Paul Watson, PC Technician Wednesday, May 19th 2010
Drivers Abound, Just Not Always In The Right Places
Windows drivers are available by the millions. That’s right; over time, there have been literally millions of hardware drivers written for the Windows operating system. That’s because there have been millions of peripherals designed to work with windows. Everything, from printers to keyboards to specialized hardware, requires a driver to allow the hardware to communicate with the computer.
Drivers don’t just happen and Microsoft isn’t responsible for writing drivers; hardware manufacturers are. When hardware manufacturers don’t write updated drivers, they’re essentially walking away from one of their products. Without a driver, the hardware won’t work properly, if at all. Older drivers might suffice, but chances are good that when an operating system changes radically – like the difference between Windows XP and Windows 7 is – there’s a good bet that a new driver is in order.
There’s no income involved for the manufacturer in writing a new driver for old hardware. Drivers are given away at no cost. Ongoing driver support represents the commitment a company makes to a hardware product, as well as an acknowledgment by the company that hardware can function admirably well past the manufacturer’s desire to continue supporting it.
Many peripheral manufacturers took a flyer on writing drivers for Vista, largely because Vista wasn’t a big commercial success. That approach is now causing problems for consumers who want to upgrade to Windows 7, and who still want to use their older hardware. Many manufacturers haven’t done the legwork needed to write a Vista driver, and the absence of a Vista driver significantly lessens the chance that a Windows 7 driver will be forthcoming.
For its part, Microsoft attempted to head off this problem by including a virtualization mode in Windows 7 that will enable the computer to run Windows XP. In virtual XP mode, the old XP drivers will still work. Unfortunately, the computer’s BIOS must support virtualization – a trick that many aging computers don’t.
If you’ve got an older piece of hardware that you don’t want to – or can’t – replace, and your computer can run Windows XP virtually, you can still access your older hardware and enjoy the benefits of Windows 7. (Just not simultaneously.)
Photo Credit: Andrew Stawarz, via Flickr