Microsoft has claimed that the main cause of Windows 10 or hardware failures has been the hardware drivers themselves. And this happens to be an area in which Microsoft has had no control.
In the past, Microsoft has given the driver update authority to the various hardware manufacturers. As a result of that, these manufacturers have retained the ability to directly push drivers to their users through the system update.
Given the number of issues that users have been facing, Microsoft has decided to make some adjustments to their driver update management policy. These updates will likely have a significant impact so let’s take a look and see what this means for us all.
Addressing the issues
In early 2020, Microsoft quietly went about the process of starting to address the driver issues that have been plaguing users. It started with the announcement that there was going to be an introduction of rolling out drivers in phases.
And this would differ from the past where all Windows 10 computers were receiving major and minor updates automatically via Windows Updates that were released on the same day for everyone. The idea with the phase system is to allow the pushing of updates to highly active devices from where Microsoft can then collect diagnostic data that helps to assess compatibility issues.
Also, Microsoft mentioned implementing a new policy where their hardware partners can now ask them to block Windows 10 feature upgrades on a PC running an incompatible driver. The widespread problems that arose from Microsoft being the only one doing the assessing and blocking necessitated this change in approach. By doing all of this, Microsoft can begin the process of resolving the countless headaches that we have been facing.
So to bring an answer to this issue, Microsoft made another announcement to the effect that they would be adjusting the automatic driver installation strategy for Windows 10 20H2 from November 2020.
This update is meant to provide users with a greater degree of control over the driver update and in this way you will have better stability. This new driver management model is going to give hardware manufacturers options, either automatic or manual.
This is what Microsoft has said regarding the adjustments that came in to effect on the 5th of November last year:
1. Automatic driver updates will automatically be installed on your machine either when you plug-in a peripheral device for the first time, or when a device manufacturer publishes a driver to Windows Update. In other words, there will be no change to the plug-and-play scenario when an automatic driver is available on Windows Update.
2. Manual driver updates can be installed manually on your machine if you specifically request them by navigating to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > View optional updates.
However, these changes will only affect devices that receive updates directly from Windows Update. So if you’re an IT professional who manages drivers for a business, then these adjustments won’t affect the way you operate.
Manual driver updates
According to Microsoft, the abovementioned adjustments should now enable you to see a clear distinction between automatic and manual updates in Windows Update. With the end goal being to create a total transformation of the management of drivers, something that began earlier in the year with the rolling out of updates in phases.
All this should give users greater control by redefining the servicing of manual drivers for machines running Windows 10, version 2004 and later. Previously, when a user would connect a peripheral device with an optional driver such as a camera to their machine for the first time, there would be an automatic installation of that driver. Instead, with the changes that Microsoft has implemented, you now have control over how you proceed.
When you submit a driver to Windows Update, the Driver Delivery Options section will present you with two radio buttons: Automatic and Manual. Under the Automatic option, there are two further options:
- Automatically delivered during Windows Upgrades – under this option, drivers are classified as a Dynamic Update. When upgrading the OS, this is where Windows will automatically preload drivers.
- Automatically delivered to all applicable systems – when you select this option, the drivers will be downloaded and installed automatically on all applicable systems once they are released.
How to submit a driver to Windows Update
Publishing a driver to Windows Update will require the creation of a hardware submission. Once that is done you can then proceed with the steps given below:
1) Find the hardware submission with the driver that you want to distribute.
2) Head over to Distribution and select New shipping label.
3) Under shipping label, go to Details and enter a name for the shipping label in the space provided. It’s this name that will allow you to search for and organize your shipping labels.
4) In the Properties section you will need to fill in the following fields: Destination, Specify the partner (if any) that is allowed visibility into this request, and Driver Delivery Options.
5) Go to Targeting and choose the driver package that you want to publish.
6) At this point, Select PNPs is now available so you can go ahead and choose the hardware IDs that you want to target.
7) Enter each CHID into the text box and select Add CHID(s) if you would like to add them.
8) You can limit public disclosure of your Shipping Label in the Windows Update Catalog and WSUS Catalog, by checking the Limit Public Disclosure of this Shipping Label information box.
9) If your driver targets Windows 10 in S mode, then you will need to select both boxes.
10) Select Publish to send your request to Windows Update or Save if you don’t want to publish as yet.
The optional updates feature is now available to users that have upgraded to Windows 10 20H2. With this feature, the system will let you know of the availability of device drivers other than the ones that the PC is currently using. If you go to the View optional updates section, you’ll see where it says Driver updates. And if you click on it, it will display a list of all the device drivers that are available for the target PC. Essentially what you get with this feature is the ability to install specific drivers if and when necessary. Otherwise, automatic updates will keep your drivers updated.
To install any of these drivers, simply follow the steps below:
1) Press WinKey + I to launch the Settings app.
2) Go to Update & Security and click on Windows Update.
3) Over on the right side, you’ll see View Optional updates just under the Check for updates button. Click on it.
4) Under the Driver Updates section, you’re going to find a list with all of the available updates for the computer.
5) Check all the boxes corresponding to the device drivers that you want to install. Click Download and install.
Should you install optional updates?
As mentioned above, you can install optional device drivers if the need for them arises. For instance, when doing a clean install of Windows 10, some may find it preferable to manually install graphic drivers that you download from Intel and NVIDIA.
However, it’s important to note that Windows will still automatically install all mandatory updates, including security updates and non-optional cumulative updates. Therefore you don’t need to worry about automatic driver updates because this new approach won’t affect them. This is because they will continue to be installed via Windows Update when they are published by the manufacturer or when you connect the device.
So with optional updates, Microsoft has changed the system such that driver updates are no longer forced on you. You can select those that you want and block any that give you problems. Most users will probably be leveraging this functionality for those times when compatibility issues arise.
Microsoft’s new model for driver management aims at resolving the multitude of problems that users have been grappling with. However, this new model is not without its potential issues. As much as it may give users more control, it’s also going to present challenges for peripherals that don’t have automatic drivers readily available.
This is because not everyone may be aware that they need to go to Windows Update and manually download the necessary driver for the hardware to work. Without this, Windows will return a Driver Not Found error that may leave more than a few people stuck.
Since Microsoft is also going to be blocking users from applying OEM or manufacturer drivers if Windows can’t verify software publisher, this will probably lead to a few driver errors when Microsoft is unable to verify the drivers. If verification fails, there are two error messages that you’ll likely see with the first being “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software” and the second “No signature was present in the subject”. Microsoft’s advice in these scenarios is that you contact the manufacturer and ask them to upload the driver with appropriate fixes.
Under the View Optional updates link, users get to view the optional updates that they won’t receive automatically. Using this link will replace having to use Windows 10’s Device Manager controls to find optional updates.
With Microsoft making minor adjustments to how Windows 10 drivers arrive for Windows Update service users, it’s important to note that this change is more than just a simple user-interface modification.
Those using the newer version of Windows 10 will get updated drivers only when they search for them using the View optional update command. And they’ll be getting only the drivers that are already on the device without searching for new ones via the Windows Update service.
In Windows 10, version 1909 and earlier, Windows Update automatically distributes manual drivers when:
a) a device has no applicable drivers available in the Driver Store (raising a “driver not found” error), and there is no applicable Automatic driver
b) a device has only a generic driver in the Driver Store, which provides only basic device functionality, and there is no applicable Automatic driver
But for users of Windows 10, version 2004, Windows Update distributes only Automatic drivers for a system’s devices. When Manual drivers are available for devices on the computer, the Windows Update page in the Settings app displays View optional updates.
Time to enhance driver management
The challenges that we have all witnessed in recent years were in dire need of a solution. And a major one at that. The countless incompatibility issues that saw the trashing of Windows 10 were slowly but surely eroding the confidence that users have in the operating system.
Problems such as audio not working, system crashes, slow performance, etc, are significant issues that can severely hinder the productivity of a business. So it’s not really a surprise when we look at all the updates that Microsoft made to its driver management policy in 2020.
Security has improved and the new driver management model is a more stable platform that gives users greater control. And all of this you’ll get without having to worry about key updates being affected. Those are still performed automatically to ensure that your system remains as secure as possible. Undoubtedly, there are still a few bugs to iron out here and there, but the rapidly improving system is certainly enhancing the Windows 10 experience.