November 2006 was when Windows Vista was RTM’d and I’ve been a very happy user of it since then, with one exception: 64-bit Hardware Drivers. I’m not the only one who has had issues but the responses I’ve gotten from the various companies I needed drivers from hasn’t been as positive as I’d have expected.
I took the opportunity prior to getting Windows Vista to update my hardware by replacing my processor and motherboard and filling all of the memory sockets for a total of 4Gb. My PC was ready for Windows Vista but what version would I install, I was going to install Windows Vista Ultimate but in 32 bit or 64 bit or flavours? (What is the difference between 32 bit and 64 bit? Have a read of Paul Thurrott’s excellent overview of the differences)
I decided install the 64 bit version and spent a happy couple of hours installing Windows Vista. At the end of the install process I was amazed to find all but three pieces of my hardware had been installed. I had full network access, sound and screen drivers without having to install third party drivers. When it came time to install my HP 2510 PSC Printer in Windows Vista I found that I could finally throw away the useless HP Software that I used to have to wade through just to install the network drivers for my printer.
Whilst I had a functioning system I really wanted to install the proper keyboard and mouse drivers, graphics card drivers and I really did need access to my SC101 that held my backups. So off I went in search of 64 bit drivers for all my hardware.
It was not an overly pleasant experience looking for 64 bit drivers for Windows Vista. If I was lucky a knowledge base or support article would point me to “beta” drivers but more often than not I’d have to email support or post on the company forums asking about them. Most of the time I’d get answers that said “we’re working on them” or the John Romero classic “..when they’re done [sic].”
Below is a list of companies who I needed drivers from and how I fared:
- Logitech – 64 bit drivers were not available until the end of April 2007
- OpdiTracker – 32 bit Vista drivers were (eventually) released in May 2007 but no plans to support 64 bit (so I can use the tray icon but the really useful shell extensions do not work)
- NVIDIA – The 100.59 drivers available were so bad and I had so many crashes that I traded in my NVIDIA graphics cards for ATI ones
- ATI – Drivers available at launch and subsequent releases have improved performance
- Creative – The “beta” drivers for Vista can only be described as “abysmal” , in the end dumped my Creative X-Fi sound card and used the Realtek HD in my motherboard
- Realtek – 32 and 64 bit drivers available from January 2007 with beta ones ready for November 2006
- Netgear – Not until September 2007 were drivers released (by the time they were I’d replaced the device I needed the drivers for)
- Asus – Drivers for the components on my motherboard were available for Windows Vista in early February with some drivers available in November 2006
Vista had been in development since 2001, officially announced in 2005 and released to the public in January 2007. Originally Microsoft wanted to release Windows Vista in time for Christmas 2006 but pushed the release date back to January 2007 to allow additional time to prepare but also to allow hardware and software companies more time to provide device drivers.
I guess it was too much of me to expect with so much development time the other hardware companies could have developed the necessary 32 and 64 bit drivers for their hardware in time for release yet it didn’t work that way and that is what is so frustrating. Finding that really sweet deal for a new piece of hardware only to get home and find that there are no drivers for your Windows version.
I am still impressed with what Microsoft have achieved with the Windows Vista installation drivers on the installation DVD for both 32 and 64 bit but 3rd Party driver support is still pretty patchy and I hope things can only get better but I don’t see that happening for while yet.