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Should I Apply Microsoft Windows Optional Hardware Update(s)?

Posted on 2007-11-23
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Last Modified: 2013-12-15
Should I apply the updates indicated in the "Hardware, Optional" section of the Windows Update program? For example, when the option on Internet Explorer/Tools/Windows Update is selected, Microsoft Update displays in some cases many instances of Hardware updates. These updates can be for the PC itself (ie. video drivers, DVD drivers, etc) as well as printer or other peripheral updates. For example, I received an entry in the "Hardware, Optional" section which showed "Hewlett-Packard Company - Printers - HP LaserJet 4200 PS". However, I looked at HP's website and the driver is up to date!  Where does Microsoft get their information from such that it thinks an update exists and should be applied but in my opinion the update has already been applied. As I mentioned, this can be for printers, other drivers on the computer and other peripherals.
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Question by:TRI-C
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10 Comments
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:dlan75
ID: 20341042
Hi,
This allows you to get the very latest drivers certified for your windows version ! So yes, you can install those updates.
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LVL 62

Expert Comment

by:☠ MASQ ☠
ID: 20341152
However on a personal note a word of caution, I've been caught out a couple of times with either Windows Update recommending a live update for a device which was similar but not identical to the actual card in the PC and so consequentially had to be restored + on one occasion (also with an HP patch) this was an interim release from HP which subsequently was found to be bugged.  Sometimes latest isn't necessarily best & I tend to rely more on releases on the manufacturer's site than Windows Update.  Obviously this is based on my own experience and may not apply for you.  However "if it ain't broke ...."
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 20342110
I strongly advise AGAINST doing hardware updates from Windows Update.  I've done them in the past and while they don't ALWAYS cause problems, they do cause them often enough.  I've installed disk controller drivers that subsequently prevented the system from booting (BSOD).  I've installed Video drivers that subsequently refused to do anything but BASIC VGA mode.  I still do modem and network drivers, but ONLY those.
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Expert Comment

by:dlan75
ID: 20342148
Hi,
leew : as you said ... in the past ! Nowadays this update system wrks much better than before as they have redesigned the update app and they are now only deploying fully certified drivers not as before.
When doing the update, if there is a problem, it is still very easy to move back to the old driver.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 20342253
personally, without problems i never do updates, not for windows, hardware or bios. 1 wrong one can cause you many lost hours
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LVL 26

Accepted Solution

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souseran earned 250 total points
ID: 20344654
This Microsoft article explains what happens with hardware drivers and Windows Update

Windows Update Driver Publishing

http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/winlogo/drvsign/WinUp.mspx

To quote a bit from that article:

"How Windows Update Detects Drivers

To distribute device drivers, Windows Update scans the PC for system files and unique Plug and Play IDs. The dynamic inventory of hardware and operating system files is then compared to an index on a back-end database to determine whether any updates are a match for installation. Applicable updates with descriptions are listed for the user to decide whether to install them. Updates installed through Windows Update can also be uninstalled.

Windows Update uses the same algorithm that Windows Plug and Play uses to find new drivers for devices that have no drivers installed or to find a better driver match for a device that already has a driver installed. The attributes used are the same as those used by Device Manager to determine whether to install a driver. For more details see the WDK.

Additional attributes for printer drivers are used in determining a matching driver. These are:

•      Manufacturer from the [Manufacturer] section of the INF file
•      Provider from the "Provider" entry of the [Version] section of the INF file.
•      Driver name from the device-description entry in the [Models] section of the INF file."

I'd recommend getting drivers directly from the manufacturer and not from Windows update. Not all manufacturers create their drivers to support INF files.
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LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 20344748
When do you think they did that... the last time I had problems with just 6 months ago with a storage driver and just 6 weeks ago with a video driver...

nobus - I think you're making a mistake.  You need to test updates (something I don't do often enough, I admit), but by leaving security holes you're opening yourself up to SERIOUS problems.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 20345055
leew, i respect your opinion, but never hav problems with my "way of not updating"
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Author Closing Comment

by:TRI-C
ID: 31412163
Thank You souseran. I appreciate that you provided an answer to both questions that I asked.  I am certainly leary of installing a driver from Microsoft Updates and agree that it makes sense to go to the manufacturer directly for their updates. At least Microsoft Updates shows that there is an update available. Previously, I did not understand how Microsoft Updates provided drivers for the various hardware and even though Microsoft's document is a little complicated and warrants a little more thought, I appreciate your reference to this document.
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LVL 26

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by:souseran
ID: 20390238
@TRI-C,

You're welcome. Glad the information was what you needed. :-) Thanks for the acknowledgment.

souseran
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