Backup Your Device Drivers?
Is it necessary to backup my device drivers? I do backups for my important documents and photos, but I've never been convinced of the need to do a full hard drive backup. I can always re-install Windows if my hard drive fails. But I read recently that it can be very difficult to find all the correct drivers after doing so. Is this true, and if so, how do I backup my device drivers?
How to Back Up Device Drivers
Even if you are conscientious about backing up your hard drive, you may want to also keep a separate backup copy of all your device drivers. That's because device drivers are critical Windows components that can be hard to replace if they get corrupted, or if you re-install Windows. In a nutshell, a driver is a small program that enables a piece of hardware to communicate with the operating system. Everything attached to your computer or it's system board - your monitor, printer, mouse, network adapter, and so on - needs a device driver.
Windows comes with a library of several thousand device drivers. But many drivers are available only from device manufacturers. So if you have to re-install Windows you can't count on it re-installing all of your device drivers. Some computer vendors provide the required device drivers on a CD when you purchase a new computer. But others don't provide backups, or they put these files on the hard drive, where they can be wiped out by a hard drive failure, reformatting, or reinstalling Windows. You may have to go looking online for drivers, and that is a usually a pain.
It's also a good idea to backup a working device driver before upgrading to a newer version. That way, if the new driver does not work, you can restore the older driver easily. Windows does not come with tools that make it easy to backup just device drivers. But there are many free device driver backup utilities available online. Here are just a few of them.
Free Driver Backup Utilities
Driver Backup is a free open source utility that gives you plenty of options when backing up drivers. You can select OEM (manufacturer supplied) drivers only; digitally signed drivers; fully portable drivers; and other options. Driver Backup also comes with a command-line option that enables you to automate driver backup through a batch file. No installation or registration is required to use Driver Backup.
Double Driver is a simple driver backup and restoration utility that works very well. It can distinguish between third-party drivers and drivers included with Windows, so that you don't have to back up drivers unnecessarily. However, you can back up the installed Windows drivers if you wish. You can also create a portable version of Double Driver on a thumb drive or CD, so you will be able to run it on any Windows computer without installing it again.
DriverMax not only backs up and restores device drivers, it can also search the Web for newer versions of drivers and install them for you. When you first run DriverMax, it generates a report of installed device drivers. It can also identify unknown hardware. DriverMax is free to use, but to unlock all of its functionality you have to create an account at the site.
A word about device driver updates seems in order, since that's one of the features that DriverMax offers. In almost every case, I do not recommend that you go looking for new, improved device drivers for your hardware. If you are having a problem with a device, or if Windows Update recommends it, then a driver update is a good idea. But there are some potential gotchas. See my related article Should You Update Your Drivers? for details.
I do think it's a good idea to keep your driver backup software installed on whatever medium you use to hold your backup driver copies. That way, you won't have to download and install the utility again. A flash drive that you can keep safe in a drawer or fire-proof safe would be ideal for this.
Have you done a device driver backup? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Oct 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Backup Your Device Drivers? (Posted: 5 Oct 2011)
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Most recent comments on "Backup Your Device Drivers?"
05 Oct 2011
Just one point. It is vital that you keep the CD that came with your motherboard, if, you built your own computer. This CD has all of the drivers needed, for your motherboard, should you need to start from scratch. For those, who have purchased a computer, it is also vital, that you keep the CD or Restore Disk that came with the computer, for the same reason, driver hardware.
If, you have to start from scratch, it is much better that you start with the initial drivers, when the motherboard was brand new. You can always 'update or upgrade' later, but, your installation of Windows will go much smoother, when you start with the original Motherboard CD driver or CD/Recovery Disk.
Believe me, I have had to do this many times. I have always gone to the motherboard website to check about updates, for the hardware on the board. Once, I updated the BIOS. I was having problems with that board and updating the BIOS solved it. Otherwise, I don't bother the BIOS. Leave that puppy alone, unless you are having major problems with capability or conflicts.
In the past, it was easy to back-up all driver upgrades/updates. You simply put them on a Floppy Disk. Now a days, you have to put the backups on a CD-R or a CD-RW. Then stored in a safe place, where you will remember, if, you need it. I have a drawer in my desk that is ONLY for those CDs and Backups for my computer. They are all in one place and easily assessable.
05 Oct 2011
Wouldn't a system image take care of the driver issue? Seems like twice the work to backup "important documents and photos" and then do another backup of just drivers.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, but a system image may be many gigabytes, and a "data + drivers" backup will be orders of magnitude smaller. Also, what if your system image is contaminated with malware, and you want to reformat and reinstall?
06 Oct 2011
I currently subscribe to Carbonite that is supposed to provide a backup of all of my files. Does this include drivers? Do I need to have a separate backup of drivers in addition to my Carbonite subscription?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, and probably. Read the article again to clarify.
06 Oct 2011
I am also confused. I use a external Hard Drive back up , Toshiba -NTI Back Up Now EZ_ Maybe once every 2 months or so if I make changes , deleting or updating programs. I do keep all CD's that came with my Dell Windows XP home addition. Now you are telling us novis Computer users , that a back up, like a external hard drive is worthless??
You sound like a Dell Tech. support person , when I used to call , and they would tell me they have to start all over again , and I would have to reinstall all of my CD's that was sent with my Dell Inspiron/E1505 computer.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't say that any type of backup is worthless. I said that a backup of your drivers is a good thing to do IN ADDITION to a full backup.
06 Oct 2011
I wish I'd had this great info earlier! I took a laptop back to its factory settings prior to giving it to a family member. I used the Windows Transfer Wizard first, saving everything to an external drive. I did not want to put anything back on the laptop, I just saved the old stuff "just in case". I find that the touchpad driver now installed does not work properly. Can I get the old driver from the wizard and reinstall?
10 Oct 2011
Take this info as gospel! There are some drivers that you can get on line only. Then in some event the company goes belly up are no longer supports those drivers and they remove them. This is when you wish you did a backup. I have one system that came preloaded. No software came with it. Got a small manual said drivers found on line. I was thank full I did a full system backup. I had a problem and it was like pulling widsom teeth to get assistance from there site. Gave up and went to my backup I was up and running in a few minutes.
04 Sep 2015
Just to let you know, following the link above to the Double Driver site produces download links which no longer work. However I was able to find Double Drive V 4.10 at Major Geeks and it works great - just as Bob advertises: http://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/double_driver.html