Auto-Detecting Driver Installers

By Deane Barker on September 6, 2004

Here’s a trend I’m seeing in driver downloads from hardware manufacturers: they’re bundling dozens of drivers into one file that detects your hardware and installs the right driver. (Mind you, while I’m just noticing this trend, it’s probably been around for years…I’m not all that perceptive…)

I got a new machine this week, and it came with a 128MB NVidia GeForce Ti video card (insert sounds of Tim Allen going “Argh-h-h” here…). To get the driver for it, NVidia just has you pick your product line (“GeForce,” for instance) and you get a 61MB download with, I guess, every driver for that line. It’s an executable that figures out what card you have, and installs it. You can then toss the installer.

The machine came with a Sound Blaster Audigy card as well. Same deal here, with a twist. The download was a little executable that detected the card, then downloaded the correct driver from Creative’s site and installed it.

You’re sacrificing download size for the sake of not having to figure out what hardware you have. The app saves you the trouble, but you end up downloading 10- or 20-times what you need.

I personally love it, but, then again, I have broadband.



  1. Actually, with Nvidia and ATI, it’s more the case that they’ve started to build their cards in such a way that they get some reuse out of their driver code across multiple products. So that one file is probably ~80% common code across all the drivers, with a few bits thrown in to handle the quirks of each card.

  2. As I mentioned in the iMac post, I’m completely baffled by nVidia’s product naming, to the point that I switched to ATI with my last upgrade because I couldn’t sort out the crap parts from the good ones without reading every review. I have no idea if you bought anice card or not. On the ATI side, I bought a 9600, which is better than a 9200 but not as spiffy as a 9800. That’s the kind of thing I can understand. I think your Ti 4600 is nicer than an MX 420, but not as spiffy as a n FX 460? So what’s a GeForce PCX do? And I guess the 6600GT is really nice? Someone draw a freaking graph, and stop trying to make the cheap cards sound really cool!

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