Troubleshoot Vista system drivers more efficiently with these tools

To make the task of gathering information on a number of device drivers easier, you can use a native command line tool called Driver Query or you can use a nice little third-party utility called DriverView. Greg Shultz shows you how to gather detailed information on drivers using these two tools.

Microsoft Windows Vista started out with a litany of problems related to, among other things, device driver incompatibilities. While in the last year many of the most common driver problems have been solved, you may still incur strange or erratic problems related to drivers in Windows Vista.

When you're troubleshooting a problem in Vista that you suspect is related to a driver, you can find detailed information about it and any specific driver being used in the system by going to Device Manager, selecting the device from the list, and drilling down to the device's Properties sheet. While this technique is fine when you're looking for information on one specific device driver, it's not very efficient when you're seeking information on a number of device drivers.

To make the task of gathering information on a number of device drivers easier, you can use a native command-line tool called Driver Query or you can use a nice little third-party utility called DriverView. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to gather detailed information on drivers using these two tools.

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

Using Driver Query

Driver Query is a command-line tool (Driverquery.exe) that is designed to provide you with a detailed list of all the device drivers installed on a local system or on any system on a network. To do its job the Driver Query provides you with a series of command-line parameters. Of course, you can use the Driver Query command without any parameters, but using them allows you to get more specific details as well as format the results.

For example, using the /si parameter provides information on just the signed drivers. Using the /v parameter (verbose mode) provides more details. Using the /fo parameter allows you to format the results as a list or to save the results in a CSV file (Comma Separated Values) so you can open them in a spreadsheet application such as Excel. (If you want to do any type of detailed analysis, you should save the results as a CSV file.)

To create a spreadsheet file containing information about only the signed drivers, you would open a Command Prompt window and type the command:

Driverquery /fo csv /si  > signeddrivers.csv

To create a spreadsheet file containing detailed information about all the installed drivers, you would use the command:

Driverquery /fo csv /v  > alldrivers.csv

Using DriverView

DriverView is a lightweight utility with a simple GUI interface for viewing detailed information about all the installed drivers on your system. There's no installation procedure, just download the zip file, extract the executable DriverView.exe, and run it. You can download DriverView from the TechRepublic Software Library. (Note that DriverView doesn't specifically list Windows Vista in its list of requirements, but the most recent edition, 1.14, was created in 2008 and I've been running it in Vista without any problems.)

When you launch DriverView, you'll see a spreadsheet-like display, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

DriverView uses a spreadsheet-like interface to display driver details.

As you can see, the column headers across the top clearly identify all the information about each driver in the display. By default, the drivers are sorted alphabetically by the name of the driver. However, you can sort by any column just by clicking the column header. A triangle icon indicates whether the sort is ascending or descending.

While all the pertinent information about the driver is displayed in the driver's row, you can view each individual driver file's properties as well as the driver's properties. To view the driver file's properties, just select the driver and press [F8]. For example, Figure B shows the mouclass.sys file's properties.

Figure B

From within DriverView, you can display driver file's properties.
To view just the driver's properties, just double-click the driver and you'll see all the driver's details in a single dialog box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

To take a quick look at a driver's properties, just double-click the driver.
In addition to viewing the driver properties in DriverView's interface, you can create HTML Reports containing all the drivers in the list or just those drivers that you select. Just pull down the View menu and select that HTML Report option. For example, Figure D shows an HTML report of the AVG driver files.

Figure D

You can easily create an HTML Report containing just those drivers you select.

What's your take on Vista driver problems?

Have you encountered problems with drivers in Windows Vista? Have you used Driver Query to gather information on a driver? Will you investigate DriverView? Are there other utilities or tools that you use to investigate driver problems? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear from you.

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By Greg Shultz

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.