The Vista driver outlook gets a little brighter

The Vista driver outlook gets a little brighter

Summary: I’ve been watching for the past six months as PC hardware makers deliver updated drivers to make their products work with Windows Vista. Lately, the trickle has turned into a steady stream, with some high-volume hardware companies delivering solid 32- and 64-bit updates. But there are still some rough edges to deal with.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

I’ve been watching for the past six months as PC hardware makers deliver updated drivers to make their products work with Windows Vista. Lately, the trickle has turned into a steady stream:

  • Creative has released 32–bit and 64–bit Vista drivers for virtually all of its current product line. (And despite what you may have read, they’re not charging customers for those drivers.) I’ve tried the Audigy SE drivers here, and they deliver full 5.1 surround sound.
  • Nvidia and ATI delivered video driver updates in June. Gamers and home theater fanatics are still grumbling (the lack of overscan capability in Nvidia’s drivers is especially annoying), but the updates do represent significant progress.
  • Realtek just last week posted driver updates (32-bit and 64-bit) for their hugely popular HD Audio products. These have solved any lingering audio problems I had on HD Audio-equipped systems.
  • Intel has new Matrix Storage drivers for its onboard SATA disk controllers that make a huge difference in performance. I downloaded the Dell-specific versions for a pair of XPS desktop systems and saw throughput speeds double.

Dell deserves props, too, for reorganizing their support site so that it’s easy to find, save, and download drivers for different systems. I especially like their new capability to create multiple download lists for different systems.

The bad news is that, for the most part, you have to find those drivers yourself and install them manually. That adds a layer of complexity that most PC owners aren’t prepared to deal with. On the Dell C521 I’ve been writing about recently, I found sound, video, and storage drivers dated June 2006. Installing the latest updates made a noticeable difference.

But all is not perfect in driver-land. The biggest disappointment is with unsigned drivers. Several months ago, I wrote about the travails of finding Windows Vista drivers for a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. Originally, Fujitsu had promised to deliver the drivers in April. Then, without notice, the scheduled release date slipped to June.

To their credit, Fujitsu delivered the update with a day or two to spare. Vista-compatible drivers (32–bit only) and software updates turned up on Fujitsu’s website on June 29. The installation process is anything but straightforward: You have to first install the old, incompatible XP suite, then install three separate update packages, and at each step you’re prompted to restart. My enthusiasm was tempered even more when I encountered this dialog box after finally starting the updated ScanSnap manager:


After eight months, they couldn’t deliver a signed driver? I don’t take this sort of warning lightly, either. Running a driver through the Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL) does a marvelous job of uncovering potential stability problems. In fact, the three Blue Screen of Death errors I’ve experienced with Vista this year were all caused by unsigned drivers.

I need the functionality this scanner offers, so I’m reluctantly accepting the unsigned driver. But I’ll be ready to remove it at a moment’s notice if I see even a hint of instability.

Which Vista drivers are you still waiting for?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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  • Most of drivers are on Vista DVD and on Windows Update

    Most of drivers are on Vista DVD and on Windows Update, so it's not necessary install them manually.
    • The ones on the Vista DVD are old

      The ones on the Vista DVD are from June 2006, primarily. And only a small number are delivered through Windows Update. None of the drivers I listed here were offered to me through Windows Update.
      Ed Bott
      • strange

        Says 1,600 a month, for a total of 27,000 drivers available from Windows Update. Doesn't seem small to me.
        • Read it again

          "In the initial phase after launch, Windows Update has delivered new drivers at a rate of more than 1,600 per month, bringing the total number of drivers above 27,000."

          That total includes the 19,500 drivers on the Vista DVD, meaning the press release was touting fewer than 8,000 drivers.

          I've been offered drivers via Windows Update, usually during initial install. It's cool when it works. But Microsoft and the vendors are conservative about this. My sound and video and storage drivers were not updated automatically via Windows Update.
          Ed Bott
      • Hardware vendors at fault.

        Microsoft has for years offerred the posting of 3rd party WHQL drivers to Windows Update. All that is required of the vendor is that the driver have a 4 part ID. They simply have to check a box saying they want it posted. There is no fee or any other obstruction to doing so. If Dell, Creative, nVidia and ATI are not doing this shame on them.

        P.S. The 4 part ID is required so that the OEM can be distinguished. That way a Gateway ATI driver update will only come down on a Gateway system. This is to prevent OEMs from getting updates they have not tested.
    • Drivers from Windows Update

      The only driver update I've gotten from MS was for my onboard RealTek Gigabit NIC.
      M.R. Kennedy
  • Simply amazing...

    This is sorta related to this story... I've listened to the same people with an entirely opposite take on the same problem simply because it's Microsoft or it's not. Some piece of hardware lacks drivers for Vista, it's the hardware manufacturers fault. Some piece of hardware lacks drivers for Linux, it's the fault of Linux and anyone who uses it. And anyway, if you ask some of the religious zealots they'll probably tell you that Vista shipped with every driver you'll ever need and if there happens to be hardware out there not supported, well...that hardware must suck anyway. Of course, if Linux doesn't support the same piece of hardware then it just shows how inferior of a product it is.
    • Wrong!!

      As a wannabe user of Linux and a full time Vista fan, I have always blamed the manufacturers for not releasing a driver for any OS people use. If someone out there is still using DOS, then a driver should exist for the devices they want to use. Same with Mac, Linux, and any other OS out there I do not know about.

      Manufacters need to be responsible for the drivers. The OS vendors certainly can help the manufacturer get the drivers delivered.

      I have nothing but good things to the Linux developers who have been working hard getting drivers out for all devices, but more drivers all still needed.
    • Obviously...

      ...there is the vice versa.

      Linux zealots use the exact same reasoning for why they think it is a superior system.

      'nuff said.
  • Creative just dumped a huge portion of their product line

    Creative labs didn't just come out with drivers for the entire line, they dumped a *huge* portion of their product line they promised 64bit XP and *any* Vista support for!

    As was reported in previous blogs on ZDNet, Creative labs advertised all sorts of x64 and Vista support for well over a year on every existing product still on the shelf, then decided to dump them and list them as "No Development Planned".

    Chart can be found here:

    Want a perfect example? The Webcam Live! Pro had x64 development planned way back in Q1 of 2006.. it got bumped - bumped again, and again.. then Vista support was promised.. It got bumped, then finally set to "No Development Planned".

    Creative Labs needs to give a full, public explanation why they dumped so many clients and give us a free upgrade to something that is supported or release the drivers they promised!
    • Sorry, can't get a working link to Creative

      I can't find a static link to their driver charts, if anyone can post it would be appreciated.
      • The link is in the original post

        It's the first link in the first bullet point. Most of the "no development planned" listings are for various webcams.
        Ed Bott
  • The picture isn't THAT rosy...

    There's a difference between shipping a driver, and shipping a fully WORKING driver.

    Some hardware, with Vista drivers, is running in half-ass mode, and not to it's fullest capability.

    8800GTX drivers are a good example. X-Fi drivers are another.

    I went back to XP last weekend because I was sick of my expensive hardware running in half-ass mode.
    • re: The picture isn't THAT rosy...


      When I installed Vista back in February, the default VGA driver was in play, and there was no sound (Creative Audigy 4.) I found, downloaded, and installed driver packages from ATI (X1950PRO) and CL. The ATI CCC package was a "release", the CL drivers were still in beta.

      Both installations worked. I later updated the CL drivers when the release version [b]finally[/b] became available in April.

      Blame your driver woes on nVidia and Creative, not Microsoft.
      M.R. Kennedy
      • I'll not blame Creative and nvidia...

        Because they've managed to make drivers for every other Windows OS, and they know that this lack of fully functioning drivers is bad for their business. They can't make working drivers because the Vista driver architecture is too hard to do.

        I know who to blame for that.
        D. W. Bierbaum
        • Wrong!

          Both vendors you mention have been patching there XP drivers every couple weeks since XP released. Their inability to provide a stable driver rests firmly on their shoulders.
    • Well, I'll tellya....

      That's why I use a Mac. I'm fed up with Windows screwing the customer out of things that should already be included with the operating system. Fact is, besides XP, they've been doing this for YEARS!

      Mac OS Tiger is one beautiful operating system...In my opinion, it leaves Windows in the dust.
      Stanley Levin
  • Wish I could use my Palm phone

    Have a Samsung i500 running Palm OS 4.1 and wish sorely I could use my new VAIO...when will the patch come?
  • How about 100% PNP

    Why can't hardware be 100% Plug-n-Play (ie: NO DEVICE DRIVERS REQUIRED). Why can't all of the functionality of the hardware device be built into the device from the factory, with no need to install device drivers at all.
    • Partly there

      Windows includes mini-port drivers that enable basic functionality for many classes of devices. You probably don't need a driver for most point-and-shoot digital cameras these days, for example, or for an external USB hard drive. The trouble is that hardware makers want to do more than just the basics, and to do that they need to provide drivers.

      Nice dream, but not possible.
      Ed Bott