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I've recently been reinstalling Windows 7 on a number of computers and noticed one common thing about device drivers: they all seem to bypass Windows' own installation process, and instead of allowing Windows to search for the device drivers like it wants to, they force you to run a .exe or .msi installer.

This is annoying. It means that if you have a DVD full of drivers, as I do for this Dell laptop, you have to find the correct installer yourself, instead of letting Windows search for it.

Does anyone know why this is?

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closed as not constructive by RedGrittyBrick, surfasb, Mokubai, Nifle, Sathya Jan 21 '12 at 19:56

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The Windows driver install process is quite poorly documented, and it's also very hard/impossible to install a normal application alongside. Now, for printers, you don't need a special application, but if you produce USB widgets that needs to be configured by your setup app then this is essential.

(I've been involved in such a process, and we're quite unhappy with the amount of work that Microsoft fored us to do. We can amortize the costs over millions of devices, but I can only imagine the fury that a small manufacturer would feel).

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Sometimes the exe is bundled with optional adware that cannot be installed if they shipped just the raw driver file.

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Not just adware. They also bundle other programs that enable additional functionality that isn't exposed via the driver. I would also add that the installer exe will trigger Windows' device installation tool at the driver installation step anyway. – Ben Richards Jan 20 '12 at 14:56

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