How to Move Old Device Drivers to a New Windows PC - Windows Basics


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

How to Move Old Device Drivers to a New Windows PC

Getting a new PC is exciting, whether it's a major upgrade or a simple replacement for a machine that's been with you for a long time. That excitement can quickly disappear if you can't find a driver for one or more of your favorite devices.

In a world where updates and device upgrades are constantly being released, sometimes it doesn't take long for a device to lose its manufacturer support. Fortunately, there is a way to copy an existing driver from the old PC to the new PC, as long as the operating system is the same on both devices.

How to create and save a list of drivers

Before you start creating a backup of your old drivers to copy to a new PC, you should make a list of the drivers you need. Having the driver name and information about its location will help you find the correct driver to install later.

The easiest way to see all the devices and drivers installed on a Windows computer is to use the built-in System Information tool.

1. You can open the application by searching for msinfo32 in Windows Search and selecting System Information from the results. You can also open the Run dialog box and type msinfo32.exe, and then click Ok.

2. When the application opens, it will display a list of all the hardware and devices installed on your computer. Selecting a device displays its information, including the full path to the driver file.

You can save this information to a text file using File > Export > Save. You can repeat this for any device you need the driver for.

Another option is to use a command in the Command Prompt tool to display and export a list of driver files. There are several commands you can use to display your drivers, but the most convenient are:

driverquery /FO list /v

This will display a list of drivers with information about each driver. If you want to save that list as a text file, you can do so by adding the following string to the command:

driverquery /FO list /v > C:\Users\USERNAME\Desktop\listofdrivers.txt

Change USERNAME to your own username. When this command is run, a text file named "listofdrivers" will be saved to your desktop. You can use another text file name if you don't like this name.

There is no actual method to save the driver file, but only detailed information about the driver is saved. Creating a list of the drivers you need is not an essential step, but it is a step that will make finding the correct drivers easier later on.

If you don't see the driver you expect in these lists, you should check if your driver is damaged and needs fixing.

Export the driver to the backup folder

When you install drivers on your computer, they are first added to a secure folder called DriverStore. They can then be used by the system as needed. This is called staging and it allows Windows to keep track of any installed drivers, as well as updates for those drivers.

Creating a copy of the DriverStore folder on the old computer gives you a backup copy of the drivers you need and is ready to be transferred to the new computer. It is possible to make a copy of a single driver, but it is easier and faster to make a copy of the entire directory.

You can use either Command Prompt or Powershell to create a copy of the DriverStore folder on your old computer. Here's how to do it in Command Prompt.

1. Create a folder on the desktop named driverstorebackup or similar. This is where you will copy the driver files.

2. Open Command Prompt and enter the following (replace USERNAME with your own username):

dism /online /export-driver /destination:C:\Users\USERNAME\Desktop\driverstorebackup

3. It may take some time for all your drivers to copy to the backup folder. Once the process is complete, you can copy the backup folder to your flash drive and then to your new PC.

A folder containing exported Windows drivers

Install old drivers on new PC

In most cases, you can install the old driver on your new computer through File Explorer. Open the backup folder you copied, navigate to the folder for the driver you want to install and right click on the INF file. Select Install from the menu. If you're using Windows 11, you'll need to click Show More Options and then select Install.

You can also try to install the driver using Device Manager. Right-click on the device and select Update Driver. Then follow the instructions to install the driver manually, navigating to the correct driver in your backup folder when prompted.

Device Manager is a very useful tool. There are even ways to use Device Manager to troubleshoot Windows problems.

Potential problems when copying drivers in this way

This method is not without potential problems, but most of them are usually fixable. Because you are only copying the driver files, any utilities that were installed with the driver will not be included. If that's the case, the problem isn't too serious.

You can also try copying the program files that were installed with the driver from one PC to another. If that doesn't work, you can try to find the utility from the device manufacturer as a standalone tool.

Maybe the problem is that the only version you found created some kind of compatibility issue, while your old driver didn't. In this case, you can try to install the new driver and any associated utilities, then replace the newer driver with the backed up old driver as shown above.

Use alternative device driver copy software

If you have trouble working with Command Prompt commands to find and back up your drivers, you can try one of the apps that promise to make the task easier. One of the easiest and most reliable driver backup applications you can find is DoubleDriver. Even though it hasn't been updated for several years, DoubleDriver works perfectly fine on Windows 10 and 11.

1. After starting the application, click Backup and then select Scan Current System.

2. A list of all drivers will be displayed, only third-party drivers are selected. If you want to back up everything, just click Select All.

3. Click the Backup Now button and choose how you want to save the file from 3 options. The Structured Folder option is best for this purpose.

4. Once the backup is complete, you can copy the created folder to your new computer.

5. Find the driver you need, right-click on the INF file and select Install from the menu.

Copying old drivers to a new PC this way may not work 100%. But if you are really struggling to find a driver for an old device that you can't live without, then this method is definitely worth a try.

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