The Windows 7 Ballet with Drivers and Compatibility

Win 7 will support all Vista-certified drivers

While building Windows 7, Microsoft is attempting to resolve scenarios that managed to successfully handicap Windows Vista in terms of compatibility. In this context, in order not to break devices that currently work with its precursor, Windows 7 will come to the table, from the get-go, with support for all Vista-certified drivers. Compatibility with devices designed for Vista ensures that users will have a seamless upgrade/migration experience. Grant George, the VP of Test for the Windows Experience, revealed that Microsoft had full compatibility with Vista-certified drivers for Windows 7 as a primary goal.

“Drivers for basic functionality are in-box (by in-box we mean available as part of the installation of Windows). This includes drivers for mainstream storage, network, input, and display devices, so the OS can be installed and user can get online where, if needed, additional drivers can be acquired from Windows Update. Drivers update and/or install with minimal end user effort. When drivers are upgraded, there aren’t problems with the new drivers. Drivers are reliable,” George explained.

The software giant has taken into consideration three scenarios in which the availability of drivers can impact the user experience in a critical manner. According to Microsoft, users expect drivers to be virtually at their fingertips for clean installation of Windows, but also when devices are integrated with the machine and when updated drivers are released.

“A clean installation is one we are all definitely valuing during the beta phase of Windows 7. It should be clear that a clean install, as important as it is to many of us, is not a routine/mainstream experience. Nevertheless, the combination of in-box drivers and those available via Windows Update will serve a very broad set of PCs (for example, you should see most of the drivers installed for the new Atom-based machines, if you do a clean install),” George added.

In this context, the company pointed out that not all third-party drivers could be offered via Windows Update. Mobile graphics drivers are just one illustrative example in this case, but there are others for whose download the hardware manufacturer requires users to visit a certain website. When it comes down to making Windows 7 play nice with attached devices, the company is laboring to have drivers available through Windows Update.

In the event that the driver does not meet Microsoft's criteria for distribution through WU, the software giant will be ready to point Windows 7 users to the developers' website. Of course, at the same time, there are users, especially in the gemming community, who are looking to be kept up to date in order to benefit from the best that their hardware has to offer. Microsoft promised that all such updates would be served via WU as optional updates, when they would not be available exclusively through the IHV (independent hardware vendor) website.

“Our goal is clearly to make sure that drivers for the broadest set of devices are available and high quality. There are many equal partners that contribute to delivering a PC and all the associated devices, and we work hard to develop a systematic way to reach the broadest set of customers with high quality software and support,” George concluded.

Windows 7 Beta is available for download here.

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