Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

More on Vista Drivers (Welcome MSNBC Readers)

Yesterday, MSNBC.com put up an article about Vista drivers in which I made an appearance (see Page 2). I was really surprised to see that it made it to the top of MSNBC's front page this morning. Woo hoo! If you're new to the site, thanks for clicking through. :)

So, been having driver issues with Windows Vista? Join the club. While Microsoft prides itself on compatibility with older programs, drivers for peripherals have always been an issue. While it may be quick and easy to blame Microsoft for this problem, they have made some improvements that make the situation a bit more bearable, though you may not even realize it. And the MSNBC article, while very good, didn't cover those changes.

The best example of that is the new Windows Error Reporting system. You've been able to send system crash data to Microsoft before, but did you know that Vista reports every missing/failed driver installation back to Microsoft for analysis? While containing no personally-identifiable information, the report contains the unique hardware ID of the device Vista can't find a driver for. That way, Microsoft can see which missing drivers their customers are using, and put pressure on the vendors to provide one. If/when the vendor does put out a new driver, Microsoft (usually) adds it to the Windows Update driver catalog, and your computer will be updated the next time Vista checks back with Microsoft for updates.

Speaking of Windows Update, Microsoft didn't use to put that many driver on there. In the past, you had to rummage around the Internet for the right driver, and many vendors didn't go a great job of making drivers readily accessible on their websites. That's why websites like DriverGuide.com got so popular.

The flipside of the availability issue is driver stability. While even some of the existing Vista drivers don't fully take advantage of these features, Microsoft rewrote many aspects of Windows Vista to make sure that if something goes wrong with your hardware, it won't completely take down your system. For example, Microsoft found that most of the Blue Screens on Windows stem from bad video card drivers. So Microsoft changed how video is handled in Vista, so that even if there is a problem, (in most cases) it can reset the card without toppling your system like a house of cards. And that's just one example.

So while there is no denying that the situation is still frustrating, Microsoft made improvements to the overall driver infrastructure whose impact won't be fully realized for another several months. These improvements will then carry-through to the next version of Windows, where hopefully the situation will improve even more.

All that information still not helping your situation? Share your Vista driver story here. I'd love to hear what others are experiencing with the new OS. And, if you're new here, have a look around, and let me know how to make the site better.

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Comments

  • Mike said:

    This may be a bit off topic, but with the number of articles I've read on Windows Vista and the frustration people are having with drivers and hardware, it's no wonder people are quick to point fingers at Microsoft. I strongly suggest to anyone in the market for a new computer or considering an upgrade to Windows Vista do their homework. There is a lot of false and incomplete information out there. Nevertheless, I must add that Windows Vista will only ever be as good as the individuals using it--problems are 9 times out of 10 the result of user error (I have many hours of expertise in this area)--one of the reasons people are so quick to tout Mac OS X. The operating system requires much less user input/configuration. Does that make it superior to Windows Vista, I certainly don't believe so, but I'm not the general public.

    Long story short, I've been using Vista for almost a month now and I'm exceedingly happy with the improvements over XP, particularly in the driver department. I was pleasantly surprised to be missing a sound driver, to restart my computer, and Windows Vista had downloaded and installed it for me. While Vista is nowhere near perfect, I look forward to Microsoft's continual effort to improve upon an already great operating system.

    April 4, 2007 2:30 PM
  • JoeM said:

    The big issue I have.  I have a Nvidia Geforce go 7600.  Nvidia has juste released a new driver for my card on my laptop (HP dv9033cl).  I have the following issues with the card.  1- The computer will take 45-65 seconds the go into hibernation.  2- If I close the lid the screen will not come back.  3-If I connect to a TV the and then disconnect from the TV the Laptop monitor will not come back,   Right now I hav a beta version that was released last month, that is not even for my card to stop the monitor from not turning on.  It still takes 45+seconds to go into hibernation.  I have reported this to Nvidia since december, with no response and no FIX.  This is my only Big and Minor issue with Vista so far.

    Thanks

    April 4, 2007 3:27 PM
  • James S. said:

    My Vista driver story is a bit different from the rest, but that's because I had been using Windows XP x64 beforehand. Support for the platform was terrible: to print, I had to install a driver for a different printer. To use my scanner or fax machine, or to sync with my mobile phone, I had to use a virtual machine to which I redirected USB ports from the host system (one reason VMWare is so much better than Virtual PC).

    Since upgrading to Vista x64, I have drivers for all my hardware, except one device which I knew I had to replace (ironically, as non-peripheral hardware, replacing it allowed me to purchase the OEM edition of Vista instead of Retail, and saved me money). Companies such as BlackBerry now provide 64bit support for their phone software and Vista ships with driver support in the box not just for my printer and fax machine, but for other devices that previously required third-party support, most notably my network adaptor.

    Poor driver support? Depends on how you look at it. Sure, ATI, nVidia and Creative have all taken far too long to get to something stable, but they each had stop-gap solutions ahead of time... and those companies aren't exactly known for driver quality anyway. Really, only enthusiasts upgrade this soon. Everyone else waits for a new computer or (famously) until the service pack. Enthusiasts make a lot of noise, but they've not really suffered.

    April 4, 2007 3:31 PM
  • azz0r said:

    I also have a go 7600 (acer aspire 5684) and I have been really peeved off at how long its taken for a driver (besides ms stock nvidia driver) to appear.

    I have all sorts of problems with sleep resulting in a black screen (hold power off for 10 seconds to do anything) or hibernate randomly dissapearing!

    April 4, 2007 3:34 PM
  • Mark Heath said:

    Well here's my experience with my home recording gear - a market segment that is way behind on getting Vista drivers.

    M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI soundcard - selling on ebay as M-Audio have shown no signs of producing Vista drivers in the near future.

    Line6 Toneport UX2 USB soundcard - surprisingly good - they brought out beta drivers recently that have worked well for me. No plans whatsoever to provide x64 drivers at the moment so far unfortunately.

    Korg serial port MIDI drivers for my X5D keyboard - would not install at all. Need to buy a new USB MIDI interface to be able to use MIDI on Vista (as the Audiophile was my only other MIDI interface)

    Syncrosoft dongle for Hypersonic VSTi - well the drivers appear to work, but the application itself crashes just as much as it did on XP.

    So a mixed bag really. Hopefully the pro audio industry will wake up to the fact that Vista is here to stay within the next year or so.

    April 4, 2007 4:58 PM
  • Eidelkeit said:

    I purchased an LG 8500 to use as the modem for a laptop.  I ended up buying a laptop with Vista. LG & Verizon have pushed the driver release back two months.  VERY frustrating to have a laptop with no internet.  We live too far out in the country to get DSL.  Our only options are aircards or (GASP--) dial up.  I have tried selecting the "Run as XP" and reloading the software--all to no avail.  And I have said the same thing you have--Vista's release certainly wasn't a top secret--so why didn't these vendors have it together enough to have the drivers ready????

    April 4, 2007 10:28 PM
  • dugbug said:

    DELL 3300 Wireless printer server.  Thing crashes after 10 minutes on vista.  DELL denies it (which is the frustrating part), but loads of folks are complaining about it on their support forum.

    April 5, 2007 6:41 AM
  • List244 said:

    I run Vistax64 and every bit of hardware I have has drivers and runs. Only problem I have at all is my keyboard. It works, but the software isn't fully functional. Though, Logitech is aware of this and working on a patch.

    April 5, 2007 7:11 AM
  • T Man said:

    Interesting what you said about the video driver and it not taking down the whole system.  I bought a new PC pretty fully loaded, with Vista Ultimate installed and a nVidia 7900 GS video card.  Performance has certainly been a concern, but with earlier drivers, I would occasionally have my screen go blank, and a ton of error reports generated.  What I can now see is that had this been XP, this would have probably resulted in a BSOD, but in Vista, it puts up a little fuss, but everything stays running.

    The driver quality from nVidia has certainly been a concern.  I'm running the newest beta drivers form nVidia, and I seem to have a stable system, but they still have some work to do.

    April 5, 2007 7:49 AM
  • Prasad said:

    Assuming everyone to support Vista, I jumped into Ultimate version of Vista as soon as I could ... !  But alas to all my efforts ...!

    It seems the big named companies are the ones we do not have support for, with regard to the drivers.  I would least expect for companies like ATI (I know they were better than Nvidia), Creative etc to come up with drivers late or improper drivers ...!

    As far as Creative was concerned, I had an Audigy ZS Notebook PCI card.  They came up almost a month or so late on drivers.  Still some of the apps that manage sounds keep crashing ...! (Atleast I do not get BSODs with them .. as of now).

    If you would go to Logitech, they did good at the start for the software for Webcams (Logitech Quickcam Pro 5000).  Alas to me, when I pressed, go ahead and update the existing driver.  It messed up my machine.  It is all the time giving me a message saying "Server too busy".

    As if this was not enough, I tried to search for a driver for the USB Hub released by DLink, another big name company for their DUB H7 Version.  That has no compatibilitiy with Vista.

    The highlight is ATI, who when I went to the AMD site and updated their latest driver, I invited trouble for myself.  The system would start and the moment I login, there ... I would get the BSOD and then a restart .. until I did uninstall the latest driver .. for which I had to go through the hassle of going through safe mode etc etc.

    The pain is not yet over .. How about the Microsoft Intellipoint software.  I use their Microsoft Notebook Mouse 3000.  A very handy mouse for notebooks.  It was working perfect, until the day, when I chose to run without it ...!  And the next time I connected the mouse, Vista was not able to associate the driver for the mouse and keeps asking me .. till date ... to locate the driver and install it.  I tried a lot of install, uninstall and what ever tricks I had in my bag .. nothing seems to work out!

    This is just about the drivers ... about the software .. there is a whole lot of a big story ...!  So far .. Vista has really made me go nuts ...!

    April 5, 2007 1:37 PM
  • Alvin said:

    There is a "fix" for these problems. While admittedly it won't help anyone in the short-term, it may in the long term.

    Consider two things when buying new hardware:

    1) Did the company abandon vast amounts of recent hardware upon the Vista release, deliver EXTREMELY late drivers, lie about Vista support, or fail to deliver reliable/reasonable drivers when they did release them? DO NOT BUY from that company again. Buy competing hardware to replace it, that DOES work in Vista, from a company who DID support Vista.

    2) Does the company have clear plans to support, or have current support for, 64 bit Vista? If not, try to buy only from a company who does. You may not use 64 bit NOW, but in 3 years, do you want to be stuck with peripherals that you'll have to dump when you find the need to move to 64 bit? 64 bit support NOW shows a dedication to driver support.

    For me, this meant dumping the Airlink101 router I was using which had an incompatibility with the new TCP/IP packets Vista uses (probably the same problem with a wireless print server someone mentioned). It would only have required a minor BIOS patch to fix, yet when I inquired about when such a patch would be available, AirLink support instructed me how to reset my router and assured me it would work with Vista. When I linked the MS KB Article explaining the flaw, they again explained to me how to reset my router. Thus, I switched brands - this time to one that at least I could flash with open source DD-WRT software, which has been fixed.

    I will NEVER buy an Airlink product again. If everyone commits firmly to DITCHING hardware from companies who treat customers badly, those companies will have to change their practice. Yet people say that, and then run right back down and buy another DULL or HP. I know for certain that the HP printer I bought in December will be the last HP printer I ever buy unless the entire rest of the market goes out of business. A BRAND NEW PRINTER, and they promised a Vista driver by the middle of January. NOW the driver page doesn't even mention Vista, whereas when I bought the printer, it had the January delivery date, and it is only mentioned in passing on a list of printers that will "eventually" get Vista support - probably in another 6 months.

    nVidia is off my list as well. I switched to ATI after the debacle that was the FX series nVidia cards, but the current treatment of Vista drivers by nVidia has reinforced my conviction to avoid nVidia at all costs. My current motherboard has an nVidia chipset, for instance. nVidia used a Realtek audio codec, which was not included in the public release of Vista. It downloaded from MS on the first update, so all is well, right? Nope. Crashes, blamed on the sound driver by MS's diagnostic tool. In addition, the "WHQL" nvidia driver - the only one available as nvidia's site does not have the driver - turned my 5.1 system into two-channel stereo! This is on a high-end socket 939 board with nforce4 chipset. Hardly antiquated. I managed to get a working driver by going to RealTek themselves - who have picked up the slack - but I shouldn't have had to go beyond nVidia for a driver. Plus, look at all the people who are having gaming trouble in Vista. A majority of them are due to lousy GeForce drivers. So why buy from a company that releases junk drivers?

    In the end, however, people will forget. They'll keep buying junk and 3rd party hardware vendors will continue to get away with abandoning hardware as soon as or even before it is even out the door. And everyone will blame MS.

    April 8, 2007 6:14 PM
  • JoeM said:

    Hi Alvin,  I am aware that HP says they won't have drivers until June, but every HP printer that said it would not work, has worked.  I rarly install manufactor software only drivers.  As for Nvidia and ATI,  They are both bad.  ATI with the merger with AMD(also another poor company and bad proucts) dumbed their AIW cards, now they refuse to support a card I have on my other computer.  Nvidia is the same story, I don't build laptops, nor can I replace the Video card in my laptop.  So stuck using a Beta driver for a card that is not even in my machine just to get the monitor fom not shuting off when I close the lid   :(   Manufactors better get their **************  in order.   MSFT has done the work, now get your drivers in shape.

    April 11, 2007 3:13 PM
  • ScottyDog said:

    Windows Vista Sucks!

    NVIDIA graphics drivers are so buggy that they are not worth trying to install for my brand new Vista ready 7600GT. Then there are the worthless drivers for my Creative Sound Blaster.

    Did anyone notice that the taskbar/system tray utility has been eliminated in Vista that allows you to change from clone to dual view and many other on the fly changes?

    I have contacted NVIDIA numerous times and they will not admit that have eliminated this system tray utility. Frankly, NVIDIA has screwed all multi monitor customers with the crappy drivers for vista.

    My computer constantly crashes with the latest drivers 158.18 and getting my multi monitors to work is futile.

    I purchased a XFX 7600 GT for Vista specifically because of the multi monitor features and it is a useless hunk of silicon. This will be my last NVIDIA video card. They treat their customers like *** and refuse to answer emails or support the customer after you buy their useless cards in Vista. (WinXP works fine with 7600GT)

    I do not know how they expect to survive in the multi monitor market with their new control panel, which is useless for daily use. I guess I will go have to go back to ATI.

    Did I mention that Vista will give you carpel tunnel syndrome. Everything that used to take one or two clicks now takes up to 6 clicks to do the same thing like changing your display settings.

    After 4 months I have given up, reinstalled WinXP Pro, and will not even try to install Vista until I read on the forums that they have solved the problems.

    Oh, I almost forgot that Vista has so much DRM imbedded in the OS that the CPU is constantly pegged. That is why you have to get the latest Dual Core CPU's to do the same thing on a much slower CPU in Win XP. Vista polls the Audio Video bus constantly checking to see if you have unprotected content present.

    Most of the problems hardware manufacturers are having is making their drivers compliant with the MS trusted computer DRM measures.

    Microsoft has lost touch with its customers and instead is trying to leverage DRM to eliminate the competition(linux) by keeping hardware drivers code secret because of DRM.

    Read the article by Peter Gutman, A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection.

    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt

    His article lays out why we having driver problems with Vista much better than I can.

    April 21, 2007 2:12 PM
  • JoeM said:

    "Did I mention that Vista will give you carpel tunnel syndrome. Everything that used to take one or two clicks now takes up to 6 clicks to do the same thing like changing your display settings."  I found that on average it is about the same amount of clicks, and sometimes less.  Changing the display settings is the same amount of steps.

    "Oh, I almost forgot that Vista has so much DRM imbedded in the OS that the CPU is constantly pegged. That is why you have to get the latest Dual Core CPU's to do the same thing on a much slower CPU in Win XP. Vista polls the Audio Video bus constantly checking to see if you have unprotected content present. "

    (????? What are you talking about?  I installed Vista on a 2.2ghz P4 and 512MB or ram, that is about 4 years ago.  And the CPU runs on average about 10-20%)

    I have not had any DRM trouble at all.  Everything I have heard on the web about Vista and DRM have been wrong.  Personal I find Microsoft has done a very good job  keeping intouch with customers,  far better then Apple and Linux.

    April 22, 2007 12:46 PM
  • Quantel said:

    "Oh, I almost forgot that Vista has so much DRM imbedded in the OS that the CPU is constantly pegged. That is why you have to get the latest Dual Core CPU's to do the same thing on a much slower CPU in Win XP. Vista polls the Audio Video bus constantly checking to see if you have unprotected content present. "

    "(????? What are you talking about?  I installed Vista on a 2.2ghz P4 and 512MB or ram, that is about 4 years ago.  And the CPU runs on average about 10-20%)"

    He is probably talking about the

    "Unnecessary CPU Resource Consumption"

    paragraph in the

    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt

    (Thank you for the link, ScottyDog!)

    Personally, I will not install Vista until both

    a) a really good Direct3D 10 game comes out, which I want to play, and

    b) I buy a DirectX 10 capable card, like GeForce 8x00

    When this happens, I will install Vista on a second hard disk partition,

    and use Vista only for playing that game.

    I will have the good old XP SP2 partition to do all other things.

    But that's me.

    We all have different needs / tastes for our computing experience.

    Over 75% of all the people I know, use their PC for these things _only_:

    a) Microsoft Live Messenger

    b) email

    c) listening to music

    d) watching movies

    e) playing games

    They like to have images with a lot of colors on their desktops,

    and they say they want Vista because of

    "the cool interface, and also it's newer than XP, so it has to better, right?"

    (I, on the other hand, have a pure grey color #808080 desktop,

    Classic Start Menu and Classic Theme.)

    I used Windows 2000 Professional until October 2004,then I installed XP SP2

    because I wanted to install Adobe Premiere Pro which needed XP.

    So that means I will probably change to Vista (SP2?) in the beginning of 2010..! ;)

    April 27, 2007 7:30 AM
  • Equin0x said:

    DRM is definitely the hold up on stable drivers, you can clearly see that by the drivers that are affected.  Video and sound drivers.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that polling the bus constantly is not a good idea.  I have doubts that Vista will ever be suitable.  The idea of vendors revoking device keys doesn't sit well with me, either.

    I'm hoping for a service pack that removes DRM from Vista.  I don't care if I ever watch HDCP enabled movies - but I do care if I can game and have a functional system.  I'm not very optimistic, though.  Microsoft seems determined to force this on endusers and there are enough cheerleaders that dismiss the very real problems DRM causes.

    May 2, 2007 9:59 PM