Signing Drivers for Public Release (Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000)

Driver packages for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 should be digitally-signed for the following reasons:

  • To ensure the authenticity, integrity and reliability of driver packages. Windows uses digital signatures to verify the identity of the publisher and to verify that the driver has not been altered since it was published.

  • To provide the best user experience by facilitating automatic installation of signed Plug and Play (PnP) drivers without user interaction. By default, if a driver is not signed, how PnP device installation handles an unsigned driver depends on how a system administrator sets the driver signing option for a computer, as described in Driver Signatures and PnP Device Installation (Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000).

The Hardware Certification Kit (HCK) has test categories for a variety of device types. If a test category for the device type is included in this list, the driver publisher should obtain a WHQL release signature for the driver package. If a driver package is digitally-signed by WHQL, it can be distributed through the Windows Update program or other Microsoft-supported distribution mechanisms.

WHQL signs the driver package's catalog file, but does not embed signatures in driver files. If a driver is a boot-start driver for a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP, the driver publisher must also embed a signature in the kernel-mode driver files before submitting the driver package to WHQL.

In Windows Server 2003, if you cannot obtain a WHQL release signature for a driver package, you can use a third-party commercial release certificate to sign the driver package. This type of signature verifies the authenticity and integrity of a driver, but unlike a WHQL release signature, does not verify the reliability of the driver.

Note  In Windows XP and previous versions of Windows, you must obtain a WHQL release signature for a driver package. The operating system will not accept a digital signature that was created by using a third-party commercial release certificate.

For more information about requirements and procedures for release-signing, see Release-Signing Driver Packages.



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