How to Backup and Restore Device Drivers in Windows 11/10

This article tells you how to export/backup and import/restore the device drivers in Windows 11 or Windows 10. 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 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. You’d have to store the driver media safely for each and every hardware. 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 command-line or PowerShell.

Backing Up Third-Party Device 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 using PowerShell. PowerShell may be invoking DISM in the background anyway.

Using DISM to Export Device Drivers

  1. Create a folder where the drivers will be extracted to — e.g., d:\drivers-backup
  2. Open Command Prompt (Admin), and type the following command:
    dism /online /export-driver /destination:d:\drivers-backup

    drivers backup restore in windows 10

This backs up the complete set of 3rd party driver packages in the current Windows installation, to the Drivers-Backup folder on the D:\ drive.

drivers backup restore in windows 10

Using PowerShell to Export Device Drivers

Start PowerShell as Administrator, and execute the following command:

Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination D:\Drivers-Backup

drivers backup restore in windows 10

The result is the same. It backups the drivers in exactly the same way as above.

Note that 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

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

drivers backup restore in windows 10

Select the 2nd option, Browse my computer for driver software

drivers backup restore in windows 10

Mention the drivers backup folder path.

drivers backup restore in windows 10

Click Next and Windows would automatically find and pick the required drivers in one of the sub-folders, if “Include subfolders” is enabled.

Additional Information

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 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 recovered by mounting the backup image.
  3. Backup your device drivers — if #1 above is not possible due to lost driver CDs, or the manufacturer’s site no longer hosts the driver.

I hope that the drivers backup and restore task has been made plain simple and easy by the excellent DISM tool.

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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded in 2005.

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