NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2009
Driver Query Helps Resolve Driver Problems
Written by Vinny La Bash, a member of the Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Inc., Florida
SEMCO Data Bus, June 2009 Issue
http://www.spcug.org
labash@spcug.org (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the authorís permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Anyone using Vista for any length of time knows that most of the common driver problems were resolved long ago. Advances in computer technology including removable devices however, have called attention to problems that may be caused by device drivers that are no longer needed, but still installed on the system. These drivers can become corrupt over time. If they become inadvertently enabled they can cause memory conflicts which under some circumstances could crash your system.

Most people beyond the novice level have some familiarity with Device Manager, but are usually not knowledgeable with its limitations. They know that Device Manager will allow a rollback to a previous version of a driver if problems are encountered, but few know that Device Manager has no way of keeping track of a device driverís history. This is important because you canít document which version of a device driver is good and which version could cause problems.

You can get around this limitation by using a command-line tool called Driver Query that will track the history of all the device drivers on your system. From the Start Menu, open Accessories, and activate the Command Prompt. Type driverquery.exe at the command line and you will see a list of all the device drivers with some basic information included. This list by itself wonít do you much good. You need to use some command-line switches to get the information that you need. At the command prompt type:

DRIVERQUERY /FO:CSV /V > C:\ DRIVERINFO .CSV

DRIVERQUERY is the primary command that tells the operating system to run the query.

The /FO switch says you want the output to be formatted.

CSV (Comma Separated Variable) tells Vista to format the output so it can be displayed in a spreadsheet.

/V (Verbose) tells the query to blab its head off and tell everything it knows about each driver in the system.

C:\ says to put the output file in the root (primary) directory of the primary drive where your operating system is installed. This makes the file easy to find in case you canít remember where you put it.

DRIVERINFO.CSV is the name of the file with an old DOS style extension. You can name the file anything you want, but do end it with the CSV extension or you might confuse your spreadsheet when you try to open it.

After creating the file, open your spreadsheet, click the file open icon and in the File name: box type:

C:\DRIVERINFO.CSV

By opening the file this way you donít have to get into DOS commands. You may, of course, use DOS if you feel Vista isnít complicated enough.

Your spreadsheet will resemble the illustration. After expanding the columns you will have to scroll horizontally to see all the available information. The amount of information for each driver has greatly increased, but you still donít get the driver version. Tracking driver changes is possible if you run the query periodically and compare the Link Date column for changes. Itís clunky and cumbersome, but it does the job.

Another important piece of information thatís missing is any data about whether or not the driver is signed. A signed driver is a device driver that includes a digital signature which is an electronic security mark that tells you who published the driver. It also indicates if the original software has been altered in any way. Signed drivers provide assurance that the software actually comes from the manufacturer and hasnít been changed.

This exercise is an excellent illustration of the laws of information availability.

1. The information you have is not the information you want.
2. The information you want is not the information you need.
3. The information you need you canít get.
4. The information you can get is either too expensive or too troublesome to obtain.

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