Transfering Drivers?
February 5, 2007 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Main hard drive is about to die...New hard drive ready... Is there some way to copy drivers for video card, sound card, printer, etc, from the current OS hard drive to my external hard drive and then put them on my new hard drive with the newly installed windows?

I just don't want to reinstall all the drivers again!...just curious...
posted by matthelm to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there is an easy way to do this, because of the windows registry.

You'd be better of cloning the whole drive on to the new drive using something like Ghost.
posted by ReiToei at 9:04 AM on February 5, 2007

Hmmm, I don't know of a way to do this either. I keep the drivers for all my hardware on my USB key and install them first thing after reinstalling windows.
posted by benign at 9:11 AM on February 5, 2007

I make a directory and keep all the driver SETUP files in it. As ReiToei says. it's more difficult to keep the driver files themselves because installing them doesn't just involve copying the file, but a more complex process of registering them with Windows. Keeping the driver setup files makes it much easier to set a new system up though -- install the OS on the new drive, then just go to the "Drivers" directory and install them anew.

(Ghost is fine if the disks are similar enough to use the same drivers, otherwise you can end up with problems.)
posted by anadem at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2007

If you're installing a new OS, you're much better off getting the latest version of the drivers off the net anway. If you're worried that you won't be able to find the drivers, Windows Update is pretty comprehensive now.

(assuming you have a legit copy of windows)
posted by ReiToei at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2007

Oh, but there is a way - kinda

Driverguide Toolkit
DriverGuide Toolkit identifies and lists drivers installed on your computer and, when connected to the Internet, allows you to search (and other sources) for driver updates and manufacturer sites. In addition, it allows you to backup your currently installed drivers for safe keeping. Backing up your Windows driver files means that they will be available to you the next time you need to reinstall the driver or the whole operating system. DriverGuide Toolkit places the driver files in one organized location of your choosing.
posted by tiamat at 9:24 AM on February 5, 2007

At minimum, you should make sure you have the drivers for your ethernet card (or motherboard if you use one with integrated ethernet) copied to a CD or something. Maybe it would work to use your external hard drive, but I'd feel safer having it on something simple like a cd or floppy, since your fresh install might be missing drivers for your FireWire/USB. As long as your network is ok, you can get online and find whatever else you want.

It sucks trying to get ethernet onto a crippled machine, especially since you're unable to go online and look for help.
posted by contraption at 9:26 AM on February 5, 2007

If you just want to identify, backup, and restore drivers, DriverMax is pretty good--not perfect, but pretty good (and it's free).

The best way is to do as 'matthelm' said. A ghosting/imaging program is probably what you want. If you want to try a free imaging program, Acronis offers their TrueImage Verion 7 for free (the current, paid version number is 10). Here's a link to a site that describes what TrueImage v7 can do, and here's a link to a form you fill out on the Acronis site. After you fill it out, they'll send to you, via email, a link & registration code for you to download a fully-functional copy of Acronis TrueImage v7.
posted by NYScott at 9:34 AM on February 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the speedy comments...must look into all the suggestions later today!...
posted by matthelm at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2007

I've used MyDrivers to do this. Basically it creates a folder structure with all the most basic elements of your drivers: .inf, .sys, .dll files, etc. Throw that onto a disk and you should be able to point yourself at the appropriate folder when the New Hardware Wizard pops up.

While this is no replacement for the actual setups for your hardware (since those will often contain software in addition to drivers), it generally suffices to get your hardware up and running and to get rid of those annoying little exclamation points in Device Manager.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:12 AM on February 5, 2007

Oh and no need to buy it either...the downloaded trial will do the trick. Good thing too, because I don't think it's been updated in quite a while.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:14 AM on February 5, 2007

It's better to start from scratch, as Windows is very bad for managing drivers, processes, and resources because of the way they all interlock, and rogueware can get tangled up in all this. I start from scratch every year or so on my development machines, usually when an OS or HW problem arises. I keep all my drivers and OS upgrade packages on a special CD or flash drive with notes, making it a piece of cake.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:37 AM on February 5, 2007

My computer, rightclick, properties. Hardware tab, device manager, network adapters, rightclick, properties. Driver tab, Driver details will give you the filename. repeat for other devices, but...

If you have broadband, all you really need is the driver for the network adapter. Everything else can be downloaded from the web, and will be the most recent version. This assumes you have a pc from a manufacturer, not home-built, in which case it's more work to track it down.
posted by theora55 at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2007

There's also Driver Collector...
posted by Arthur Dent at 3:42 PM on February 5, 2007

anadem writes "(Ghost is fine if the disks are similar enough to use the same drivers, otherwise you can end up with problems.)"

I've never had any kind of problem cloning between different hard drives. I done things like cloning a 20GB Fujitsu -> 160 Seagate and reverse.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 PM on February 5, 2007

I second the previous recommendation for Acronis True Image. I haven't tried the free version, but I just used version 9 last night to transfer everything on my old HD to a larger one.

All I had to do was plug in the new hard drive and run Acronis. It partitioned the new drive (while adjusting the partitions to account for the bigger drive ), formatted them (all five), copied the data and then reassigned the drive letters. All very quickly with just a few mouse clicks.

Afterwards, I just unplugged the old drive and rebooted onto the new one; and everything worked perfectly.

The home version is about $35 with shipping from, and you can also buy get a downloadable copy from them. It's also great for making regular backups of your hard drive and I think it's better and easier to use than Ghost.

Obviously however, your old hard drive still needs to run for a little while in order to install Acronis and then clone the old drive. If you don't think it's going to last that long then buy an adapter (ATA to USB - about $25) that will allow you to remove the old hard drive and plug it into the USB port of another computer, where it will show up as a USB drive. Then just make certain you've set your options to show hidden files, then "select all" and copy your files to that computer until you can find a permanent home for them.

BTW, you can sometimes get a failing hard drive to last a bit longer by leaving it in a freezer overnight and then taking it out and immediately copying the data off it. But make certain that it is well sealed in a ziplock bag to prevent damage from condensation. Google 'freeze failing hard drive' for more information.

One last tip, I've tried some of the utilities that others have mentioned that just backup your drivers. There's probably some out there that work well, but so far I haven't one that I trust.
posted by 14580 at 3:03 PM on February 6, 2007

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