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Windows 10 Getting 'Modern Drivers' for Intel Processors

Intel has started introducing "Windows Modern Drivers" for its processors on Windows 10 version 1809-based machines, the chip maker announced in late November.

Windows Modern Drivers are required for machines running Windows 10 version 1809 (also known as the "October 2018 Update"). Intel indicated that its Windows Modern Drivers releases also will apply to Windows Server products eventually. However, not all of the tooling work has been completed to support the Windows Server operating systems, Intel indicated.

Intel's Windows driver updates now are all Windows Modern Drivers, the company announced, and IT pros and individuals should be wary of rolling them back to the earlier versions. Here's how Intel's announcement expressed it:

As of November 2018, any driver updates for Intel products on these operating systems will be the Windows Modern Drivers. After a driver has been updated to a Windows Modern Driver, it's possible to roll back to a legacy driver. However, rolling back isn't recommended as it involves a complex process that could result in system instability. This system instability is especially pertinent to graphics drivers. You can find more information on this subject.

Drivers for PC devices, such as graphics cards, typically get distributed through Microsoft's Windows Update service, but things will change a bit under the Windows Modern Drivers approach. For instance, Intel's Graphics Control Panel won't get bundled with its graphics drivers. Instead, Intel's control panel application will be automatically installed, Intel's FAQ document explained:

Following Microsoft requirements, the Intel Graphics Control Panel will no longer be included with the graphics driver. It will now be automatically downloaded and installed once you connect to the Internet.

In addition, organizations and individuals should only use the driver installer provided by Intel or the computer maker. Intel's FAQ offered a warning about using other methods to install its drivers for Windows 10 version 1809 systems:

During the transition from Legacy drivers to Windows DCH Drivers you can only use the Installer (.exe) provided by Intel or your computer manufacturer. Refrain from using any other installation method such as 'INF/Have disk installation.' Failure to do so may result in minor to catastrophic issues or system instability.

By "Windows DCH Drivers," Intel is referring to Microsoft's Universal Windows Drivers design principles. Under those principles, Microsoft wants its partners to write Declarative (D), Componentized (C) and Hardware-supported apps (H) that are compliant with Universal Windows Platform (UWP) APIs, according to Microsoft's document on the Universal Windows Drivers topic. The UWP supports so-called "modern apps" or Windows 10-style apps, in contrast to the older "legacy" Win32 or Windows 7-style apps.

Chip makers such as Intel serve as independent hardware vendors (IHVs) to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that make products such as graphics cards in PCs. Microsoft's Windows Modern Drivers concept, which is associated with UWP applications, is aimed at permitting IHVs to create a "base driver" that the OEM partners can later customize. This approach will free the IHVs to get their drivers tested during the "driver flighting" process that's part of the Windows Insider testing program for Windows 10 and Windows Server users. Following this approach, the base drivers will get tested apart from any later OEM vendor customizations, Microsoft's document explained:

After IHV has certified the base driver, it can be deployed on all OEM systems. Because a base driver can be used across all systems that share a hardware part, Microsoft can test the base driver broadly via Windows Insider flighting, rather than limiting distribution to specific machines.

While the Windows Modern Drivers concept might seem beneficial to IHVs, it doesn't appear that AMD is on board with Microsoft's program, even though it's apparently a requirement for Windows 10 version 1809. At least, this Reddit thread makes such a claim. AMD apparently hasn't announced any information about participating in Microsoft's program.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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