

Methods of installing device drivers

Admins can install device drivers on a server in four ways.

  1. Running the Setup. Device drivers are automatically installed for all detected devices during installation of Windows 2000 system on the server computer
  2. Starting the computer. Whenever the server is started, new devices are detected and their device drivers are automatically installed
  3. Scanning for new hardware.Add/Remove Hardware Wizard can be used to perform the hardware-detection process and desired device driver installation
  4. Manual installation. You can use the Add/Remove Hardware Wizard to specify the device you want to install, or you can right-click the .INF file that comes with the driver and choose Install.

Note: You must have administrative privileges on the server to install device drivers

Configuring devices using Device Manager

Device Manager displays information about all devices installed on your server. It displays a list of devices that were either detected or for which drivers are installed. The icon for the device indicates whether the device is in proper working condition.

Normal icon indicates that the device driver has initialized successfully while an Exclamation point on icon would mean that device is incorrectly configured and a Stop sign on icon means that device could not be initialized due to hardware conflicts.

To resolve hardware conflicts and to override the resources or the device driver that were assigned to a device, follow these steps:

  1. Start Device manager by typing 'Devmgmt.msc' in the Run dialog box.
  2. Right-click the desired device and select Properties.
  3. Click the Resources tab on the Properties dialog box.
  4. Click the resource to be changed and then clear the "Use automatic settings" checkbox.
  5. Click Change Setting and then change the value of the setting to the desired value.

However best thing to do is to let Plug and Play resolve conflicts whenever possible.

Changing the driver source location

While adding a device to your system, Windows 2000 provides a driver, which gets installed from the Driver.cab file in the systemroot\DriverCache\I386 folder. Tthis file is approximately 50 MB. If the driver cannot be found in Driver.cab, Windows 2000 will prompt you for the location of the driver.

It's a good idea to keep this file at a central location so that all clients install drivers from a consistent central source. To change the source path in the Registry and delete the local copy of Driver.cab, simply update the data for the "SourcePath" value in his key in the Registry:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup
This will also save space on the hard disk of client computers.

Updating and removing device drivers

Administrators often have to update the existing device drivers or remove them. To update a device driver:

  1. Start Device Manager by typing 'Devmgmt.msc' in the Run dialog box.
  2. Right-click the desired device and select Properties.
  3. Click the 'Driver' tab and then click the Update Driver button.

To remove a device:

  1. Start Device Manager by typing 'Devmgmt.msc' in the Run dialog box.
  2. Right-click the desired device and select Properties.
  3. Click the 'Driver' tab and then click Uninstall button

Note: Removing the device does not actually delete the device driver itself. What it does is remove references to the driver from the Registry so that the computer does not load the driver.

Upgrading from uniprocessor to multiprocessor

Many times the need arises to get your server upgraded in terms of software and hardware. If Windows 2000 was originally installed on a single processor PC and a second processor is to be added, you need to update the system software. To do so::

  1. Start Device manager by typing 'Devmgmt.msc' in the Run dialog box.
  2. Expand the Computer icon and make note of the computer model.
  3. Right-click the computer model below the Computer icon and select Properties.
  4. Begin the Upgrade Device Driver Wizard by clicking on the Update Driver button from the Driver tab.
  5. Choose Display a List of Known Drivers For This Device and then click Next.

By selecting Show All Hardware of This Device Class, you can choose from a list of supplied multiprocessor drivers. If you have W2k-specific multiprocessor drivers, use the Have Disk button.

Driver signing

Driver signing ensures that the drivers have been certified by Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL). It has been implemented in Windows 2000 to improve the quality of drivers and increase the overall stability of the Windows operating system.

Microsoft digitally signs all files and drivers on the Windows 2000 installation CD. But administrators often download drivers from the Internet or get them from various hardware vendors. To configure how these third-party drivers should be handled:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Select the System Properties icon.
  3. Switch to Hardware tab, and click the Driver Signing button.

A dialog box opens which has three checkboxes:

  • Ignore (allows installing all files, regardless of the file signature)
  • Warn (displays a message to the user before installing an unsigned file). This is usually the default setting.
  • Block (restricts the installation of unsigned files).

Check the required checkbox and hit OK.

Disabling devices and services for a specific profile

Individual devices and services may be configured to load or not load as part of a Hardware Profile. To disable devices:

  • Open Device Manager and select Properties of the desired device
  • On the General tab under 'Device Usage' label select Do not use this device (disable) option
  • Click OK.

To disable services:

  • From Administrative Tools, select Services.
  • Select the Log On tab from the Properties dialog of any of the Services
  • Click on Enable or Disable for the selected Hardware Profile.

Driver installations: failure and recovery

Here are three problems that commonly occur during the installation of a device driver and their solutions:

Problem: Wrong driver is installed

Solution: Press F8 at startup and use the Last Known Good Configuration

Problem: Driver gets installed partially or some files are missed during installation.

Solution: Use a command-line utility called "System File Checker" that can verify the version of protected system files and revert to a previous version. Type sfc.exe /scannow on the command prompt for running the utility.

Problem: Files are corrupt during installation.

Solution: Uninstall or remove the device driver, restart the server and reinstall the driver.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

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This was first published in October 2006

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