Category Archives: Device drivers

Snappy Driver Installer Worth Considering

I know. I know. Lots of Windows experts and pundits, including at AskWoody, TenForums and ElevenForum, don’t recommend or support driver update tools. That said, I find Snappy Driver Installer worth considering anyway (at least, the Origin fork). Let me recite some recent experience. Then I’ll enumerate the reasons why I’m so grateful for Snappy Driver Installer…

Why Say: Snappy Driver Installer Worth Considering

First let me explain why I’m grateful for this tool and its labor-intensive project. Almost alone among such tools, Snappy Driver installer (SDI) is open source (GNU GPL v3.0 license). Most decent driver update tools cost upwards of US$30 per year, some more than that.

Just this morning, Norton (still running it on my production PC, but I plan to bid it adieu with my next desktop build) told me I had 14 drivers out of date. It costs upwards of US$60 to add its driver scanning functions (and a bunch of other stuff, too) to its ~US$90 annual subscription fee. I’m not interested in paying more, thanks, but I was glad to learn I had some drivers out of date.

Firing up SDI for the first time is interesting because it needs more just under 37GB of driver files to offer a complete collection of stuff from which to work. Even so, the tool is smart enough to focus only on driver packs (7ZIP files of related drivers) that a target PC needs. For this target PC, that involved just a bit over 3 GB across 8 different archive files. SDI was able to handle all the out-of-date drivers on its own, in about 30 minutes (most unattended, while I did something else).

SDI Benefits and Features (IMO Anyway…)

Snappy Driver Installer is free. It’s easy to maintain a portable version on a UFD you can use for all your Windows PCs. It works with all current Windows versions (I’ve used it across the range of Windows 10 and 11 editions and builds).

For me, SDI does the job nicely and keeps my PCs current without annual subscription fees. And because I routinely shoot an image backup before mucking about with drivers, I can say no such update has ever hosed one of the PCs under my purview.

Like I said at the outset: SDI is worth checking out for yourself. You just might find it useful. Your call…

Note: For timing purposes I fired up SDI on another test PC to see how long it takes to grab the whole collection of driver packs. Right now, it’s 115 minutes in at 50% done. That means it could take as long as 4 hours to complete. It’s clocking between 18 and 85 Mbps as it runs, so it’s apparently throttled deliberately and carefully. Final runtime came in well under 3 hours (just over 155 minutes, or 2:35).

Wait! There’s more: Version forks and controversies

I got a tweet today from David Ballesteros. He let me know there are dueling versions of SDI, including the one formerly linked above (I removed it as I’ll explain). Another is called SDI Origin, which gets an interesting description at MajorGeeks.

WARNING!!! Malware is reported in the SDI fork. Thus, many online posters say — no surprise there — use SDI Origin instead. I’ve not run into any of said reported malware, adware or other potential gotchas, but my PCs are pretty armored up.

Just to be on the safe side it seems like SDIO (SDI Origin) is the best version to use. That’s why I killed the link to the other fork (but it’s easy to find online). And as I look at the filenames on my home drive for Snappy I see I wound up with the Origin version in both subfolders anyway (directory root is named SDIO).

As you can see in this properties Window, even my original exe file is named “Snappy Driver Installer Origin.” Reinforces the old saying: it’s better to be lucky than good. Phew: might’ve dodged a bullet!


Occam’s Razor Cuts My Intel PROset Problem

OK, then: let’s take a short trip back to medieval England (14th century) and drop in on philosopher William of Ockham. His original Latin epigram is “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” That’s often translated as “Don’t add more factors to an explanation than are strictly necessary.” Many people take it to mean “The simplest explanation is usually the best (or correct) one.” From a troubleshooting standpoint, I take a different lesson.  Eliminate the obvious causes before looking for more exotic ones. And indeed, yesterday Occam’s Razor cuts my Intel PROset problem. I discover it’s the software itself that prevents its installation on Windows 10.

Why Say Occam’s Razor Cuts My Intel PROset Problem?

You can see why I had to haul this old blade out of storage by examining the lead-in graphic. It’s from the Release Notes for the latest version of the Intel PROset and driver software for its wired Ethernet adapters, including for Windows Client OSes. Take a close look at that list. Then consider the version of Windows 10 for which I sought to install this latest 28.2 version — namely Windows 10 22H2.

The installer fired up just fine, but then it took quite a while to do anything. Instead of asking my persmission to commence installation, I got this error message instead:

Occam's Razor Cuts My Intel PROset Problem.10-22H2-error

Despite repeated efforts, I got only this when attempting an install on Windows 10 22H2.

After a couple of failed tries, I figured I’d better check the release notes. And sure enough, I saw what’s missing in the lead-in graphic. This release does NOT support Windows 10 22H2. And that, of course, is why I get that error message. Given that 22H2 is the current Windows 10 version and that 21H2 hit its EOL date on June 13 (a couple of months ago), I have to believe this was a mistake on Intel’s part. But it is what it is, and I have to wait for them to fix it. Until then, I’ll keep running the preceding driver version. Sigh.

FWIW, I just summarized this info in a post to the Intel online forums for their Ethernet adapters and software. I’ll be interested to see what kind of response it evokes, if any. Stay tuned!


Achieving Intel Driver Update Silence

I’ve been writing a fair amount lately about updating the Windows OS, apps, applications and drivers. On that last subject — drivers — Intel has an outsized impact on most of my PCs (11 of 13 use Intel CPUs; all of them include at least some Intel chipsets). I’ve been updating Bluetooth, LAN (Wireless and GbE), and Graphics over the last couple of days. I counted anywhere from 5 to 9 mouse clicks needed to work through the various installers. This has me thinking: “What’s Involved in Achieving Intel Driver Update Silence?”

All this said, I’d also like to observe that I use the Intel Driver & Support Assistant (aka DSA) to drive most of my Intel driver upkeep activities. Overall, it does a pretty good job.

Is Achieving Intel Driver Update Silence Even Possible?

To some degree, yes. If you search the Intel site for “silent Intel X install” (where X = one of Bluetooth, Wireless, LAN, Graphic, …) you’ll find articles on how to run installers at the command line in silent mode. I’ll provide a list below, but here’s a discouraging disclaimer from the  Graphic driver how-to (bold emphasis mine).

s, –silent A silent installation that uses default selections in the place of user input. Not all visual indications are disabled in silent mode.

There’s the rub, in the bolded text. Running silent does away with most, but not all, visual indications.

Here’s a list of some very popular how-to’s that cover silent installation:

1. Graphic driver how-to
2. Bluetooth driver how-to
3. Base Driver & ProSET how-to (GbE, etc.)
4. Wi-Fi driver how-to
5. Chipset Installation utility how-to
6. USB 3.0 eXtensible Controller how-to

That’s all I could think of, off the top of my head. Looks like my earlier search formula works pretty well on the Intel site, though. If you need something else, chances are good it will work for that, too. If not, please drop me a line to let me know what else you found or figured out.


Still Behind USB4 Curve

Drat! I’ve just upgraded my two Canary test PCs to build 25324. The announcement says “We are adding a USB4 hubs and devices Settings page…” But it had been on a gradual rollout, and I think that is still happening. Why do I say that? Because one of my test machines shows TB4 and USB4 in the Thunderbolt Control Center, but there’s no USB4 page in Settings on that machine. Sigh. Alas I think that means I’m still behind USB4 curve.

That’s what you see in the lead-in graphic above. It shows no USB4 hubs in DevMgr (left), the 25324 build (middle) and the TB4/USB4 items in the Thunderbolt Control Center (right).

If I’m Still Still Behind USB4 Curve, What Now?

It could be one of two things. I don’t have the right drivers loaded (I don’t think that’s the case, but it’s possible) or I don’t have any native USB4-equipped devices. Perhaps MS hasn’t rolled this update all the way out just yet, and my PCs are still on the trailing edge. Given my history with glomming onto new features, it’s darned likely to be the latter.

In the meantime, all I can do is wait for it to show up. I’m also going to reach out to my Lenovo contacts and see if they have any history with this capability on their end. I’ve got two pretty new machines (the P16 Mobile Workstation and the U360 Ultra SFF PC) that have leading-edge TB4/USB4 capabilities. Maybe I’ll have to load the 25324 image on one or both of them and see what comes up.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away… Wish me luck!

Concluding Note: If It’s Not There, It’s Not There…

OK, so I’m learning that USB4 support will show up inside Device Manager using the “Devices by connection” view. (See this informative MS Learn article for more info Introduction to the USB4 connection manager in Windows.) If your PC is properly outfitted you’ll see a series of entries that look like this:

⌄ USB4(TM) Host Router (Microsoft)
    › USB(TM) Root Device Router (Microsoft)
          USB4(TM) Device Router (Microsoft)

Alas, none of my PCs apparently have the right kinds of USB-C (or Type A) ports, because I can’t see this on any of them. Gives me a good excuse to ask for another Lenovo eval, I guess!


Intel ARC Drivers Arrive Via WU

There’s a new set of Intel ARC drivers for built-in GPUs (and of course, discrete ARC devices as well). How do I know this? I just updated one of my Canary Channel test machines. During that process, I saw the Intel ARC drivers arrive via WU (Windows Update). Until this morning, I had been obtaining them exclusively from the Intel Driver & Support Assistant.

You can see the information about this latest driver from its Intel download page above. Notice the version number:

How Do I Know Intel ARC Drivers Arrive Via WU?

Check out the driver version in my Update History from the X12 Hybrid Tablet, captured minutes ago. Compare the version number for the “Intel Corporation – Extension” item and you’ll see it’s identical to the version number from the Intel download page.

ARC Drivers Arrive Via WU.history

The name isn’t terribly helpful, but the version number tells me what I need to know.<\p>

What else I can tell you about this alternate method is that it’s MUCH faster than installing the driver (plus supporting software) from the Intel download page. It took only 20-30 seconds to complete. The full-blown Intel package takes minutes.

Does this mean I will occasionally need to visit the Intel page to update the Intel Graphics Command Center software? Nope. The IGCC that works with Intel GPUs is a Windows Store app. And it updates itself, either through routine checks, or when you try to run that app the next time after installing a new driver.

Hey!  I might actually like this. It’s faster and less work that using the Intel Driver & Support Assistant. Good stuff, and good job: MS & Intel!


RAPR V0.11.92 Remains a Real Gem

I’m working on revisions to older stories I’ve written for ComputerWorld. Just yesterday, I revised my CIO story for them about purging duplicate and obsolete drivers from the Windows driver store. For that purpose, there simply is no better tool, nor one easier to use than Driver Store Explorer (aka RAPR or RAPR.exe). Indeed among my many Windows cleanup tools, RAPR v0.11.92 remains a real gem.

Why RAPR V0.11.92 Remains a Real Gem

Here’s the deal: when you update a Windows driver, it gets stashed in a special storage area with all the other drivers. What most people don’t know — including admins — is that when you update a driver, its predecessor remains present. And in fact, it never leaves unless you remove it yourself. In a nutshell: that’s one of the things that RAPR does with ease and grace.

When I wrote the afore-linked CIO story back in 2015, RAPR could help you find and remove duplicate and obsolete drivers. (Note: that item is now carried under the ComputerWorld masthead for IDG’s ineffable reasons.) But you had to do it more or less “by hand.” This took some time and effort to accomplish. No more: now RAPR includes a “Select Old Driver(s)” button. It automatically flags items that might potentially be removed from a target PC’s driver store. Click the Delete Driver(s) button next (see lead-in graphic) and RAPR will remove any selected driver that’s not in actual use.

Why (and When) to Use RAPR

The why comes from reducing the size of the driver store. This applies to any and all windows images for which driver updates get applied. If you put a new one in, RAPR lets you take the old one out. For deployment images — which may run on hundreds to thousands of PCs (or more) — this is especially important.

I’ve gotten in the habit of using this tool monthly. I seldom recover less than 100-200 MB of space. And when GPU drivers come into play (most of them occupy 1.0 -1.2 GB of disk space) those numbers really jump. My biggest-ever savings on an older PC that hadn’t been touched for a couple of years was on the order of 4-5 GB. That’s something fairly substantial.

You owe it to yourself to visit Github and download the latest version of RAPR. Use it to look at your standalone PCs, and the Windows images in your deployment library. I predict space savings all the way around.


Port Selection Determines Konyead NVMe Workability

OK, then. I think I’ve figured out what’s going on with my previously reported Konyead mystery. The error reported in that recitation is “The request failed due to a fatal device hardware error.” This happens if I plug into a USB-C port that supports neither USB4 nor Thunderbolt 3 or higher. Thus, it looks like port selection determines Konyead NVMe workability. Interesting!

If Port Selection Determines Konyead NVMe Workability…

I can work around my seeming inability to move the Konyead device from one PC to another by carefully choosing which USB-C port I plug into. I’ve also got an Acasis USB4 NVMe enclosure. It switches back and forth between USB4 and USB3.1 mode without difficulty. The Konyead unit cannot do this, apparently. If it’s presented with a lower-level USB port, it simply refuses to work.

What does this tell me? I think I see the evidence in Device Manager. If you look at the composed screencap at the head of this story, it shows two vital bits of data:
1. It shows that the Thunderbolt Control Center sees the device as Intel USB4.0 (rear layer, top left)
2. It also shows the names of the drivers this connection is using (e.g. WpdFs.dll, WpdUpFltr.sys, and WUDFRd.sys).

When I connect to a down-level USB-C port with the Konyead device, it won’t initialize in Disk Management. It also shows a different set of drivers in Device Manager (Disk.sys, EhStorClass.sys, and partmgr.sys). Those are the same drivers that show up when the Acasis is plugged into the same down-level port. The only difference is, the Acasis device also works with those drivers, too. The Konyead device, however, does not.

The mystery is now somewhat illuminated. I think I’m dealing with the consequences of my experimental idea to “buy the cheapest USB4/TB4 NVMe enclosure” to see what happens. Now I know: it works on the higher-end USB-C ports, but not the lower-end ones. An unforeseen, but at least now visible and understandable, consequence of that perhaps rash approach.

I have to laugh. But indeed, that’s the way things sometimes go, here in Windows-World.


Enduring Konyead NVMe USB4 Drive Mystery

Wow! I’m really stumped. I’ve got a Konyead M.2 NVMe drive enclosure that works on only one computer right now. For a long time, I was unable to eject the drive safely. But after backing off the write caching setting for quick removal, and resetting the drive letter from F: to X:, I can now do that. But even so, if I then unplug the drive and plug it into another PC it’s unrecognizable. This enduring Konyead NVMe USB4 drive mystery is driving me nuts!

Showing Enduring Konyead NVMe USB4 Drive Mystery…

When I plug the Konyead into any compatible USB port on another PC (USB3.1 via Type A connector, or USB4 via USB-C connector) it won’t come up. If I go into Disk Management, it immediately throws an error message that says the drive must be initialized. Options offered are MBR and GPT. Choose either one, and the right-hand error box pops up citing a “fatal device hardware error.” Yet, the drive works fine on my Lenovo X1 Extreme (8th gen Intel CPU). What gives?

I’ve tried fixing it with MiniTool Partition Wizard, too. It shows me the device, but also shows it at zero length. Thus, it’s unable to access the raw disk data to find the partitions (and related tables ) that I know are on the drive.

I’ve checked the Crucial SSD’s firmware and driver: both pass the tests from Crucial Storage Executive (the maker’s diagnostic/mgmt tool for this drive). This mystery remains opaque to me. I’m galled that the device works in one PC, but not in others: what’s the point of a removable drive in those circumstances?

Next Steps…

I’ve not been able to find anything about this kind of problem via online searching. I’ll reach out to Crucial’s tech support operation and see if they’ve ever heard of anything like this before. Konyead is impenetrable: shows the NVMe enclosure, but all text is in Chinese, and the page for my device won’t come up. They do have a contact page, though, so I suppose I should give it a whirl.

Stay tuned. I won’t quit bulldogging this, but I’m afraid I’m up against what might be an intractable language and culture barrier. We’ll see.


Newer USB Justifies Added Costs

I had a revelation via contrasting benchmarks yesterday. A friend returned a mid-range USB 3.1 NVMe drive enclosure after an extended loan. Thus, I popped it into my production desktop (an i7 Skylake Gen 4 PC) to see how fast it ran. Good enough. Then, just for grins I popped it into the 2021 vintage Lenovo P16 Gen 1 Mobile Workstation (an i9 Gen 12 PC). Much faster! Enough so, in fact, that it’s clear that newer USB justifies added costs of acquisition. Let me explain…

Why Say: Newer USB Justifies Added Costs?

Take a look at the lead-in graphic. It shows the difference between older USB technology in the Skylake desktop vs. newer USB technology in the Gen 12 mobile workstation. Both are using USB 3.1 ports (though the older PC goes via USB-A, the newer goes thru USB-C) to the same hardware running the same benchmark. Why is the new so much faster than the old?

Short answer: UASP, aka the USB Attached SCSI Protocol. The newer PC supports it, while the older one does not. You can see there’s a driver difference in Device Manager when it comes to accessing the NVMe drive enclosure and its installed SSD: the older machine runs a driver named USBSTOR.sys, while the newer one runs UASPStor.sys. Plain as day.

The Deal With UASP

The Wikipedia article on UASP is a good place to find some explanation. To wit: “UAS [USB Attached SCSI] generally provide faster transfers when compared to the older USB Mass Storage Bulk-only (BOT) protocol drivers.” In a nutshell, that’s UASPStor.sys versus USBSTOR.sys.

As I learned about this technology in the period from 2016 to 2019, the word at ran something like “Speeds of 500 MBps mean USB bulk transfer; 1 Gbps or better means UAS transfer.” And that, dear readers, is the difference you see between the right-hand side in the lead-in graphic (USBSTOR.sys on the Skylake) and the left-hand side (UASPStor.sys on the Gen 12).

In practical terms, this translates into much, much faster IO on the newer PC vis-a-vis the older one. I think it’s incredibly worthwhile, given that backups complete 2-3 times faster on the P16 than the Skylake. Likewise for big, bulk file transfers (such as Windows ISOs, which I mess with frequently).

Retrofit and Replacement

Does this mean one has to toss older PCs and replace them with newer models? Maybe, but not necessarily. For between US$50 and 100, you can purchase UASP capable PCIe adapter USB cards. As long as you’ve got an open PCIe x4 port available on your motherboard (desktops only, so sorry) this could be a good solution. I’m a fan of this US$95 StarTech unit for that purpose.

Older laptops can be dicey and depend on support for USB ExpressCards. I mucked around with these on some 2012-vintage Lenovo ThinkPads in the 2014-2016 timeframe (an X1 and a T420). They work, but they’re cumbersome and expensive (see this Amazon Review for a great discussion).

For best results, it may be time to shell out for a new desktop or laptop PC. That way, the fastest USB (and even Thunderbolt) technologies are likely to come built-in and ready to go. Could be worthwhile!




Figuring Out Intel Arc Iris Xe Drivers

For a long, long time Intel has made newer drivers available for its various integrated graphics circuitry. I’m talking older stuff like its UHD graphics, as well as newer Arc and Iris Xe graphics. Until last year, laptop operators were warned off these drivers because they could overwrite OEM extensions and customizations. I’ve been installing and figuring out Intel Arc Iris Xe drivers lately because that warn-off has been modified.

Here’s an “exception” of sorts that now appears in the Intel Driver & Support Assistant‘s cover language for the Intel Arc & Iris Xe Windows Drivers:

If you have a 6th Generation Intel® processor or higher, your computer manufacturer’s customizations will remain intact after upgrading to this graphics driver. To identify your Intel® Processor generation, see How to Find the Generation of Intel® Core™ Processors.

For the record, my test PC is a Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Hybrid Tablet. It runs an 11th Gen Intel CPU (i7-1180G7), with onboard Irix Xe graphics.

What Figuring Out Intel Arc Iris Xe Drivers Buys

Much of the Arc and Iris capability in the Intel ARC Control app is oriented to games, especially its “Studio” functions, designed to let an ARC device broadcast, capture, share highlights, or set up and use a virtual camera, all within the game-play context. Because I’m not a gamer (and have no actual ARC GPUs only on-CPU graphics subsystems) this doesn’t really signify much for me. I did, however, learn that ARC was looking out of the camera on the back of my X12 Hybrid at my desktop cubbyholes. I promptly turned that off.

What I’m concerned about is usability, stability, and everyday performance. By this I mean that the new driver doesn’t impact usability or stability. I also mean that it has no negative impact on performance, either.

The Verdict So Far

In working with my test system locally and remotely, I’ve noticed nothing different or unusual about the graphics driver. Usability, stability and performance all seem the same.

Reliability Monitor tells a different story, though. Over the past 6 days, it shows 3 APPCRASH events all aimed at “ArcControlAssist.exe.” Each seems to fall around when I open or update the ARC Control Assist app.

Thankfully, the everyday behavior of the system remains rock solid. I’m guessing there may be some teething pains involved here. I’ll say that the new drivers are worth testing, but don’t seem entirely ready for production at this time. At this point, I’m more inclined to blame flaky software (the Intel ARC Control Center app itself) rather than a flaky driver (no other behavior to indicate problems). I’ll keep an eye on this stuff, and let you know how it plays out. Stay tuned!