Sunday, March 22, 2015

How to Backup (before Reinstall) and Restore (after Reinstall) Windows Drivers

It is important to backup drivers especially before a Windows reinstall because after the system formatting, all the drivers are erased. Without drivers, computer won’t work because driver is the bridge between computer and its hardware. So it is highly recommended to backup your drivers before reinstall so that you can restore them from backup after the reinstall. For data security, it is also highly recommended to backup your personal files before erasing system.

Part 1: How to Backup Drivers before Windows Reinstall

Generally, you have 2 ways to backup Windows drivers. One is to use driver backup program and the other is to copy drivers and setup information files to external drive for safe keeping.

1. Use Driver Backup Program

You may find that nearly all driver update software provides you with driver backup option but not all the software is free for backing up drivers. Some programs offer to scan for the outdated drivers for free and charge for downloading/installing let alone the additional backup function. Now that I can backup drivers for free even by copying them to external drives, why would I pay for such a program to backup the drivers? Yeah, it is right. We need free service!

Then, try DriveTheLife, a professional and totally free driver update and manage tool designed for all Windows users. When download, install and launch it, it will scan for your computer for all the available drivers, and you can back up the drivers not backed up. Easy and quick!

2. Copy Drivers and Setup Information Files to External Drives

Before proceeding, you need to know where the device drivers are stored on your computer. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, DriverStore is the very folder. Inside it, there is a folder called FileRepository which stores all the driver files. Seen as below:

Click any specified file folder, you can see 4 files including the driver file (ended with .sys), the driver setup file (ended with .inf), pre-complied INF file (end with .pnf), and an XML file manifest file that contains the manifest of all the files within the driver package.

Earlier in Windows XP and Windows 2000, the driver files were typically located at the following possible locations:

  • %SystemRoot%\Driver Cache\i386\
  • %SystemRoot%\Driver Cache\i386\
  • .inf files under %windir%inf
  • .sys files under %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers
  • Support DLLs under %SystemRoot%\System32
  • Third Party co-installers in various locations

So just keep the corresponding file folder for safekeeping before system reinstall.

Part 2: How to Restore Drivers after System Reset

After the system reinstall, you need to install the needed drivers right away to make your computer run normally. To do this, you can install drivers with driver software like what I recommend in the above DriveTheLife or restore drivers from the backup you made before reinstall. In addition, DriveTheLife also allows you to restore drivers from backup. So DriveTheLife is the right choice for you to restore/install drivers after formatting system.

After you launched DriveTheLife, go to Manage board, next to the Backup option is the Restore option. It allows you to restore drivers from the backup. Seen as below:

Restore Drivers with DriveTheLife

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