Installing Device Drivers to a different directory than Windows default...

Posted on 2004-09-21
Last Modified: 2013-12-29
Is there a way to install device drivers to a different directory than the windows 98 default directory and still utilize both the default and User Specific directory?  I figure this is going to be located in the Registry files but don't have a clue as to what it would be under.
Question by:joshman_pro
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 12116094
Why would you want to do this? The drivers do not actually reside in the registry but in the Windows folder in most cases.

LVL 29

Expert Comment

ID: 12117246

The simple answer is no.

Also wondering why would you like to do that...??

LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 12118461
I know it can be done because an old CD-ROM I had a few years ago had the driver in a separate folder - installed that way by the install floppy.

You would probably have to do it manually in device manager and/or add some commands to the startup files.  It might depend on what device the driver is for.

Like the others, I don't see any advantage to doing that.  Even a 1.44 floppy disk can hold over 200 files in the root directory.
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 12119841
dhsindy - what you experienced was probably loading a 16 bit driver - those can be placed anywhere provided config.sys and/or autoexec.bat files include the full path to the file.  Win98 expects to find the drivers in a certain location.  
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12119898
I assume you are looking for a method of installing drivers on a "test" basis so that the ones that WERE installed are not overwritten by the versions that you would choose to "try out".  In other words, a method of allowing the Windows XP "Driver Rollback" feature in a Windows 98 machine.

Am I correct?

If so, then what you need is one of the utilities designed to allow you to back up your drivers, and then restore them.

Here's one that the Win98 Page Editor LeeTutor suggested in a question (or on his home page?) a while back:

All Quotes from the vendor's and other sites below, I have never used it  :-)

WinDriver Expert is FREEWARE, provides you the easy and fast detection and backup of the entire hardware device drivers currently on your system. Just one or two mouse button clicks, you will have all your hardware devices retracted and backed up to any folder you want. Also a INF device script installer is included."



(WinDriver Expert v.1.90

WinDriversBackup can identify all of your Windows driver files and save them to a secure location in two simple mouse clicks.

Backing up your Windows driver files means they will be available to you the next time you need to reinstall the driver or the whole operating system. WinDriversBackup places the driver files in one organized location of your choosing.

WinDriversBackup is especially helpful in situations where you have a computer in your possession and it's internal hardware is unknown. WinDriversBackup can identify the hardware on the system and the associated drivers ---then back them up to a specified location. WinDriversBackup is even network compatible --you can just as easily connect to a remote computer on your network and backup driver files.
This software is provided free of charge. This software DOES NOT install spy-ware or ad-ware software. When you install WinDriversBackup all you get is WinDriversBackup. There are no strings attached. Please enjoy the software. If you like it share it.


Here's another utility:

Begin Quotes:


About DriverGuide Toolkit

DriverGuide Toolkit identifies and lists drivers installed on your computer and, when connected to the Internet, allows you to search (and other sources) for driver updates and manufacturer sites. In addition, it allows you to backup your currently installed drivers for safe keeping. Backing up your Windows driver files means that they will be available to you the next time you need to reinstall the driver or the whole operating system. DriverGuide Toolkit places the driver files in one organized location of your choosing.

DriverGuide Toolkit is especially helpful in situations where you have a computer in your possession and the internal hardware is unknown. DriverGuide Toolkit can identify the hardware on the system and the associated drivers, back them up to a specified location, and find the latest driver updates for them. DriverGude Toolkit is even network compatible - you can just as easily connect to a remote computer on your network, backup drivers, and find updates!

DriverGuide Toolkit allows you to:
Get detailed information about your installed drivers.
Backup your drivers in case of emergency.
Search the best driver sources for updates to your specific drivers.
Get detailed information about the manufacturer of your device.
Backup and search for drivers for non-internet connected computers.
Backup and search for drivers for all computers on your LAN.
Compare your saved drivers to your installed drivers.
Follow an easy step by step process for finding the best driver.
Get device manufacturer links and contact info.
Find out detailed information about your computer.

Q: Does DriverGuide Toolkit install any other software?
A: No! When you install DriverGuide Toolkit no other software is installed. No adware or spyware or anything like that. All you get is DriverGuide Toolkit and nothing more!

Q: OK, I've saved all my drivers. Now how do I restore them?
A: The operating system will either prompt you to install a driver it needs or you will find you need to re-install a driver. In either case the operating system will provide you the option to locate the driver yourself. Select this option and then browse to the location where you backed up the drivers. Once you indicate to the operating system where the driver files are located it will then install the driver files from that backed up location.

Q: In some cases it does not appear as though DriverGuide Toolkit backed up all the drivers. Why?
A: DriverGuide Toolkit backs up all of your installed driver files. If you have driver files located on your system but they are not installed on the system (correctly), DriverGuide Toolkit will not back them up. DriverGuide Toolkit only backs up those drivers which are correctly installed onto the system. DriverGuide Toolkit identifies what driver files to backup through the INF file each driver uses to tell the operating system how to install itself. Based on this information, DriverGuide Toolkit collects the necessary files and then saves them to a user configurable location. In some cases, the INF file may list a number of driver files that DriverGuide Toolkit does not backup. This is often the result of driver files that are in support of a different version of Windows. Those driver files are not backed up because they are not needed for your version of Windows. Please note: IF FOR WHATEVER REASON YOUR DRIVER DOES NOT HAVE AN INF FILE, THEN DRIVERGUIDE TOOLKIT CANNOT BACK UP THE DRIVER! If your driver's INF file is missing, we suggest that you re-install the driver.

Q: How do I uninstall DriverGuide Toolkit from my PC?
A: Just re-run the installation program. The first screen that appears will give you the option of uninstalling the program.


Here's an alternative suggestion to screw up your computer  :-)  Quite tame by comparison to changing the "default" directories for drivers, but it will allow you to move the following "User Shell Folders" and "System" folders to new locations, although I don't think that a CD-RW, floppy, or Zip-Drive will fit the bill safely:

Common Program Files
My Documents
Program Files
Recent Documents
Send To
Start menu

Download Tweak UI version 1.33:

Right-Click and unpack it to its own folder using WinZip

Open the folder, Right-Click "tweakui.INF" and select "Install".

Open it from its new icon in Control Panel, and go to the "My Computer" tab.  You will see the "Cahnge Location" button and drop-down list.

The list is gathered from several registry keys:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Shell Folders

While you are at it, why not further customize your system by going to the sub-folders of
and modifying the text that displays to describe the items that appear in the Disk Cleanup Utility's list of things to wipe out with a single click.  The text to modify is against the "Description" StringValue in each sub-key.

Here's what you will probably find:

"Display"="Temporary Internet Files"
"Description"="The Temporary Internet Files folder contains Web pages stored on your hard disk for quick viewing. Your personalized settings for Web pages will be left intact."

"Description"="Offline pages are Web pages that are stored on your computer so you can view them without being connected to the Internet.  If you delete these pages now, you can still view your favorites offline later by synchronizing them.  Your personalized settings for Web pages will be left intact."

"Display"="Temporary Setup Files"
"Description"="These files should no longer be needed. They were originally created by a setup program that is no longer running."

"Display"="Downloaded Program Files"
"Description"="Downloaded Program Files are ActiveX controls and Java applets downloaded automatically from the Internet when you view certain pages. They are temporarily stored in the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk."

"Display"="Recycle Bin"
"Description"="The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your computer. These files are not permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin."

"Display"="Old ScanDisk files in the root folder"
"Description"="When ScanDisk checks your disk drive for errors, it might save lost file fragments as files in your disk drive's root folder.  These files are unnecessary and can be removed."

"Display"="Temporary files"
"description"="Programs sometimes store temporary information in a TEMP folder. Before a program closes, it usually deletes this information.\r\n\r\nYou can safely delete temporary files that have not been modified in over a week."

"display"="Windows 98 Setup temporary files"
"description"="When Windows Setup does not complete successfully, it might leave some temporary files on your disk. These files have no value after Setup completes, and should be removed."

"display"="Delete Windows 98 uninstall information"
"description"="When you installed Windows 98, Setup saved information about your previous version of Windows. These files take up a large amount of disk space. If you are sure you do not want to return to your previous version of Windows, you should delete these files."

Another thing to do, as long as the value of "ShowInfoTip" is 0x00000001 (1) in:
is to modify the stupid long-winded yellow popup descriptions that appear when you hang your mouse over, eg. the Recycle Bin.

Open Regedit and do a non-case-sensitive search for "InfoTip".  Right-Click and "modify" the text string for each instance of the StringValue named "InfoTip" to whatever you want it to display.  Press F3 to "Find Next".

Here's some of the ones you will find that can be modified:

(1)"InfoTip"="Displays all the computers on your network."
(2)"InfoTip"="Contains deleted items you can permanently remove or restore."
(3)"InfoTip"="Use the settings in Control Panel to personalize your computer. For example, you can specify how you want your desktop to look (Display icon), which events you want to hear sounds for (Sounds icon), the volume you prefer for audio recording (Multimedia icon), and much more."
(4)"InfoTip"="Displays the contents of your computer."
(5)"InfoTip"="Use the Printers folder to add a new local or network printer, or to change settings for existing printers."
(6)"InfoTip"="Finds and displays information and Web sites on the Internet"
(7)"InfoTip"="Use Task Scheduler to schedule repetitive tasks, such as Disk Defragmenter or routine reports, to run when it's most convenient for you. Task Scheduler starts each time you start Windows, and it runs in the background, so routine tasks don't interrupt your work."
(8)"InfoTip"="Here you can create shortcuts to web folders on your company's intranet or the World Wide Web. To publish documents to a web folder or manage the files in it, click on its shortcut."
(9)"InfoTip"="Use Dial-Up Networking to gain access to shared information on another computer, even if your computer is not on a network. The computer you are dialing in to must be set up as a network server for you to use its shared resources."
(10)"InfoTip"="Displays and manages your virtual desktops"
(11)"InfoTip"="Use Dial-Up Networking to gain access to shared information on another computer, even if your computer is not on a network. The computer you are dialing in to must be set up as a network server for you to use its shared resources."
(12)"InfoTip"="Use the Briefcase to make electronic copies of files you want to take with you on the road, typically on a laptop computer. When you return to your main computer, your Briefcase automatically updates the unmodified files on your hard disk."
(13)"InfoTip"="Stores your documents, graphics, and other files."

Have fun  ;-)
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 12120098

i got tired trying to find all the drivers in my stack of cd roms every time I reformat a hard drive.

What I did is made a temp file.
Copied everything from windows\system outside the folders
Copied windows\iosubsys
Copied windows\system32\drivers
I then burned a cd rom. It saves allot of time reformating. It almost makes it painless.


Author Comment

ID: 12120497
The reason I would like to do this is that I have been able to get windows 98 to run on a read only medium with some tweaks and a ramdisk.  The only problem is that you cannot install new drivers.  I am guessing that the default location that windows uses is specified in the Registry, as many folders are.  I am looking for a way to use the default folder and a User specified folder (located in the ramdisk) for getting the driver information and utilize the User specified folder for the installation of new drivers.

Related info-   This is the website to explain what I have done so far.

Windows 98 boots up fine (although fairly slow, it is very workable) but I would like to allow the install of different drivers (mostly sound and video) so that when I use a different computer to work on files I can utilize the video and sound of thier system hardware.  

Final Note-  If you decide to follow the instructions given in the above link here is a little advice.  Read the instruction and following paragraph before doing any work as he asks you to do a tweak to the registry files then to use tweak ui for something else, but if you dont do both before exiting windows you will have some trouble.  Also when you modify the registry files in the ramdisk folder make sure to copy them to the windows directory or else your system will get confused.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12121156
That's such a strange coincidence.  I was raking through some old floppies last night, and came across my old Demo QNX 4 Bootable Floppy Disk.  It loads the QNX Realtime OS into memory and runs it from there without using a hard drive.  Obviously nothing can be saved, so you have to configure it each time.  I ran it again out of curiosity and began to wonder what else was available.

I was aware of Knoppix ( and other similar Linux-based bootable CD's.  In fact, I used a Linux-based CD-Rom a week ago to retrieve an admin password on a Win2K machine, but I wondered about Windows-based bootable CD's.

I hit right on that very same linked page you quoted while browsing last night.

Here's some of the links I saved while exploring the possibilities.  Maybe they might hold some clues for your project:

Quite a while ago I looked briefly at:

MenuetOS (
X11 (
Cube OS (
JoshOS (
and a few others.

I had to put it all on hold due to commitments, and never progressed my initial curiosity any further.

The one thing that I HAVE been wanting to create is Bart Lagerweij's idea loosely based on the concept used in Microsoft's "Windows Preinstallation Environment" which he has named "BartPE" (Bart Preinstalled Environment).

(WinPE and;en-us;303891 and;en-us;319214)

Following all the instructions on that page, it allows you to create a bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD using some of the resources from a Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation CD.

The problem is that his "PE Builder" program (pebuilder.exe) runs only on Windows 2000/XP/2003.   It does not run on Windows NT4/ME/9x.  I am half way through setting up a WinXP PC and have put that on hold for a while, so I haven't got around to pursuing this further.

Maybe that's an angle you might care to pursue yourself.

As far as directly answering your question, I'm afraid that the truthful answer is that I don't know.  I hope that someone here knows though, because it's a great concept now that you have explained things fully.
LVL 38

Accepted Solution

BillDL earned 500 total points
ID: 12121569
Just one comment about drivers though.  A great many of the .vxd device drivers are packed into the single monolithic file c:\windows\system\vmm32.vxd during windows installation dependent upon hardware installed at the time.  It is updated (or should be) with subsequent reconfigurations.

The .vxd files packed into vmm32.vxd are listed under the registry key:


By placing a .vxd file in the folder c:\windows\system\vmm32 it should be possible to have the file added to vmm32.vxd, or in any case this folder will be inspected first and files loaded from there if not already in vmm32.vxd.

When you see a driver quoted in parentheses after another, it means that it is packed into the first one, eg.

c:\windows\system\vmm32.vxd (vmouse.vxd)

Some info here:

While this doesn't really help your problem, it does explain some of the difficulties you might encounter when loading drivers.

Of course, not all drivers are .vxd files, or are are packed into another .vxd file.  Mostly they reside in c:\windows\system and c:\windows\system\iosubsys and c;\windows\system32\drivers as .vxd .drv and .sys files, but application-specific ones are often placed in their own program folder.

While not truly drivers, there are also the .inf files in c:\windows\inf to consider.

I once came across what I can only refer to as a DOS "Pre-Loader" process whereby vmm32.vxd is:

Copied to specified directory as vmm32.020.

It then calls the Windows VxD Library Manager 'devlib.exe' using the '-u' switch to 'unpack the library' vmm32.vxd.

It then calls 'Library Loader' RPLCLDR.EXE (Repl Curr Lib Dir) and creates a new version of the .vxd file in another directory.

The VxD Library Manager is then called again with the '-p' switch which then packs this newly created .vxd file.

I have a feeling that I grabbed these files from a Microsoft Floppy installation set or from a Win98 OSR2 CD to see what they actually did.

Microsoft (R) Windows VxD Library Manager  Version 4.00.03
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1989-1996.  All rights reserved.

Usage:  devlib [-nologo] -c filename to create a library
             devlib [-nologo] -d libname [filename] to dump a library
             devlib [-nologo] -p libname to pack a library
             devlib [-nologo] -u libname to unpack a library
             devlib [-nologo] [-a] libname filename to append to a library


Microsoft Replace Current Library Directory

Usage:  RPLCLDR.EXE loadername combivxdname


Here's a page I just found that touches on the subject:

I found links to these 2 files:

This is just hypothesis, but maybe you could use this info to build a driver library for different setups in real time using a choice of different batch files as the system boots.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12121581
I forgot the batch code that originally caught my eye and made me wonder what it did:

if not exist %winbootdir%\system\vmm32.o20 copy %winbootdir%\system\vmm32.vxd %winbootdir%\system\vmm32.o20
cd %winbootdir%\system
devlib -u vmm32.vxd
rplcldr %winbootdir%\system\vmm32\vmm.vxd %winbootdir%\system\vmm32.vxd
devlib -p vmm32.vxd

Author Comment

ID: 12132784
Wow, lots of good information BillDL.  Unfortunately I already knew about the Linux distro's (I choose debian and modified a script called "bootcd" in thier unstable section to make my own mini-cd OS) and BartPE.  Although you did remind me of another utility (UPX) that I hadn't quite considered using.  It was referenced at website

that I had tinkered around with almost a year ago with a lot of success.  I think what I am going to end up using if I cannot find an alternative, is a combination of 98Lite (which I am tinkering with now) and UPX to shrink windows down then run it from the ramdrive.  There is a link I saved that discusses 2 .bin files and how if you delete them windows will re-identify the hardware as it will assume it is a first boot.  I do hope that there is a workable solution to this as it would be my last mini-cd OS for a while.  At least until ReactOS is up and running...
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12134206
Glad to know that at least one snippet of info there helped in some way.  Good luck with your project.

Author Comment

ID: 12294339
Apparently there is no way to install drivers into a different directory.  If there is it probably requires more technical expertise (and probably programming) to achieve.  Points were awarded baised on the workaround provided.  Although this is not what I ended up using, it is still good info that should work.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12295401
Thank you, Josh.  I sincerely hope that you DO discover some method of doing what you are trying to achieve.

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