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What is the purpose of .inf file for HP driver install?

Posted on 2011-04-22
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I had to install a driver on my computer (Windows XP operating system) for the HP Photosmart 8750 printer. I downloaded the driver from HP website and ran the .exe. The .exe unzipped several files into a temp directory that included a .inf. Typically, when I clicked on an .exe it do a full driver install from a - z. This time, however, it stopped once the temp directory of files was set up. My questions:

1. What is this type .inf file and its purpose?
2. Why did HP not just write an .exe that carried the install all the way?
3. How do you use Window XP add printer functionality to install the driver using the .inf?
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Question by:Big__Al
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☠ MASQ ☠ earned 500 total points
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1) The .inf file contains the information Windows needs to process the contents of the installtion file folder, it also identifies the registry entries needed and provides a check against the product hardware ID that the driver selected is appropriate for the device.
See also the MSDN definitions

2) The .EXE you download from the HP site is effectively a .zip file which has an .exe shell so you don't need WinZip to unpack it.  HP are using that format to save you (and them) bandwidth on downloading the file which you decompress once it's arrived.  That leaves you with the actual installer.

When you run the downloaded .EXE (the zipfile) you'll be given an option to "Run Setup" once the folder has been unpacked - Setup is the actual installer.

3) If you don't want to use the HP installer ("Setup.exe") then having unpacked the file go to Printers and Faxes, select Add printer and when the Choose your printer dialogue comes up use the Have Disk option to browse to the folder you unpacked.  The printer Wizard will identify the .inf files and offer you those Photosmart printers to choose from.

You may lose some functionality by doing that as the HP Toolbox software and scanning tools won't be installed but some users prefer to work without this.
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