113. Vista driver problems
By Andrew D. Wright
Mousepad readers Cecil Edison from Dartmouth and Terry Smith from Halifax
wrote in with similar questions about buying new computers with Windows
Vista and problems using their older existing computer hardware - webcam,
scanner and printer. They'll each receive one of our cool, limited edition
mousepads for their questions.
At the end of January 2007 Microsoft released Windows Vista, their
first new home operating system since Windows XP came out in 2001.
There are a lot of differences between XP and Vista. In practical terms
Vista requires much more computer hardware - faster CPU, much more memory
and more disk space: Vista can take ten times the 1.5 GB of disk space XP
needs to install.
Vista's user interface has been radically re-worked. Users familiar with
earlier versions of Windows will find a lot of common task shortcuts
renamed or in different places.
Windows Vista is pretty much for new hardware only. In Vista some drivers,
notably anything to do with video, with audio or with image capture, are
very different from drivers written for earlier versions of Windows.
Drivers are difficult to write and easy to mess up. Spending money writing
new drivers for old hardware sold in the past is an unappealing prospect
for device makers.
Both readers bought their new computers from brand name manufacturers. The
drivers for the devices on these computers will be updated by the computer
maker. It would be worth bookmarking their driver download page as there
will no doubt be updates to these drivers as time goes on.
As for other, older devices, check the device maker website first. Some
device makers are adding Vista drivers to older product lines once their
new product line drivers are stable. Hardware more than a year or so old
may or may not get new Vista drivers written for it. It isn't fair but
there it is.
For devices not related to image capture, or audio or video, it is quite
possible drivers written for Windows XP, Windows 2000 or even Windows
98/ME may work. It may mean clicking through warning messages to install
them and you should backup your system first, but for lack of any other
alternatives it's worth a try.
It's also worth a look searching the web. If you strike out with the
device maker's site, try looking up the device name and model and the word
vista. If you're lucky you'll find a discussion forum where users with the
same or similar problems are talking about solutions. In the case of one
older but still popular model of sound card, third parties had hacked
together their own Vista drivers that worked better than the original
device maker's basic-functionality-only Vista drivers.
It's safe to say that Vista drivers will be in a state of flux for some
time to come. With a major Vista service pack release scheduled for later
this year or early next, some device makers are still waiting for the dust
to settle before investing a lot of time in fine tuning their drivers.
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Originally published 29 July 2007