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The situation in all its glory:

  • 30 megs for ATIs' "Display Driver Only".
  • Almost 100 megs for NVidias' GeForce/Ion bloatware.
  • 300 megs for an HP printer driver with immense amount of crap
  • 30 megs for a Realtek integrated sound card driver.
  • 50 megs for a mouse driver
  • ...and dozens and dozens of other similar examples

Additinally, UI/UX on vendors' sites is really terrible: I have to carefully pick and choose the exact model of my whatever, although this packages do contain drivers for pretty much every possible hardware model out there.

My question is: How and where can I download true minimal drivers without all these ATI "Installation Managers", Realtek GUIs, ASUS tools, etc.?

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2 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

is there any chance that I could download true minimal drivers

Not very often, unfortunately. However, most of the big driver packages can be extracted so that you can get at just the driver portions. It really varies from vendor to vendor. Some of them have command line switches for extracting. Some of them are just self-extracting zip or 7-zip files.

Some of them are annoying setup.exe's. But even with those, you don't have to finish the setup. You can start the installer and go rooting around in your temp directory for the extracted installer files. Many times the drivers will be in there and you can copy them out before canceling the setup.

The worst offender in my experience has been HP printer drivers. I had to download a driver package from them one time for an ink jet printer that was, no joke, 300MB....for a freaking printer!

How and where can I download true minimal drivers...

This is an update for your edited question. I hate to break it to you, but you can't. There's no magical site that I know of that archives hardware drivers from every imaginable hardware vendor on the planet. Your only reliable source for hardware drivers is from the vendor of the hardware or the vendor of the parent chipset (in the case of things like video cards). Trust me, I deal with enterprise windows deployment for a living on many different models of PC. Dealing with these driver packages is just part of the job.

About the closest you can get to what you're looking for is DriverPacks.net. But it's not a site that you can search for your hardware and download the individual driver. They deal only in sets of drivers and they're aimed primarily at people creating custom Windows installation media. You'd likely have a harder time trying to scour through the packages looking for your driver than you would just dealing with the individual package from your hardware vendor.

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+1 for DriverPacks.net –  MD.Unicorn Dec 4 '12 at 17:44
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I think Ryan is right, there is no one place you can just download the bare drivers. However, once you've downloaded them, it doesn't mean you have to keep the whole thing around in case you need to reinstall later.

Assuming we're talking about Windows, often the actual drivers are clearly identifiable in a separate directory of the installation -- you'll know you've found it if there's a bunch of .INF files and a handful of .sys/.dll/.exe files. If you can determine which INF file is the one you need, or if there is a separate setup program in this area just for the drivers, then try installing that way. Once you know you've got it working, you don't need to keep the rest of the installation -- only the drivers directory. (Of course, I might be considered weird for keeping any of it around at all once installed)

But yah, you have to download the hundreds of megs first, and deal with the vendors' sites.

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