Many new users have spent the past few months muddling through XP's seemingly complicated driver requirements. Most of the questions we received were about signed drivers. Here's the score. In an effort to protect us from crashes related to conflicting versions of drivers and DLL files, Windows XP automatically checks incoming drivers to see whether they contain a digital signature, which indicates that the file is uncorrupted and originates from the vendor that it claims to. Microsoft strongly encourages vendors to abide by its voluntary driver-signing process, which available on its Web site. Currently, XP won't prevent you from installing an unsigned driver, but it warns you that the file is not signed and cannot be verified to be from the claimed source. Then, the system offers to continue the installation or let you cancel. Most of us simply click the Continue Anyway button, complete the installation, and have no trouble at all. This method works fine as long as you're downloading from a well-known vendor.
But XP offers driver protection beyond signed drivers. If you run across a problem with a driver once you've installed it -- unexplained crashes, for example, or a broken device -- the OS can get you out of trouble in several ways. The first is the Driver Rollback feature, which allows you to replace your current troublesome driver with a previous working version. To access Driver Rollback, click Start > Control Panel, then select the Classic View for the Control Panel. The Classic View shows you all of the Control Panel options. Double-click Administrative Tools > Computer Management. In the left-hand list under Computer Management, select Device Manager; this will display a list of all of your system devices. Double-click the device with which you are having a problem, and then select the Driver tab. On the Driver tab, click the Roll Back Driver button for a list of previous drivers for the device. If Driver Rollback won't fix your device catastrophe, you can take advantage of XP's full System Restore feature, which lets you roll back to a pre-crash state. You can also use the Add/Remove Program control panel to undo Windows Update and service packs.