Device Drivers 101
Top sources show 27,000,000 drivers exist. (daunting no?, sure, and is why PnP exists in the first place !) vastly less , in last 10 years.
My W10 PC has 31 drivers, so getting the correct driver takes skill and patience or pure luck under any Windows OS automatically (PnP) Luck happens !
Warning all driver are machine code, (processor instructions direct ) and are all subject to Infections. (scan them all well before loading them!) "I use Virustottle.com"
See why drivers die, go dead or passed in to oblivion.( really Evolution happens, lots !)
Factoid #1: XP Service pack 3 must be loaded, it has huge addition of newer drivers inside that XP finds automatically. (VISTA SP2 at least and is 348MB size)
See why XP fails to install for a missing SATA driver, can't find any HDD (or SSD) and then says Hit F6 to get the missing driver.
See my XP tests for PnP here.
If your Microsoft install disk fails to find SATA drivers see this super XP disk. (I call it mass-storage XP Monster) It works with most SATA cards, and all mine below.
A driver is software, it's is the lowest level of software , that makes a hardware feature work.
The Number one rule on drivers is, never use Google to find them or you will get infected so very very easy. (one top web site, has over 50 Trojans in the first exe download, driver finder ) see cure.
The first place to get them is from your PC maker, my pages cover only HP, but the below covers all PCs in the task of fetching and loading them.
The laws of order are. ( no kidding) (this assumes the PC failed to find any driver automatically or using Device manager , update driver process)
I call them WAYS: (be internet connected first, if that chip fails, the Ethernet chip! , get that driver first, using another connected PC) << see Lan driver below.
OS = Operating system.
PnP is the game of matching, OS to Chips. (It's non trivial) (know too that each chip has an ID inside, to support this magic) See the chip sniffer /scanner?
You are here because PnP failed (called Plug and Play (or pray?)
First know this, Microsoft has PnP servers for XP (and newer), that has old legacy drivers from near 1999 to 2014.
To get a feel of the sizes of that huge driver base, fool around inside Driverpacks.net below:
You will also be here if the INTERNET connection is dead (be it , WIFI (wlan) or Ethernet LAN (or GIGLAN). PnP weak in XP, with the internet dead. (far less dead with W10)
Do not misunderstand me, your old PC running XP, if all hardware is still good (rare), will in fact run the XP install disks media kit and runs like new. It will be just like it was in 2001.(stop it,you are scaring me ! LOL)
If your PC has newer hardware then it can fail, if online PnP is not active.
This is the logical PnP order or flow inside Windows for missing drivers. (a PnP nut sell story! ,:the rules on signatures are now extreme on W10 but not XP)
The manual way will work via 2 methods, it goes to the MS , update servers and gets them, or you tell it you want go load your own driver say off a USB stick or a folder you have called (my missing drivers)
Drivers for dummies.
Way 1 to 3 fail so I will now elaborate way 4, driver packs. (a blessing to many)
I am evaluating this site below: (well known users of this site are)
Driver SETS (by class/functions)
There is this one site here, that is called Driverpacks.net (my XP example here, WLAN selected... pick yours?)
I use Firefox then add the Add-on's, called torrent tornado.(here)---------- Bit Torrents are not illegal (only infringement is) Even Facebook uses it and vast other top companies. and this.
Then download this pack using the above Tornado feature. and get a 7zip file (yes always have 7zip loaded on all PCs)
Click the Green download button above site. See your Tornado launch. In Tornado window PoPs and click start. (the rest is obvious)
(trust nothing)! WWW is really World Wide Virus...
Again let me warn you Drivers are Binary files, and all are potentially dangerous, if paranoid (normal here) buy the HP media kit and end this now.
Testing these 7z (zip files) 2 ways one compressed then expanded (call unpacked by IT geeks)
If using XP the first pack to get is, Mass Storage (means SATA chips (or raid)) if not the HDD is dead as a door nail at install time. cure is here.
I then ran Virus total on it and w10 Defender and Malwarebytes (Mbam), it came up clean. (BTW, I always do that on all downloads with binaries) ( do not skip this)
This WLan (wifi) file SET above, in my example is 29mB size. (unzipped, its 224mB.) 1200 files inside. (384 drivers) Mbam likes those too. (wifi done)
I next did LAN "Ethernet"., after all if the lan is dead, how can you download anything, right? so I did the 2 top chip drivers anyone needs for legacy boxes (XP PC 2001 relics) Both CHIPS , NIC cards, and PCMCIA cards.
Learn to use another good PC that has internet connections to get those driver sets above.
It passes all security tests by me. 64 A/V tests, Eset and Mbam and Defender 10. for LAN and WLan(wifi) chips.
This lan zip seet. has even the oldest 3com cards (NIC's) in there. (as old as 1999) and the old ne2000 chips. 241 drivers here (by *.sys counts)
A treasure trove for sure there.
You can bet I will never test all 27 million drivers, in my short life time, I'm 70yo now. so that be impossible.
I plan to test video next. (cards, vidoe chips, all GPUs there)
Back the day when "Windows 95 eat up my drive", I built and kept huge driver libraries, at work. (also from Bash RAT the Sneaky, my hero for ages)
The Windows, PE sites also have driver capturing tools ,extreme. (nlite forums cover that fully) more here...see F6 blunders...from H3LL !
Lets do 1 more Chip set, USB (lots of USB3 there)
The correct name at Driverpacks.net. is "CHIPSET"(last column selection) see the changelog.txt in the 26 vendor list. (folders) It shows
What is a driver?
The OS does not talk to chips directly ever, what it does, is it talk only to the chip makers driver package, (an OSI model)
It uses the HAL in the OS kernel to talk to chips.
This structure makes it much more easy for the OS to control all devices inside the PC. (and not crash) including things you have added yourself, in PCI slots or USB ports.
The software can get complex here, as seen on any Nvidia, GFX Gforce GPU Video card. (yes near endless layers of bloat here)
When things fail, the users sees up to 3 things, happen that are wrong .(symptoms)
We do that by going to HP.com and getting it from them. (some PC have 3 OS optioned new, when sold new, and some have 6 different LAN,/WLAN chips used, in the long production runs, of 1 model or 3 VGA cards/chips)
The HP drivers are all SP12345.exe files.(a false generic file name )
If you run the wrong SPnnnnnn.EXE, the loader exe above tells you that in clear factual English.. (can be due to wrong OS or wrong chip in your PC)
If the HP support site , has no drivers offered now, either the PC is over 10 years old (last one sold, not first) but the HP FTP site may still have it. (see below FTP URL back door link)
Next is MS , PnP update demanded by you in the device manager.
This is the manual way next. (long hard and very effective way)
If you still can not find it, I then run my PCI sniffer Program App. to find what the chips makers name is and the DEVICE code. As seen here.
With that makers name and device code, we go to the chip makers site and get the driver from them , matching your OS. One makers MFG code is 8086 (first PC had that chip and was Intel)
If your run XP and VISTA , the newest DEAD OS , that means there is no support now, upgrade to W7& up. (Vista ended, April 11, 2017) XP ended 3 years ago. No support from MS or HP !
What does ended mean? (it means all support ended, and means PnP is dead too, and the only thing that works today is ACTIVATION)
IE 8 is dead (last version that works on XP ) and is a malware magnet. Avoid IE totally, (Edge replaced it ) Run Firefox newest. FF v55, 64bit) never run 32bit it's now dead to, at FF.
Plug and Play (PnP) is a key (#1) element to getting drivers to work, by design but is now dead Vista and older.
When you boot a PC or add a usb device, the OS goes to Microsoft.com to get missing drivers. (it's dead now! on all Dead OS )
So up grade to W7 now. (or higher)
Run a supported OS , say W7/8/10, pick one? (It's not free, no OS is free but FreeDos or Linux)
When the OS loads and the internet is connected, the OS sees a driver missing, and then goes to fetch them off the web.(PnP processes)
Factoid: (W10 even tries finding them off other PC's in your home or your neighbors, if turned on! in MS update engine)
PnP started in 1995, Win95, That too is dead, all are from 1995 through VISTA. Dead as a door nail. (dead as road kill)
What does work (partially) is:
Do know this, you can reload the old OS (say XP) from HP media kits, to even a new HDD (worst case there) and it will run and will activate, and be OK (but new things added will NOT PnP load drivers)
If lucky and you find a new toy to add, say a nice Wifi USB dongle, and they support XP or Vista (as the case applies) and they give you a driver, all is well in dream land.
learn that Old PCs with old chips do not support newer OS, this is very common or the maker of said chips went out of business or left this chip product line. (Case in point this XP Sound chip has no W7 driver; period)
EXAMPLES( love them!):
However if you PC is running XP (1 example of 14+ MS OS):
The PC has HP , media kit CDs .
If you have those XP disk sets ,then all original devices will load and run..
If on the other hand you slammed your PC with REAL Microsoft install disk from THEM, all or most the drivers will be missing, for sure major custom HP drivers and all HP apps will be MISSING. (someone slammed it)
In some cases W7 and up can run great, but no always, there are vast number of chips no longer made ,nor supported , nor have newer drivers and nor w7 up support now. (facts)
W10 even fails to support old printers and old flat bed scanners. (And more, the list is huge on PC older than 10years old or chips/devices that old) (this list of dead zero supported chips is many pages long, 1000s)
If you are SAVVY and do your research, and learn your missing HP drivers, file name , SP12345.exe proper, you might find it here on this secret HP FTP site (I'm assuming the normal HP support pages are gone)
HP FTP back door,
If you google search for drivers, most times you land on malware sites (or virus) or scalpers sites, that pray on the desperate. (avoid those)
In all cases if you can identify the chip then go to the maker of said chips web site, the driver can be there and may actually work. (OS matched)
On some PC's the glue logic chips under the dead chip must be working first. ( Not having the HP media kits , can be hard work to cure problems) A fact.
Parting shot; If your PCs HDD(hard disk drive) is tell ok, and never replaced, the F11 key restores all this in 1 or 2 clicks do so now. (be backbacked up)
Personally I use my PCI scanner, and go to the makers site and get the drivers, direct.
Power tools (Utilities) Use these to see what you have now.
First MS; command line. (cmd.exe run box) Vista or newer only. create a folder C:\bu, first, then...
pnputil /? (means what can you do) then dor pnputil /export-driver *. C:\bu
All drivers on my W10 PC are now backed up for free to this \bu folder.
XP and newer:
On XP , run driverquery /v to see all driver and where they are located.
On XP need the GUI version sure.. load this 32bit app (safe) from Nirsoft.(or 64bit if you have that CPU)
Most drivers I find easy to find and for sure PCI-sniffer scanned above. (most brands have great web site, clear ,as a bell what to get and load but not this maker)
One maker is very hard to find is REALTEK for say a sound chip. (it's in TAIWAN that is why the docs are weak) The maker is easy to find but not their structure, it is horrid there. (IMO)
Sound chips by them:
I discovered that they have a universal driver here, that does them all, all OS all, chips (if lucky) in one huge 170mb file. (exe, compressed, its loaded to the gunnel's with INF files +drivers)
The exception is way 3 seen here.
F6 Blunder: (the excuse is MS did not want to negotiate with 100 S.A.T.A chip makers, ( sounds lame to me, in todays fast changing world to me)
The Microsoft blunder of F6, the XP install disks do not know how to use SATA drivers. (what you are missing are these) If missing!. XP has no hope of installed ever. < over 90 makers and 300 chips here for SATA.
If you know how to use (Nlite) , you can make a new slip streamed Install CD that contains this above file set. (in fact I call it N-heavy, I use Nlite to make a huge DVD install disk that has 1GIGBYTES of drivers on it. (just for XP)
Microsoft failed to put these drivers in the SP3 update , forcing many owners (and PC makers) to go to VISTA. (ends the F6 floppy demand)
The XP install F6 demands a floppy disk, to you kids today, do not try to understand this, it's old sick relic legacy (XP will install on old IDE PATA drives (wide ribbon cable) in most cases , no problems !
(legacy CD to legacy Metal, still works but not on say 2002 new SATA computer (sad no?)
XP will not (intractable PITA) allow you to cruise the HDD/DVD/CD or USB memory stick for a 3 file driver, yes a ROYAL P.I.T.A it is...
The slip stream patch is here. (PDF telling the magic of this)
I use Imgburn (100% free to use) to burn any DVD from ISO, or Rufus to burn any USB stick from ISO.(but in sick twist of fate, most 2001 PC can not boot to USB) and most 2001 PC have no DVD drives.
So if all you have is CD-rom drive, then burn just the ISO with the one set of drivers for you exact SATA chip, some drivers are only 50kByte in size, (tiny)
Are legacy systems fun? no not really. But there is a cure for each road block even a USB floppy drive is one cure. (gawd forbid that)
Nlite is a nice builder application that allow you to remaster a XP (or higher) operating system install disk.
The reason for (Nlite) is to make a tiny XP disk, back then, even remove features, from XP, (seen on the Nlite, builders window) It allows you to expand (or shrink (say remove all printers) the device driver master folders.
You can in fact add drivers to the limits of DVD volume sizes. At least to 4.7GB
The horror of F6 is best seen here.
Other magic , rabbit out of hat?: Updates are related to Drives. So quick word on that.
One cool MS tool not for drivers but only updates, is to run this MS program to grab updates. WUSU offline update 9.2.1.(you can watch the script run and see it get files from here.
WUSI snap shot photo live, 271 updates there. (ouch) (less with SP3?)
Testing 123, Aug 2017:
XP drivers at Microsoft, PnP servers, are they still there?, those old legacy WHQL drivers.
Seems it is, best I can tell. ( I asked MS and they refused to answser any XP questions , just the inane mantra "upgrade"
One can not just look for them manually, like we can with W10, as MS has nice tool for that, there. (online driver searches, w10)
I fresh W10 Hyper-V and loaded XP SP3, pro, In VM mode the PnP engine is dead, DOA even though the browes IE8 inside works under XP. So can't use Hyper-V to test this.
To an very old 2004 eMachine (restored F11 key and 100% good to HDD1). (pulled from my attic cache of Desktop relics, NO SATA chips day1 new.)
I pulled the eMachine HDD and I installed empty PATA HDD2 and installed XP-Sp3 (pro retail) from scratch. (this makes many things fail as,desired)
Over 5 device manager Items show up missing (bleeds yellow errors) and unknowns (as expected and desired)
I then plugged in many devices to that machine, and box full of old PCI cards, all 2004 era...
PnP from microsoft servers work or did not work on the following devices.
I tested each device with the Ethernet cat 5 cable unplugged then replugged back in to learn if local drivers were found in \windows\system32\drivers or on the internet cable put back. (Yes, tricky and effective)
Results of my tests: (My goal is only to see if MS servers are up or down)
The next common failure is a dead internet LAN chip (but not me, have the cards that work and matching drivers)
Keep in mind XP has many drivers missing for many cards/chips , even in the best of times this is a fact. (key to my testing)
The eMachine driver all 6 are here. (showing that 13 year old PC's are supported)
One more A/V scanner I use is this, besides, Mbam, Eset , Defender, and Virustotal.
Herd-Protect is like virustotal like program, but is beta, now.18.104.22.168v , old but works good. runs 68 A/Vengines like virsustotal.com online (heard does not have a scan 1 file yet, soon I bet, I sent money)
Keep in mind , some of the very low end, A/V programs, will show false positives.
What I do is look at what A/V engine actually did that, say , AVG or ESET or other top makers, raises my fear to max. ;Where as some non famous brands no, like Zillya
Keep in mind some of the engines are older, and false positives are now cured. (to prove that is easy , run their newest A/V by hand)
XP install Example 1: (and dead SATA ports) A Work in progress:
All tests in a onld 2004 Intel motherboard. with three 5v only PCI slots.
Problem 1 is the XP setup.exe program booted , tell syou there is no HDD. (you discover that the SATA controller is not supported)
One that is/was supported back in 2003 is the Promise chip (PCI card) as seen here "the maker", and older ones are in the Microsoft driver store.
The trouble is that MS did not keep updating there CD based driver store , as new chips came out. like the next chip.
The cure is a new XP disk , you make or others that has all SATA chips added.
Most folks owning a old XP PC , the HDD long ago died. (bad) and the best deals on HDD are 1TB and $50 and are all SATA drives. (do know that this will work ok, once the driver is found)
This is a PCI V2.2 dual voltage card, and must be in the bottom PCI slot, or fails.
One way to get XP up on a PC Desktop that has only PATA drive ports is to add this card, for $8 VT-6421A (true chip name) You must match 32bit driver and 64bit drivers to same OS, if not it fails.
The trick is getting the XP installer to find the driver seen below, (ignore the word sound in photo below, this disk supports all cards the maker sells, 1 disk is cheaper than 10)
In my case this driver set is missing.
VRAIDDrv\XP\X86\VIAMRAID.SYS VRAIDDrv\XP\X86\VIAMRAID.INF VRAIDDrv\XP\x86\VIAMRAID.CAT to the floppy. and textsetup.oem (this last one picks the correct match card to OS)
The VIA Support page shows this. (it's not lost, nor hidden no, it's supported)
Pitfalls many besides problem 1 above.
You nave no floppy drives nor disks not made today.
Confusion one is the file above is 22MB. (no floppy is that big) and only 120kB is needed for XP 32bit.
Confusion two, and bad, how to fool the crazy XP setup.exe in to loading this driver at install time. T
The solution (no floppy drive nor a port ) is FLASH BOOT or build your own XP installer using nLITE.
MS Setup.exe only allows text mode drivers at install time.
Setup.exe is so dumb it can only see the floppy for drivers, F6 and then "S" key , sees only floppies, you can't even go to a 2nd HDD PATA drive there, (yah that sucks swap gas)
Setup.exe does not allow: USB stick memory access, nor CD access (wow even booted to that CD F6 fails there) no Sata access, no PATA drives added as 2nd drive access during F6 driver loads. (a giant brick wall of NO , NO , NO)
The best trick today is: to Get better CD install disk. that vast number of folks have built.
The disk is XP +SP3 + all updates + all massStorage, driver loaded from here.
Great links on topic are:
Read this great post on topic by "Paper doc"
#1 MD5_SUM= 07a1507e5f4231c5f64c4bf86d58f860
This XP install , let it run at setup.exe run, and do not stop it, let it go. (no more hit F6 ever again)
(watch the slide bar on the bottom do 288+ chips, take a break, come back and bam your SATA drive is there) 5 minute run on CD, less on USB stick.
I tested this disk on my HP8540 Elitebook, it works there too. It finds RAID drives and even Proliant drives.
The goal is to get this card and the drive working, on any drive SATA.
Finding good old and used CD/DVD-ROM drives using IDE -PATA interfaces and still functional is problematic. so this is a cure a new SATA drive..
If you love XP as some still do, (not me) you can use this on any SATA HDD and a newer DVD drive, (burner is best) for DVD-R
The best XP install disks, has all of this loaded drivers loaded from here.
Note the 2 notch PCI edge connector, that means it runs in 5v PCI slots and 3.3v (called unversal PCI) this not PCI-E express at all.
If your mobo has 2 notch sockets the 1 notch old cards will not plug in. (to avoid ` the 1 slot PCI card ) See how the 5v card will not fit the 3.3v socket it was reversed.(by wiki commons )
If your MOBO supports , Version 2.1 of the PCI standard introduced optional 66 MHz operation (2 times faster PCI)
VT6421a ,spec. is made by VIA. and is covered here.
This is no speed demon at all ! at data transfer rates of up to 150Mbps per SATA channel, but? Beats PCI slot rates.
The best card here would be SATA -II the PROMISE FastTrak TX2300 PCI SATA II (3.0Gb/s) Cost-effective Controllers Card
This card can do Up to 3Gb/s (375 MB/sec , mega bytes, max) as you can see it can go 2 times faster and for sure with a matching SSD drive.
This card costs 2 times as much for 2 times the speed. (OS and motherboard limits count too)
The old PCI V1 MOBO slot is limited to 133MB/s so then better card is over kill. (PCI is 32bit slot, or 4 bytes wide, so 33x 4 = 133MB/S (or 2 times that if PCI version 2)
However XP release 2003 (after 2001) has WHQL support on the TX2300. The XP driver PDC20771 for TX2300 is here.
Both cards come with driver disk. But will prove useless to the XP CD Setup.exe program, any simple way. Do not buy a card lacking said CD.(or things can get very hard)
TX-2300 chip is here. (only Promise, has virus free drivers.) the XP disk above has the driver for this and all newer Promise cards. FTTXR52P.inf (in the "P" folder)
Silicon Image chips/cards. My PCI card v2.2 PCI dual voltage, I from RoseWill, and only works in the bottom PCI slot even on a 3 slot only PCI mobo.
SIL3512 cards are everywhere used. Common !
The other good chip is (on many cards) is Silicon Image SIL3512 (now Lattice Semi.) No longer supported now, (I see only dead links) or on the Lattice darkweb, hidden? ( I have the Inf and sys files for 3X12 chips)
The above small zip link passes virustotal.com 0/60 tests.
You can read the Inf file with notepad at any time to see what it supports. quote.
; This INF file installs the Silicon Image Serial ATA non-Raid driver for the
; SiI 3x12 controllers on systems running Windows 2000, Windows XP,
; Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista.
Ther are some express slot too, not compatible with the above card.
Do not FORGET:
Do not forget the PC needs a SATA power cable too, and is not supplied in the above kit. If PSU is PATA only ATX 1 power supply.
The red cable only does DATA .
Parting shot: The worst PC to own is XP PC, that OS is dead. (Today 3 years after dead, they flat refuse to even answer simple questions on XP on their forum)
Why replace any HDD on any old used $5 PC, (value if dead) and spend $50 for a new hard drive, 10x what it is worth? Why not do this? See Cheaper !
The last rule of life?, when the OS is declared dead, all things get worse, every day forward in time, you use it. (if online)
If off line ?, keep duct tape over the CD door, and floppy slot and USB ports.
version 3. 8-30-2017 (Drivers wrong can cause vast problems, and x10 worse if you let Google find infected drivers, that it loves to do. IMO)