All of us use different types of peripherals with our computers. A hardware device that we connect to a computer externally is referred to as a peripheral, like a keyboard, mouse, printer, etc. When you connect a peripheral to your computer for the first time, Windows takes some time to install the drivers compatible with that device. And, you might have also wondered where Windows saves or stores those device drivers. In this article, we will discuss the same. It doesn’t matter if you are using Windows 11, Windows 10, or other versions of Windows OS, the paths to store or save device drivers remain the same.
What is a device driver?
A Device driver (or driver) is software that helps an operating system communicate with connected devices. In other words, device drivers are a set of files that are needed to operate or control hardware devices. Without a device driver, Windows OS is unable to recognize the type of device connected to it, and then you won’t be able to use that particular device. This is the reason why sometimes external devices do not work due to the corrupt, wrong, or missing drivers.
Where does Windows save or store device drivers?
The data that we have on Windows 11, Windows 10or other versions of Windows OS is stored in some specific location/folder on the hard drive. The same goes for device drivers. When Windows detects new devices, it finds and installs the compatible drivers for those devices, and stores their data in different folders. These folders are:
You can access these folders using the following path:
While the drivers folder contains SYS (*.sys) files of installed drivers, the DriverStore folder includes a FileRepository sub-folder that contains INF (*.inf) files of those drivers.
- SYS files: SYS are system files of drivers required by Windows OS and these are commonly used to store drivers.
- INF files: On the other hand, an INF file is a text file that contains all the information that is required by Windows to install a device driver. This information file includes the name and the location of a particular driver, the version number of the driver, registry information, etc. That’s why the INF file is crucial for device installation. After opening the FileRepository folder, you will see the list of all drivers (in separate folders) installed on your system. The driver files that this folder contains are in INF format.
Before installing a driver, Windows copies the driver package to the DriverStore folder. This package contains the INF files and other files referred by the INF files. Some users download the device drivers from any website or untrusted sources. Downloading the drivers from untrusted sites can be a security threat because such files may contain a virus or malware. Hence, to protect users’ computers from such attacks, Windows verifies the integrity of the driver package by verifying the digital signatures before copying the driver package to the DriverStore folder.
So, now you know where Windows stores device drivers, you can simply access that path and then manually copy driver folders to backup or export them. If you want, you can also use PowerShell to export and backup device drivers. Apart from that, you can also take the help of the DISM tool to export drivers or backup them using other ways.
Where do I find device drivers?
WIndows stores device drivers physically on your hard drive. You will find all your third-party drivers in the DriverStore folder in the INF file format. We have also covered above in this post how you can open the DeviceStore folder.
Read: How to manually install a Driver using a .INF File.
Why do devices need device drivers?
A driver is a connecting link between the Windows operating system and the external devices. Drivers help the Windows OS know which device is connected. If a driver is not installed correctly or gets corrupted, you will not be able to use that device.
Where is the Driver tab in Device Manager?
The Driver tab in the Device Manager is helpful to update, rollback, disable and uninstall a device driver. You can use the following steps to open the Driver tab for a particular device:
- Press Win+R keys to launch the Run command box
- Type devmgmt.msc in the text field
- Press the OK button. This will launch the Device Manager
- In the Device Manager, select the driver which you want to update, uninstall, or rollback
- Right-click on the selected driver
- Select Properties option.
- In the Properties window, switch to the Driver tab.