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Troubleshoot driver problems in Vista with the Driver Verifier Manager

Uncertified drivers are a big source of problems in Microsoft Windows Vista. However, Vista comes with a great utility called the Driver Verifier Manager. Greg Shultz shows you how to use the Driver Verifier Manager to troubleshoot driver problems in Vista.

If you are encountering unpredictable errors, lockups, or BSODs in Windows Vista, chances are that your system is suffering from the effects of a faulty third-party driver. As you know, the device drivers that come with Microsoft Windows Vista have a digital signature that indicates that the driver has met a certain level of testing and that it has not been altered. You also know that any hardware that carries a Certified for Windows Vista logo will come with drivers that have a digital signature from Microsoft that indicates that the product was tested for compatibility with Windows Vista.

However, not all third-party hardware manufacturers are willing to take the time and effort to submit their products to Microsoft for certified testing and aren't really interested in having a digital signature from Microsoft assigned to their drivers. And, unfortunately, uncertified drivers are a big source of problems in Vista.

Fortunately, Vista comes with a great utility called the Driver Verifier Manager. While not a new utility (it came with Windows 2000 and Windows XP), the version that comes with Vista has some new features that make it easier to use. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to use the Driver Verifier Manager to troubleshoot driver problems in Windows Vista.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

An overview

Vista comes with two versions of the Driver Verifier Manager -- a command-line version and a GUI version. I'll cover the GUI version.

Once enabled, the Driver Verifier Manager will go to work in the background and will essentially perform a series of extreme stress tests on the selected driver(s) in an attempt to cause the driver(s) to fail. Keep in mind that the tests that Driver Verifier Manager performs will occur as you use your system over time under normal circumstances. As such, it may take some time to identify a problem, if there is one at all. In other words, this utility will not yield immediate results.

If the driver does fail, it will cause a BSOD and a Stop error message that will contain information that you can use to determine and eliminate the problematic driver. If after a few days, the driver doesn't fail and cause a BSOD, then the driver may not be the cause of the problem. Either way, you will have to disable the Driver Verifier Manager once you are done troubleshooting.

Remember that once you enable it, the Driver Verifier Manager will remain active in the background until you disable it.

Launching the Driver Verifier Manager

To launch the Driver Verifier Manager, click the Start button, type Verifier in the Start Search box, and press [Enter]. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly. You'll momentarily see a Command Prompt window and then the Driver Verifier Manager will launch and display a wizard-based user interface, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The Driver Verifier Manager runs from a wizard-based user interface.

As you can see, the Create Standard Settings option is selected by default, and in most cases this option is the best way to start. When you use this option, the Driver Verifier Manager selects a standard set of driver verification options.

If you later decide that you want to perform more specific tests, you can select the Create Custom Settings option, which will display all the available driver verification options and allow you to select the ones that you want to employ.

As I mentioned, you will have to disable the Driver Verifier Manager once you are done troubleshooting. To do so, use the Delete Existing Settings option.

As its name implies, selecting the Display Existing Settings option will show the driver verification options that have been activated and will list the drivers being tested.

Once you enable it, the Driver Verifier Manager remains active and performs its stress tests in the background. If you select the Display Information About The Currently Verified Drivers option, the Driver Verifier Manager will display statistics on the utility's current actions.

Using the Create Standard Settings option

Since the Create Standard Settings option is the most common way that you'll use the Driver Verifier Manager, I'll cover this option. At a later date, I'll come back and look at the intricacies of using the Driver Verifier Manager's Create Custom Settings option. When you leave the default setting selected and click Next, you'll be prompted to select the drivers that you want to test, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

The Driver Verifier Manager provides you with several options for choosing which driver you want to test.

Since unsigned drivers are the most likely culprit, the Automatically Select Unsigned Drivers option is selected by default. If you select this option and click Next, you'll see only those drivers installed on your system that are not digitally signed by Microsoft. If there aren't any unsigned drivers, an error message will appear.

If you suspect that signed drivers designed for a previous version of Windows may be installed on your system and causing problems, select the Automatically Select Drivers Built For Older Versions Of Windows option. If you select this option and click Next, you'll see a list of drivers that are digitally signed by Microsoft but are designed for previous version of Windows -- most likely Windows XP. If there aren't any signed drivers for an older version, an error message will appear.

While not really a very sensible option when it comes to standard troubleshooting practice, you can select the Automatically Select All Drivers Installed On This Computer option. If you select this option, the Next button will change to Finish and you'll be prompted to reboot your system. (As a general rule of thumb, it is better to troubleshoot a single or a small set of possible problems as it will be easier to determine the cause.)

If you want to see all the drivers installed on the system and be able to pick and choose which ones to test, choose the Select Driver Names From A List option.

On my test system, I selected the Automatically Select Unsigned Drivers option and clicked Next. I then saw a small list of the drivers installed on my system that were not digitally signed by Microsoft, as shown in Figure C. To initiate the testing, I clicked Finish and was prompted to restart my system.

Figure C

In the case of my test system, two drivers were unsigned.

It's been several days, and I have yet to encounter a response from the Driver Verifier Manager. I suppose that it isn't really surprising since I wasn't encountering any unpredictable problems on this system. However, I am in the process of seeking more current drivers.

What's your take?

Have you used the Driver Verifier Manager? Are you encountering unpredictable errors, lockups, or BSODs in Windows Vista? Will you investigate the Driver Verifier Manager? Please drop by the Discussion Area and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

17 comments
senohp
senohp

How can I disable DVM. After I turned on DVM, I always get BSOD in every startup

bobtech22
bobtech22

I think this works the same as driver detective, only that driver detective works across a number of operating systems and searches the right drivers for you, see: http://www.fixyourdrivers.com

maddogbyrd
maddogbyrd

When did micro soft ever include any driver support in any of its products? Its easier to hit the sites of the hardware mfg and make your own driver disk. Time consuming yes worth it defintely.

alex.barth
alex.barth

I've been running into different BSOD's mainly with the Event ID 10 (WMI inaccessibility). Along with that, I've run into different driver incompatibility errors, and I was wondering if there was a tool to help with this, THANKS!

reisen55
reisen55

Why bother, and for all those companies that dumped Windows XP to run to Vista just because it was NEW AND EXCITING, well....Windows Seven is bekoning around the corner. Why bother with Vista anymore, it will go down in Microsoft history along with Bob Windows ME Windows XP Media Center Edition and OS/2 Warp by IBM

robert.johnson
robert.johnson

I am using Vista Home Premium and when I type in verifier in the start search box, I get that there are no matching results.

jackgoldston
jackgoldston

My wife is having problems with it saying the printer driver but it still prints and has tried this and it still says its a problem you can E-mail her at lildolphinangel@yahoo.com

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you used the Vista version of the Driver Verifier Manager? Have you used it in either the XP or Windows 2000 version? Will you give it a try? Personally, I have not had any problems with drivers in Vista since the first month of its release, but I can see how this utility could come in handy if I was.

Craig_B
Craig_B

If you start looking at Windows 7 I think you find it's really just Vista SP2 with a few different tweaks.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Robert: In addition to Vista Ultimate, I also have Vista Home Premium on my test system and it does indeed include the GUI version of Driver Verifier Manager. Now, it is very possible that Driver Verifier Manager is not included in Vista Home Basic... I haven't been able to check on that, but VHB is such a scalled back version of the OS, that it wouldn't surprise me if DVM was not included...

Pats3
Pats3

I do have problems that may be associated with a driver (or two), no BSOD, but lock ups and error messages, however following the instruction in the the article gave me nothing - no program found to run the check. I have Vista home premuim also. So what happens now. This is not the first time I have had a problem with checking the computer - Disk Check does not work either, or stops 98% complete and will not finish. Teck help has no answer, after I completed all their tests.

onlineguy
onlineguy

Your article seems fairly open-ended to me, and I got no conclusive results from this utility myself, and as I gather you're suggesting no news is good news (there are no at least reported issues with my driver--and it only found one unsigned driver so far). I do have a lingering WMP 11 video rendering issue which led me to search for this. I was also reading about video VolatileSettings in looking at registry-caused possibilities. If anyone wants to suggest fixes to WMP until 12 gets here... I'm curious to find a clean re-install for WMP that will show my videos in something other than cyan and white. I just wonder if DVM is a remnant utitity left in for bloat measure (and perhaps doesn't talk vista-style windowspeak so is useless)?

vincent
vincent

Finally, I opened it and did as recommended by Schultz i.e. I selected the Create Standard Settings, then Automatically Select Unsigned Drivers, following which an error message appeared. The problem came up when I rebooted my machine: blue screen with long meesage advising to "check to make sure any new hardware or software is properly installed....if problems continue, disable or remove any newly installed hardware or software. Disable BIOS memory options such as caching or shadowing.... " At the end of message was: "Technical information: *** STOP: 0x000000C4 (0x000000E3, 0x9483A408, 0x002DF638, 0x000000000)" I rebooted, it worked, I went into DVM, selected Delete Existing Settings. And now, it works (fingers crossed). What's all this fuss ?

vincent
vincent

Sorry, impossible to open your link, the system just ignores it.

mike
mike

I read your article and was delighted to be able to check out my drivers. I opened Verifier and went with the default, rebooted and got the BSOD. I unplugged my wireless mouse and r45 cable and rebooted - same thing. Rebooted in safe mode - couldn't remember "verifier" - "verify" and "driver verify" and "driver" doesn't get you anywhere so I rebooted in safe mode with networking and checked my email to get the Verifier name again$. Logged back into safe mode and disabled "Verifier." Everything now seems to be back to "normal." Be sure you have some free time and no critical tasks before you try it.

blackmonoffive
blackmonoffive

I have talk to two Bata testers and one Professional Programmer. All three say Windows 7 is a totally different experience than just a service package for Vista.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Mike: That is what is supposed to happen when Driver Verifier Manager finds a bad driver... A BSOD is the ultimate goal in outing a bad driver installed on the system. Chances are that the reason that your system kept on BSODing is that Driver Verifier must outed a bad driver that loads at startup. Did you write down the error message in the BSOD? That will help you to identify the problem driver. Just because you unplugged the devices, won't necessarily remove the driver from the system. Also, just because everything went back to normal doesn't neccessarily mean that you don't have a problem driver... I could eventually come back to bite you at a later date...