Updated: January 13, 2012
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Windows Update Introduction
How Users Get Drivers from Windows Update
How Windows Update Detects Drivers
Titles and Descriptions Displayed to Users
Drivers for Other Locales
Call to Action
This article provides information for hardware and system manufacturers who are interested in offering device drivers through the Windows Update service.
Windows Update is the online extension of the Microsoft Windows operating systems that helps keep Windows-based computers up-to-date with the latest software updates and device drivers. Windows Update supports the download and installation of drivers for the most recent releases of Windows. Windows Update does not offer drivers for releases earlier than Windows 98 (such as Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0).
All drivers that pass the Windows Logo Program testing are candidates for distribution on Windows Update. However, there are requirements, in addition to the Windows Logo Program requirements, that must be met to determine whether a driver can be hosted on the Windows Update service.These additional requirements are described in this article.
The additional requirements ensure that Windows Update can accurately and seamlessly detect, download, and install the drivers to end users' computers. The driver-detection algorithms used are similar to those used by the Windows Plug and Play subsystem to determine which drivers are suitable for installation on a particular computer. All user-access methods for Windows Update use the same engine to download and install drivers, providing a consistent experience.
Users can access Windows Update in any of these ways:
Through user installation of a new device on a PC
From the Start button
By clicking the Update Driver button in Device Manager
By connecting directly to the Microsoft Windows Update website
Users can get drivers from Windows Update in these ways:
Drivers can be downloaded from Windows Update through Dynamic Update only if there is no existing driver for a device on the computer. Windows Setup installs the drivers. There is a driver exclusion list to block specific drivers from being downloaded.
Automatic Updating downloads drivers if there is no driver installed for a device. Installed drivers are not replaced.
Windows Update Site
Drivers are offered to download and install from the Windows Update site either as a regular update or as a critical update. The detection process determines whether the new driver is a better match for the device than the already-installed driver.
Advanced users who want to download individual drivers without detection can do so through the Windows Update Catalog site for different locales and platforms, based on the user's search criteria. Some drivers may exist on the catalog site but not on the main site (such as drivers for server hardware like Fibre Channel).
Drivers can be installed from Windows Update by using Device Manager to select Update Driver for an already-installed driver. This causes Device Manager to search for a better driver on Windows Update. Drivers can also be installed from Windows Update by selecting Scan for hardware changes to launch the Found New Hardware Wizard. Device Manager searches Windows Update for a driver for any device that does not have a driver installed.
Add New Hardware Wizard
Drivers can be installed from Windows Update by using the Found New Hardware Wizard when a new device is plugged into a Windows-based computer. The wizard automatically searches for drivers on Windows Update, and if the best driver match exists on Windows Update, the driver is downloaded and installed for the user. If no driver is available on Windows Update or on other device search paths, the missing drivers are logged. These logged drivers are uploaded to Microsoft through the Driver Feedback Service (DFS).
Add Printer Wizard
Drivers can be installed from Windows Update by using the Add Printer Wizard. When a user clicks the Windows Update link in the wizard, all applicable printer drivers on Windows Update are offered to the user, who selects one and finishes the wizard.
To distribute device drivers, Windows Update scans the PC for system files and unique Plug and Play IDs. The dynamic inventory of hardware and operating system files is then compared to an index on a back-end database to determine whether any updates are a match for installation. Applicable updates with descriptions are listed for the user to decide whether to install them. Updates installed through Windows Update can also be uninstalled.
Windows Update uses the same algorithm that Windows Plug and Play uses to find new drivers for devices that have no drivers installed or to find a better driver match for a device that already has a driver installed. The attributes used are the same as those used by Device Manager to determine whether to install a driver. For more details see “ Adding a PnP Device to a Running System” in the Windows Driver Kit (WDK) documentation.
Additional attributes for printer drivers are used in determining a matching driver. These are:
Manufacturer from the [Manufacturer] section of the INF file
Provider from the "Provider" entry of the [Version] section of the INF file.
Driver name from the device-description entry in the [Models] section of the INF file.
In addition to meeting the Windows Logo Program requirements for hardware, drivers must also be "Web-publishable" via the Windows Update service. To that end, drivers must be detectable, installable, and redistributable by Windows Update by meeting the following requirements:
Windows Update Distribution License for Device Drivers.
Companies that submit drivers to Winqual for Windows logo testing must sign the Windows Logo Program Testing Agreement that gives Microsoft a legal distribution license for the device driver package. This agreement legally enables Windows Update to distribute third-party device drivers. The agreement is signed as part of the submission process and can be obtained from email@example.com.
Windows Update Hardware-Related Software Content Policy.
Companies must meet the requirements described in the Windows Update Hardware-Related Software Content Policy document, which can be found at
Windows Logo Kit Testing.
Drivers must pass Windows Logo Kit (WLK) testing and receive the Windows logo certification for hardware. Windows logo requirements information can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/windows/hardware/gg463010.
All drivers must have the DriverVer directive present in the INF. Only the date portion is required for Windows Update detection matching.
The INF file [Install] sections must key off the most specific Plug and Play IDs only. Plug and Play IDs must be specific as per Windows Logo Program INF file requirements for PCI devices. Information about the INF Requirements for PCI Devices is available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/windows/hardware/gg462972.
Detection - Specific Plug and Play ID."Specific Plug and Play ID" means the following per bus:
PCI and AGP buses: Contain subsystem ID and subsystem vendor ID (&SUBSYS in the ID string). Drivers must have VID/DID/SVID/SID PNP ID entries to be published via Windows Update.
PCI Device Subsystem IDs and Windows specifications are available at:
PCMCIA: Always specific; contains PCMCIA in the ID string.
USB: Contains VID and &PID in the ID string.
IEEE 1394: Always specific; contains 1394 in the ID string.
HID: Contains &VID and &PID in the ID string.
IDE: Contains IDE\ in the ID string.
Parallel Port Printers: Contain LPTENUM\ in the ID string.
IrDA Printers: IDs begin with HWP.
Note: The devices listed above are distributed from the Driver Distribution Center in Winqual to Windows Update Services. For more details see Winqual submission requirements at https://sysdev.microsoft.com.
A Note About the Driver Distribution Center: The Driver Distribution Center (DDC) allows you to change your driver distribution settings for Windows Update after a driver submission has been completed. Submission owners and Hardware ID owners can use the DDC to change driver distribution settings. For more information please refer to: https://sysdev.microsoft.com.
Note: Not all PNP IDs in an INF file have a Windows logo. Windows Update uses only PNP IDs that have the Windows logo to create detection sets for Windows Update. PNP-compatible IDs are not used because they are not specific enough for Windows Update detection.
INF-based File Installation. Drivers must install core functionality from the INF file. Drivers must install through Device Manager. That is, the Add New Hardware Wizard must work properly. There can be no Setup utilities for files that provide core device functionality. For more details, see “ Device and Driver Installation” in the WDK documentation.
Windows Update uses the driver description information included in the driver INF file.
The Windows Update website displays information as follows:
Title for device driver = the company name as defined in the inf files provider = line and device class (video adapter, analog modem, and so on) from the infs class = line.
Description = the driver description as defined in the inf file.
If a device driver binary is submitted to Winqual for multiple locales or languages, then the driver will be offered on the localized Windows Update service for the target operating system for which it is intended. If the driver is submitted to Winqual as an English binary only, then it will be offered only on the English-language version of Windows Update for the targeted operating system.
Note: To achieve maximum distribution, be sure to list all of the locales and languages in which your device driver works when you submit the driver to Winqual for Windows Logo Program testing.
Post all your drivers to Windows Update for distribution by following the directions in this article.