Save and restore drivers to and from Windows PCs

Getting a system to run optimally often requires a good number of third-party or non-Microsoft drivers. This is a problem I've experienced when working with almost any PC.

For instance, my own desktop computer came shipped with a slew of custom drivers for the motherboard—the AMD-specific chipset drivers and the drivers needed for the Silicon Image SATA RAID controller—that weren't nominally detected by Windows and needed to be added "by hand." The problem gets worse when you can't find the driver CD, or when you're confused about which ones need to be loaded and which ones are for other editions of your motherboard.

The answer to this problem is a piece of freeware called DriverMax, from the company Innovative Solutions. DriverMax creates a manifest of all the existing device drivers in your system, and can let you export the results to a single compressed archive for safekeeping.

Down the road, if you want to restore one or all of the selected drivers from the archive (for instance, if you've reinstalled Windows or replaced a proprietary driver with a generic one), you can fire up the program and perform the restoration automatically. Windows itself does have the ability to roll back to the earlier version of a device driver, but only piecemeal—i.e., one driver at a time. With DriverMax, you can do this globally.

The program also produces HTML or text reports of the drivers installed in the system for future reference. When performing driver restorations, you can also instruct the program to skip querying you if it's installing an unsigned driver—for instance, if you found a third-party driver that works well but hasn't passed Microsoft's WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) procedure and want to include it anyway.

The program also supports virtual device drivers, and could be used as a way to install a batch of such drivers at once.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in October 2006

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