Why the Weird Dates on Windows Drivers?

A Redditor recently asked why Windows Update was trying to install Intel drivers from 1968 on his PC:

Intel Driver Date

There’s actually a good reason for this, and it’s the same reason every Microsoft driver in Device Manager is dated June 21, 2006 – even for devices that were invented long after 2006.

Microsoft’s legendary Raymond Chen explains:

When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen.

Suppose that the timestamp on the driver matched the build release date. And suppose you had a custom driver provided by the manufacturer. When you installed a new build, the driver provided by Windows will have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer. Result: When you install a new build, all your manufacturer-provided drivers get replaced by the Windows drivers. Oops.

Intentionally backdating the drivers avoids this problem. It means that if you have a custom manufacturer-provided driver, it will retain priority over the Windows-provided driver. On the other hand, if your existing driver was the Windows-provided driver from an earlier build, then the third-level selection rule will choose the one with the higher version number, which is the one from the more recent build.

So basically, Windows Update downloads the driver, sees if you have a better one installed, and, if so, either discards the driver or keeps it in its driver library just in case. If not, it installs the driver and waits for a reboot.

But why those specific dates?

In Microsoft’s case, June 21, 2006 is the day Windows Vista was released. This is relevant because Microsoft made major changes to how Windows drivers work in Vista and also (if I’m remembering correctly) required digital signing of drivers, for at least x64 Vista.

As for Intel, July 18, 1968 was the date Intel was founded.

Hope that helps!

 

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