Windows 7 And 64-Bit Drivers

Windows 7 And 64-Bit Drivers

If you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 (64-bit version) or you’re considering the move, you should know that one of the security features Microsoft built into the 64-bit version of the OS is a requirement that all 64-bit device drivers must be digitally signed. Digital signatures aren’t really a favorite among anyone who has a stake in the issue, but the rationale for insisting upon digital signatures is that rogue drivers won’t make it into the system load.

Is There A Workaround For An Unsigned Driver

Most sophisticated technical users don’t really appreciate the “nanny” aspect of this security feature. Microsoft is in charge of passing out the digital signatures, and as you might expect, there’s a cost to getting your driver signed. Now, the cost isn’t borne by the user, but instead, the manufacturer of the driver needs to pony up for the digital signature. That’s why manufacturers don’t much care for this feature.

Users tend not to like it much because an unsigned driver won’t work. It can’t because it never gets loaded. Even if the driver were otherwise flawless, the fact that it doesn’t have a signature will prevent it from seeing the light of day. That’s why users don’t much like the feature.

So, naturally, the question arises: is there a workaround for an unsigned driver? Well, yes there is, but users aren’t going to like it much. If you want to use an unsigned driver, you’ll need to press F8 every time your system boots up. This will quickly turn into a major pain for users who don’t want to hang around while their computer gets its act together. That’s Microsoft’s acknowledgment that there may be times when a user really needs to load an unsigned driver. The F8 business was built into the Windows 7 OS to allow for driver testing. It’s in the final version and you can use it as a way around the annoying “unsigned driver” problem.

So, if the annoying workaround is too horrible (or inconvenient) to follow, is there a real workaround for an unsigned driver? (A real workaround as in one that doesn’t require user intervention each time the computer boots up.)

I’ve seen at least two different workarounds, but both involve disabling the User Account Control (UAC). Now, for some users, disabling UAC isn’t a problem, since they don’t like it anyway. UAC is that annoying program that pops up warnings when the computer concludes that you might be doing something that could lead to computer ruin. If you’re intent on using unsigned drivers (or opening up your system to unsigned drivers) and don’t mind taking the safety cables off, I’ll share some unsigned driver solutions in my next post.

Photo Credit: Daan Berg, via Flickr