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Current MS Drivers Show Vista 2006 Date

Take a look around inside Device Manager. If you do, chances are nearly certain you’ll find one or more drivers dated 6/21/2006. That date is no accident, but could be a calculated distortion of its true vintage. 6/21/2006 is the release date for Windows Vista. Microsoft development engineer “zac_I” explains what’s up, in a in a Reddit post from January 2017. Here’s proof that current MS drivers show Vista 2006 date from Device Manager on my production PC:

Chances are pretty good you’ll see this date popping up on most MS-supplied drivers for generic or non-OEM devices like this human interface (HID) item.

OK, So Why Do Current MS Drivers Show Vista 2006 Date?

To answer this question, zac_I’s explanation is worth reproducing verbatim:

There’s a very good reason for that, and it has nothing to do with the age of the driver or anything.

When PNP ranks drivers, it first looks at the hardware ID that the driver matches. If any two drivers match identical hardware, the first tiebreaker is the date of the driver. So if you had a device that could use a built-in driver, but you had installed some custom/OEM driver on your device, every time MS updates our driver, it would overwrite your custom driver because the date is newer than the one you wanted. How do we avoid this? Every driver we ship has the Vista RTM date, regardless of when it was last updated (we update the version number, which is the next tiebreaker if the date is the same). Since only drivers as far back as Vista are compatible with new versions of Windows, every driver should have a date newer than Vista RTM, preserving the driver you installed as the best ranked driver.

That means the real clue to the age for Microsoft-supplied drivers appears in the Driver Version field just below the date. In the preceding screen cap, this shows 10.0.15063.0. This indicates it comes from Windows 10 Creators Update. That version of Windows 10 made its public debut on 4/11/2017, so that provides a “no-later than” timeframe for such drivers. Of course, MS grabs and uses whatever driver is current at the time of the release, so it’s nearly certain that the actual date is somewhat older. But this is one case where just because the date says 2006, it doesn’t actually hearken back 11 years. In fact, it’s probably not even close…

Fascinating stuff, eh?

[Shoutout to Kavia Digdarshan at The Windows Club, whose 5/16/17 article “Why are Windows 10 Device Drivers still dated back to 2006?” brought this tantalizing bit of administrivia to my attention. Thanks!]