This article tells you how to export/backup and import/restore the device drivers in Windows 10 or 11. The task can be accomplished using the DISM command-line tool or PowerShell.
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 and drivers.
But if you’re using a custom-built computer with a retail version of Windows installed, you need to install the drivers for each device in the system every time you do a clean install. You’d have to store the driver media for each hardware safely. Instead, you can have them exported to a single location beforehand.
Let’s see how to backup and restore device drivers in Windows 10 and Windows 11 using DISM, PowerShell, or PnpUtil.exe.
Backing Up 3rd Party Drivers in Windows 11/10
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 is using PowerShell. PowerShell may be invoking DISM in the background anyway.
Option 1: Using DISM
- Create a folder where the drivers will be extracted — e.g.,
- 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 on the
Option 2: Using PowerShell
Start PowerShell as Administrator, and execute the following command:
Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination D:\Drivers-Backup
The result is the same. It backs up the drivers in the same way as DISM.
The PowerShell method doesn’t seem to work on Windows 11 (last tested on Build 22000.376). The above Export-WindowsDriver command throws the following error in Windows 11:
Export-WindowsDriver : Value cannot be null. Parameter name: SafeHandle cannot be null. At line:1 char:1
Option 3: Using PnpUtil.exe
The Microsoft PnP Utility (PnpUtil.exe) can be used to export and import device drivers.
Export all drivers
From Admin Command Prompt, run:
pnputil /export-driver * D:\Drivers-Backup
The above command backs up all the device drivers.
Export a particular driver
To export a particular driver, you need to know that driver’s published name (OEM#.inf). To find that, run:
To find the published name (OEM#) of a driver, run:
(Note: Alternatively, you can use DISM to display all driver info in a tabular column format.)
Then, use this syntax to export that particular driver:
pnputil /export-driver oem#.inf D:\Drivers-Backup
pnputil /export-driver oem48.inf D:\Drivers-Backup
Editor’s note: PnpUtil.exe doesn’t seem to backup the PNF file for each driver. Whereas the PowerShell and DISM methods backup the PNF files.
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, right-click on a device, and click Update Driver Software.
Select the 2nd option, “Browse my computer for driver software.”
Mention the driver backup folder path.
Click Next, and Windows will automatically find and pick the required drivers in one of the subfolders if “Include subfolders” is enabled.
Other than backing up your files and application-specific data files and settings, here are some additional steps to follow if you decide to clean-install Windows.
- Keep the original software and driver installation CDs ready.
- Perform a complete drive image backup, preferably to an external drive. This can be useful if you want to recover a file or customized settings that you may have missed earlier — files/settings can be retrieved by mounting the backup image.
- Backup your device drivers — if #1 above is impossible due to lost driver CDs or the manufacturer’s site no longer hosts the driver.
I hope this article has made backing up and restoring device drivers much easier.
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