If you have OEM branded computer, you’re usually provided with a restore media, or a recovery partition on the hard drive. And restoring the computer using the OEM’s recovery options would put back all the pre-installed software along with drivers.
But if you’re using a custom built computer with a retail version of Windows installed, every time you do a clean install, you need to install the drivers for each device in the system. Again there are chances you’ve misplaced the original CD/DVD that contains your drivers.
Other than backing up your personal files and application specific data files and settings, here are some additional steps to follow if you decide to clean install Windows.
1. Keep the original software and driver installation CDs ready.
2. Perform a complete drive image backup, preferably to a external drive. This can be useful if you want to recover a file or customized settings which you may have missed earlier — files/settings can be recovered by mounting the backup image.
3. Backup your device drivers — if #1 above is not possible due to lost driver CDs, or manufacturer’s site no longer hosts the driver.
This article covers the driver backup part. You’ll restore the drivers from backup, after doing a clean installation.
Backing Up Third-Party Device Drivers
There are two ways to backup the device drivers, using the built-in tools in Windows. One way is using the DISM tool ("Deployment Image Servicing and Management Tool") and the other using PowerShell. PowerShell may be invoking DISM in the background anyway.
Using DISM to Export Device Drivers
Open Command Prompt (Admin), and type the following command:
dism /online /export-driver /destination:d:\drivers-backup
This backs up the complete set of 3rd party driver packages in the current Windows installation, to the Drivers-Backup folder in the D:\ drive.
Using PowerShell to Export Device Drivers
Start PowerShell as Administrator, and execute the following command:
Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination D:\Drivers-Backup
The result is the same. It backups the drivers in exactly the same way as above.
Restoring the Drivers from Backup
After clean installing Windows, to install the drivers for a device manually (or if Windows prompts you), try this:
Open Device Manager, and right-click on a hardware and click Update Driver Software
Select the 2nd option, Browse my computer for driver software
Mention the drivers backup folder path.
Click Next and Windows would automatically find and pick the required drivers in one of the sub-folders, if "Include subfolders" is enabled.
Thus the drivers backup and restore task has been made plain simple and easy by the excellent DISM tool.
About the author
Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.