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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

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2 Answers

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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