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I bought a USB-to-Ethernet network adapter, and the drivers came on a disk... Why didn't they include a USB stick in the adapter, as they seem pretty cheap (I have already lost the disk)?

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migrated from serverfault.com Dec 23 '11 at 22:36

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That's in the top ten of what the Internet is for: downloading drivers. –  Dennis Williamson May 20 '10 at 23:39
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Which is always fun when you've got no other computers nearby and you're trying to download the drivers for your USB WiFi modem :P –  Mark Henderson May 20 '10 at 23:43
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A few devices do this. Some of the Huwei 3G USB cards, for example. –  Chris Thorpe May 20 '10 at 23:58
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And when a device does this, it can be a pain in the ass for those not using Windows. –  grawity Dec 23 '11 at 23:03
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2 Answers

They may seem pretty cheap, but you need to look at things on a scale of economics.

Including a 64 MB flash disk with the drivers: $0.50
Integrating 64 MB of flash storage onto a pre-existing USB device: $1.50
Including a CD with the drivers: $0.01

Multiply that by a million units:

Including a 64 MB flash disk with the drivers: $500,000
Integrating 64 MB of flash storage onto a pre-existing USB device: $1,500,000
Providing support for Windows 98 users who don't have USB storage drivers installed: $50,000/year
Including a CD with the drivers: $10,000

As someone whose primary task is to make your shareholders more money, which would you choose?

Anyway, a USB stick is smaller than a CD and a lot harder to catalogue, so you're more likely to lose a USB stick than a CD. Either that, or wipe the USB stick to re-use it for something else. In either case the drivers are lost.

Anyway, you did do what all good system administrators would do and copied the drivers into a well-documented location with an obvious folder name, didn't you?

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There is also process inertia to consider. The manufacturer is already all setup for sending out drivers the way they already do so a new products drivers (or a new revision there-of) just passes through the existing processes. Moving to a new medium for some or all of their products would mean either retooling the resources (equipment, people, documentation) that are responsible for this process which could be a large one-off cost, or duplicating the resource in the very likely event that the switch-over isn't complete and instant (meaning extra running cost for a time too). –  David Spillett May 20 '10 at 23:51
    
Hrm. I lose my driver CDs all the time. Not that I actually need any of them though... –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 21 '10 at 0:30
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In addition to Farseeker's points, if they did put the drivers on a USB stick that would cut into the sales of those USB sticks in general, as we would simply reuse the one that came with the device. If the stick was made with a small and nearly useless capacity it would add significantly to the cost of manufacture, as they would need to custom chips, which is always more expensive.

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