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Configure devices and device drivers

Skill: Update, disable, and roll back drivers

Most computers that you’ll work with have different hardware components, such as motherboards, disk controllers, graphics cards, and network adapters. Fortunately, Windows 10 is designed to work with an extensive list of hardware devices and benefits from Plug And Play, which tries to detect new devices automatically and then installs the correct driver software.

If Windows has a problem with a device, you must troubleshoot the cause, and this can involve locating the correct or updated device drivers and installing them. In this chapter, you focus on working with devices and drivers and the corrective and preventive actions you can take to help ensure that the devices you configure are free from problems.

Update device drivers

Windows 10 automatically attempts to install a device driver and, if one is not available locally, attempts to locate one through Windows Update. For most systems, devices and their associated drivers remain constant and require no further administrative effort. In the following instances, you might need to update, disable, or reinstate a previous driver.

  • Windows 10 detects that a newer driver is available through Windows Update.

  • You want to install a newer device driver manually, typically obtained from the manufacturer’s website.

  • The device is not performing or functioning correctly with the current driver.

  • A new or beta version of a driver is causing stability issues.

To update a specific driver, select the device in Device Manager and select Update Driver Software from the context menu.

Windows 10 offers you two choices for updating the driver.

  • Search Automatically For Updated Driver Software.

  • Browse My Computer For Driver Software.

Typically, most users allow Windows to locate, download, and install an updated device driver automatically if one is available through Windows Update. This is the default method.

If you have the installation media that came with the hardware, you can use the browse feature to locate the correct driver. The Windows 10 Update Driver Software Wizard can automatically search through the subfolders in the media and locate all the relevant drivers for the device.

If you have already downloaded a specific device driver from the manufacturer, for example, a video driver from NVIDIA or AMD/ATI, you might need to run the driver installation wizard included in the download files, which includes additional software besides the device driver.

If Windows determines that the current driver is the most up to date or best driver available, you can confirm the version number of the driver by viewing the properties of the driver in Device Manager. If you have a more recent driver that you want to use, you must manually uninstall the current driver and then manually install the more recent driver.

Prevent driver updates over metered connections

Windows 10 enables you to prevent new or updated drivers from being downloaded while the device is connected on a metered connection.

You can check your settings for this behavior by completing the following steps.

  1. Open Settings and click Devices.

  2. In Printers & Scanners, scroll down to Download Over Metered Connections.

  3. The setting should be set to Off by default, as shown in Figure 3-5.

    FIGURE 3-5

    FIGURE 3-5 Configuring the Download Over Metered Connections setting

  4. The same setting can also be found in the Connected Device section, which is below the Other Devices section.

  5. Close Settings.

Windows 10 should automatically detect whether your connection is metered. If you are connecting to the Internet by tethering or a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can manually configure the connection to be a metered connection by using the following steps.

  1. Connect to the metered Wi-Fi connection.

  2. Open Settings and choose Network & Internet.

  3. Under the Wi-Fi section, choose Advanced Options.

  4. Under Metered Connection, select the On status for the toggle switch.

Disable individual driver updates or Windows Updates

Sometimes it is important to remove a device driver completely from the system. It might be corrupted or incompatible with your system. If Windows determines that the driver is valid and up to date, it is impossible to use another device driver while the current driver is present. To uninstall an unwanted device driver, use the following steps.

  1. Open Device Manager.

  2. Locate the device with the problem driver, right-click it, and choose Uninstall.

  3. In the Uninstall dialog box, select the Delete The Driver Software For This Device check box, if this option is available, as shown in Figure 3-6.

    FIGURE 3-6

    FIGURE 3-6 Uninstalling device driver software

If the item relates to an unwanted Windows Update, use the following steps.

  1. Type View Installed Updates in the Search box and then click View Installed Updates – Control Panel in the Search results.

  2. Locate and uninstall the unwanted update by selecting it from the list and then clicking Uninstall.

If the driver is reluctant to be uninstalled, try restarting the computer and attempting the procedure again. Only as a last resort should you try to delete the software manually. You can use the PnPUtil.exe command-line tool and remove the .inf files that are associated with the device as shown.

PnPUtil.exe -a -d <path to the driver> \<drivername>.inf

The use of the PnPUtil.exe command-line tool is discussed later in this chapter.

Because different hardware types have different functions and features, review the tabs in the properties screen. Not all devices have the same tabs, and some devices do not offer the ability to view or modify the device driver.

Turn on or off automatic device driver installation in Device Installation Settings

Sometimes installing an updated driver can cause your computer to lose functionality, and you might decide to uninstall the driver. Windows 10 automatically attempts to reinstall the driver, which is not desirable. In this situation, you might want to turn off the automatic device driver installation setting by using the following steps.

  1. Open Control Panel; under Hardware And Sound, click Devices And Printers.

  2. Under Devices, right-click the icon that represents your computer—it should have your computer name—and click Device Installation Settings, as shown in Figure 3-7.

    FIGURE 3-7

    FIGURE 3-7 Disabling the automatic device driver software installation

  3. In the Device Installation Settings dialog box, choose No, (Your Device Might Not Work As Expected). (Yes is the default setting.)

  4. A further set of choices is presented, offering:

    • Always Install The Best Driver Software From Windows Update (default setting).

    • Never Install Driver Software From Windows Update.

    • Automatically Get The Device App And Info Provided By Your Device Manufacturer (selected by default).

  5. Click Save Changes.

Perform a driver rollback

Sometimes a driver problem can cause the system to become unstable. In Device Manager, you can roll back an updated driver to its previous version. If the system allows you to start normally, you can perform this task by using the following steps.

  1. Open Device Manager.

  2. Right-click the device that you want to roll back and then click Properties.

  3. In the Properties dialog box, click the Drivers tab and then click Roll Back Driver.

  4. In the Driver Package Rollback dialog box, click Yes as shown in Figure 3-8.

    FIGURE 3-8

    FIGURE 3-8 Device Driver Package Rollback

The Driver Package Rollback feature can only be used to revert to a previously updated driver. If you have not installed a later driver, the option in Device Manager will be unavailable.

If your system is unstable or won’t start up properly because of a faulty driver, such as a video driver, you might need to restart the computer in Safe Mode to access Device Manager and perform the driver rollback. Windows 10 automatically detects startup failures and should boot into the advanced startup menu.

Microsoft removed the ability to restart in Safe Mode by using Shift+F8 in Windows 10 so that the boot process could be quicker.

You can force Windows 10 still to respond to Shift+F8 by enabling the feature by typing the following command within an elevated command prompt.

BCDEdit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

The command should complete successfully and, the next time you restart your PC, the boot process will take a little longer while Windows 10 checks to see whether you are pressing F8 to invoke the Safe Mode boot experience; follow these steps.

  1. When your PC restarts, select Troubleshoot from the Choose An Option menu.

  2. Select Advanced Options.

    Select Startup Settings and click Restart. You see the Advanced Boot Options screen as shown in Figure 3-9.

    FIGURE 3-9

    FIGURE 3-9 Windows 10 Advanced Boot Options screen

  3. Select Safe Mode and press Enter.

  4. Log on to the system and roll back the driver as described earlier.

The rollback feature remembers only the last driver that was installed and doesn’t keep copies of multiple drivers for the same device.