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Installing and Configuring Device Drivers

Devices have changed from being single-function peripherals to complex, multifunction devices, with a large amount of local storage and the ability to run applications. They have evolved from a single type of connection, such as USB, to multi transport devices that support USB, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

Many of today's devices are often integrated and sold with services that are delivered over the Internet, Internet delivery has simplified the delivery mechanism, which means that a computer's ability to recognize and use devices has expanded to cover all possibilities. Microsoft has expanded the list of devices and peripherals that are being tested for compatibility with Windows 8.

The device experience in Windows 8 is designed on existing connectivity protocols and driver models to maximize compatibility with existing devices. The following are areas in Windows 8 that you can use to manage devices:

  • The Devices and Printers control panel gives users a single location to find and manage all the devices that connect to a Windows 8-based computer, and provides quick access to device status, product information, and key functions, such as Faxing and scanning. This enhances and simplifies the customer experience with a Windows 8-connected device.
  • Device Manager is used to view and update hardware settings and driver software for devices such as internal hard drives, disc drives, sound cards, video or graphics cards, memory, processors, and other internal computer components.

Seamless user experiences begin with the ability to effortlessly connect devices. Additional drivers are retrieved automatically from Windows Update, and when appropriate, users are given an option to download and install additional applications for the device. These components all help reduce support calls and increase customer satisfaction.

Device Drivers in Windows 8

A driver is a small software program that the computer uses to communicate with hardware or devices. It also is specific to an operating system. Without drivers, the hardware that you connect to the computer does not work properly.

In most cases, drivers are part of windows, or you can locate them by navigating to Windows Update, and then checking for updates. If Windows does not have the required driver, look for it on the disc that came with the hardware or device, or on the manufacturer's website.

32-bit and 64-bit Drivers

Windows 8 is available in 32-bit and 64-bit version. Drivers developed for the 32-bit versions do not work with the 64-bit versions, and vice versa. You must make sure that you obtain the appropriate device drivers before you install Windows 8.

Driver Signing

The device drivers that are part of Windows 8 have a Microsoft digital signature that indicates whether a particular driver or file has met a certain level of testing, is stable and reliable, and has not been altered since it was signed digitally. Windows 8 checks for driver's digital signature during installation, and prompts the user if no signature is available.

The signature file is stored as a .cat file in the same location as the driver file.

Driver Store and Driver Packages

The driver store is the driver repository in Windows 8. A driver package is a set of files that make up a driver. It includes the .inf file, any files that the .inf file references, and the .cat file that contains the digital signature for the device driver. You can preload the driver store with drivers for commonly used peripheral devices. The driver store is located in systemroot\System32\DriverStore.

Installing a driver is a two-stage process. First, you install the driver package into the driver store. You must use administrator credentials to install the driver package into the driver store. The second step is to attach the device and install the driver. A standard user can perform this second step.

During hardware installation, if the appropriate driver is not available, Windows 8 uses Windows Error Reporting to report an unknown device. This enables Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to work in conjunction with Microsoft to provide additional information to the user, such as a statement of nonsupport for a particular device, or a link to a website with additional support information.

In Windows 8, the Device Metadata System provides an end-to-end process for defining and distributing device metadata packages. These packages contain device experience XML documents that represent the device's properties and functions, together with applications and services that support the device.
Through these XML documents, the Devices and Printers folder and Device Stage present users with an interface that is specific to the device, which the device maker defined.

Windows Online Quality Services (Winqual) validates device-experience XML documents, and then signs device metadata packages. Windows Metadata and Internet Services (WMIS) distributes new or revised device-metadata packages that device makers submit through Winqual.

Windows 8 uses WMIS to discover, index, and match device metadata packages to specific devices that are connected to the computer. Device makers also can distribute device-metadata packages directly to the computer through their own Setup applications.

YOu can use the Pnputil.exe tool to add a driver to the Windows 8 driver store manually.