Windows 8 Drivers you do and don't need


Windows Forum Admin
Staff member
Premium Supporter
Jul 22, 2005
Instinctively, you may believe that it is necessary to install drivers for your components, once you have Windows 8 up and running. This may not be the case, however, and historically has not been. If your device, whether it be a PCI card, a USB device, or even something connected to a serial port, was created and placed onto the retail marketplace before Windows 8 was released to manufacturers, and a Windows 8 driver already appears for that device, you may not need to get a "special driver" for Windows 8.

Despite what most people think, the problem with driver compatibility arises after Microsoft Windows already hits store shelves. Companies begin to design products for the latest version of Windows, and the drivers for those products do not exist already in Windows. The reason for this is actually quite simple: Because Windows 8 was finalized when it was released to manufacturers, only the manufacturers of hardware and software peripherals have responsibility over complete driver development after that date.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, many people who run JBOD, RAID, or SCSI devices for their hard drives have difficulty installing Windows without pre-loading a driver when performing the installation. In almost every case, this is because the storage controller device did not have driver development performed on it that was submitted to Microsoft leading up to the final release of Windows. Since Microsoft cannot include every single driver for every single device in the universe on their DVDs and images, Windows 8 has a set number of drivers and compatibility drivers once it is released. It is then up to the manufacturer to make a difference.

In the case of drivers reaching Windows Update, not only do they need to be developed, quality assurance (QA) tested, and finalized, but they also need to be digitally signed and submitted to Microsoft for testing. Depending on what company has developed the driver and how it is being integrated into Windows, the digital signature of the driver is usually completed by a trusted root certificate authority, either operated on behalf of Microsoft, or known throughout the world as a trusted root CA. An example of a newer trusted root certificate authority would be Google. An example of an older trusted root CA would be VeriSign, or, as it was previously known when it had a monopoly on Internet domain names, Network Solutions. To solve the solution of having insecure root certificate authorities, but not having enough in the world, policies were implementing to allow small companies to chain off of existing large root certificate authorities. This means a company like GeoTrust, which is a large, world renowned root certificate authority, can also allow smaller companies to chain off of their certificate authority servers. If the smaller company becomes unreliable or technically compromised, at any time, GeoTrust can revoke their own certificates or that of the smaller company. Similarly, because Microsoft has direct control of the root certificate authority trusted certs that ship with Microsoft Windows, they can make immediate changes if a security problem arises.

When dealing with driver signing, this all becomes quite convoluted, and potentially confusing for end users. What is important to know is that driver signing is not much different than digitally signing a document using a certificate authority, or providing a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption digital signature for a website domain name. In the case of drivers, the digital signing will assure one certain thing: the driver has not been altered or modified since it was published. This prevents hackers from taking over a web server that is providing drivers and distributing malware-infected drivers.

How does the process of publishing drivers take place once Windows is published? Well, Microsoft itself works with thousands of companies to get drivers placed into Windows for peripheral devices before and after the release of Windows. But, ultimately, if you were to invent a product or service, it would become your responsibility to keep it up to date. Similarly, the manufacturer of hardware or software that requires drivers to operate in Windows needs to make sure that those drivers are secure and will not damage the operating system. In the past, one of the leading causes of system crashes was known as DLL (dynamic link library) hell and the problem of drivers not being adequately tested. Drivers run in the hardware abstraction layer of the kernel and control how Windows communicates with the hardware. Microsoft has created a framework for ensuring that all drivers conform to both quality and security standards whereas:

The drivers will not significantly slow down the operating system or eat up an enormous amount of system resources.

The drivers will not compromise system security.

The drivers will function appropriately, and will be well-defined as to what their function is for what hardware.

To get to the level where we are at today, where unsigned drivers at not permitted to even run in Windows, Microsoft implemented an enormous security overhaul effort with the release of Windows Vista and onward. For that, they should be credited, as well as for including so many functional drivers for old hardware.

But wait, I have a device, and it doesn't work because I don't have the driver

If you have a device that predates Windows 8, and there is no driver for it, apparently anywhere, not even from the manufacturer, this usually means that the manufacturer did not want to spend the time or money to have the driver developed by programmers, quality tested, digitally signed, and/or submitted to Microsoft. There are reasons for this. The development of new drivers could have been considered by the company that you bought your product from as costing too much money. Or, the very same company may want their customers to buy only newer technology. And it is remotely possible that the company simply couldn't make their device work with a newer version of Windows, although this reason is highly suspect.

If you have been following the development of Windows 8, then you have seen the release of many public tests prior to the finalized copy of Windows 8 reaching manufacturers. Even the RTM version, which will not differ at all from the version that hits store shelves, has been sent to manufacturers to make sure that all of their products work on release day. The developer preview, and even the consumer preview, were designed to make it easier for Microsoft not only to track down bugs, but for developers to learn how to write code for Windows 8, including code for drivers. With months, and even years given to companies to get their act together before Windows hits store shelves, it becomes hard to blame Microsoft for a piece of hardware not to have driver compatibility.

For example, the Windows RTM version that was released last month has the near latest drivers from NVIDIA and AMD for graphics cards. It works with almost all of Canon's printers and scanners. Owners of nearly any device from Intel, Logitech, or Samsung need not worry, as the latest drivers are already there. It is no longer necessary, at the time of this post, to download and install any chipset compatibility drivers from Intel. It is evidenced that they have been working directly with Microsoft since around 2009-2010 so that they would not have to release the "Intel INF Update" utility again.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen... Windows 8 has a lot of driver compatibility, but there will continue to be drivers that you don't need. This is at least true until Windows 8 gets older. As new products are released that the developers of Windows could have never imagined, it becomes necessary to make sure that you have the latest hardware and software updates.

Before looking for newer drivers, always check Windows Update.
Access Device Manager by hitting the Windows Key + R and type: devmgmt.msc
Or search for Device Manager
For your device, right-click and go to properties and look at the date.

If the hardware or software you are examining had drivers published by Microsoft in Windows 8, you will rarely need to worry about the driver publication date.

However, if the driver you have has been published within the latest 3-6 months, you are usually good to go with this device. The only exception is almost always graphics cards and network adapters.

Look to the manufacturer to see what they are doing about making sure your purchase is compatible with Windows 8. See if they are willing to spend some time (and thus money) to even speak to their customers about driver compatibility.

Thanks for reading.