Best Free Windows Driver Backup and Restore

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Introduction

Drivers are an important part of the system. They act as intermediaries between the system, and the hardware devices. They interpret the signals, and facilitate communication between the system and the devices. Without proper drivers, the devices either won't work properly, or won't work at all.

Generally, the drivers come on a CD/DVD, with the hardware devices. As an alternative, they can also be downloaded from the hardware manufacturer's site, and that's the best place to download the drivers, or their newer versions.

But sometimes, the CDs can get misplaced, or lost, or the drivers might not be available from even the manufacturer's site, because they might have stopped providing support for the hardware. In such cases, the driver backup software are like a boon. These software back up the installed drivers for different hardware devices on the system.

If you have an old system, and do not have a CD, or cannot get drivers from the hardware manufacturer's site, it would be a good idea to backup all the installed drivers on the system. Or, even if you have the CD, or the drivers, I will still recommend backing up the drivers, and storing them at a safe place, just in case. It's always better to be on the safe side.

Tip: I will also suggest backing up the drivers using more than one software, so that if one program is not successful in restoring them, or is unable to restore some of the drivers, the other ones may still be able to do the job.

In this review, I have covered programs which have the ability to backup drivers, and also restore them. The programs which do not have the ability to restore drivers have not been given a place in the review, and have been mentioned under Other Programs, after the review. This is because, I feel that for general/novice/intermediate users, restoring drivers manually might be a difficult job. I will consider a program useful, only if it has the ability to restore the drivers too, along with the ability to back them up.

Some of the software also have the ability to update the drivers, but I have not covered that in the review. This review is purely based on the abilities of the programs to backup and restore the drivers, and not updating them. As mentioned earlier, the best place to download new versions of the drivers is from the hardware manufacturer's site.

Not all software listed below have the ability to create a list, or a report of drivers installed on the system. If you want a list of drivers installed on the system, you can use the excellent small utility called DriverView from Nirsoft.

 

Rated Products

DoubleDriver  

A simple, reliable and easy to use driver backup software


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Simple interface. Very easy to use. Can backup drivers from an offline system. Backs up phantom devices. Option to save list of installed drivers in text file. Fast restoration of drivers.
None
Read full review...

SlimDrivers  

Driver backup software with an appealing user interface


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Appealing interface. Presents list of installed drivers in an organized way.
No options to select only third party drivers. Generates folder names based on hardware IDs. Has to be exited from tray to fully close it.
Read full review...

DriverMax  

A decent and reliable driver backup software


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
Good interface. Reliable backup and restore.
Very slow in restoration of drivers. Many features and options stripped down since version 6.
Read full review...

DriverBackup!  

Open source software with good features


Our Rating: 
2
License: Free (Open source)
Can back up drivers from offline system. Good program options. Works great for backup.
Not successful in restoring drivers. Not fully portable, since it requires .NET.
Read full review...

Other Programs

These are other programs which have not been reviewed in the article. But, I am listing them here, in case anyone comes across them, and wonders about their abilities.

  • Driver Magician Lite  It performs the task of taking backup of the installed drivers very well, but unfortunately, it does not restore drivers. It presents a neat list of installed drivers, with the third party drivers(that is, drivers not contained in Windows by default), marked in red, making it easier to distinguish them. Users can select these drivers, or, they can select individual ones, or select all, depending on requirement. The backup is done in nicely structured folders with clear device names.
  • DriverPack Solution Lite  Not recommended. The program is more of a driver update program. There is option for backup, but there is no option to restore the backed up drivers. On the Backup window, there is a checkbox to backup to exe format, which does not seem to work correctly. I backed up drivers using both exe format, and non-exe format, and did not find any difference in the way the drivers were backed up.

    The program includes extra bundled adware, and so caution during installation is advised. It offers to install Delta Toolbar, Delta search engine, and also offers to change the home page, and new tab page. These can be avoided by choosing custom installation. In the next screen too, another unwanted software suggestion is shown, which should be declined too.

    The help for program leads to a non-English page. Besides, the program interface is kind of weird, and the program contains several features, which I thought were unnecessary in a driver update/backup program. Device Manager can be considered a justified feature in the program, but I still think it's unnecessary. Other unnecessary features are inclusion of Add/Remove Programs within the program. Link to System Restore is also on the backup screen, which is misleadinly termed as Restore Windows. There is a Diagnostics dropdown in the program which includes features like testing memory, defrag, system cleanup and antivirus scan, which are really not required to be there. There is also an option to Update BIOS, which besides being unnecessary, is also dangerous, in my opinion.

    All in all, I wouldn't recommend this program at all.
  • DriverGrabber  The program is way too simple, and has no configuration options whatsoever. It only backs up third party software. Windows drivers can be made to back up by editing the .ini file, but that is not a good option for general users. The program is not in development anymore, and the home site is under development too. There is no official report, whether the program will work on Vista, or Windows 7. Same for 64-bit Windows.
  • Driver Collector  Does not have a website anymore, and the program is not in development. There are no options to configure the program. There is no option to back up the drivers in batch mode. Instead, individual drivers have to be selected and backed up manually. This defeats the purpose of having a software to make things easier.

 

Testing Procedure

All testing was done on Windows XP. I only have Windows XP, so, this is the best I can do. But, the software which are indicated to run on Windows Vista, and Windows 7 on their website, should work in the same way as described in the article.

First, backup of drivers of the main running system was taken with each software one by one. The main system has all the drivers installed with the help of CDs, that came with motherboard, and with other hardware devices, such as the web camera, or the network card.

The restore procedure was performed on another hard disk, used on the same hardware system. Same copy of Windows XP was installed fresh on this hard disk, but without the third party drivers. Image of the system in this state was made with the help of a drive imaging software. Each time, before using another software to restore the drivers, the system was returned to the fresh state, with the help of the image taken earlier. The drivers were then restored on this fresh copy of Windows XP, with each program.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Anupam. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or suggestions they might have by clicking here.

 

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Comments

It's a shame Double Driver isn't developed anymore. The last version dates back to 2010. I'll try SlimDrivers soon.

Running Win XP SP3 [yes, I know ...] and looking to provide a backup file of installed drivers. Looking at your recommendations I tried to download DoubleDriver but the site is apparently experiencing problems, hopefully not with any drivers.

Then successfully downloaded and installed DriverMax. Ignoring my numerous available updates [ain't nuttin' broken] I then created a backup ZIP folder of my drivers.

However, a message advises me that 'SigmaTel High Definition Audio Codec' was not backed up - without telling me why. Also, I can't locate any backed up drivers for my HP printer.

Any advice?

DoubleDriver site was working fine a few days earlier. It faces problems occasionally. You can download it from Softpedia, the link provided below. Strange why DriverMax couldn't back up the audio codec... no idea. Was the HP printer connected to your system when you took the driver backup? If not, connect it and then try again. I would advise to take driver backups with multiple software, so that if some software leaves out some drivers, or can't restore later on... then you have another software with another backup to rely on. I have now provided a link to Softpedia for DoubleDriver as additional information.

No idea why the printer was not covered in DriveMax - it is wireless and was available during the scan. Now have backup zipped files from Double Driver and DriveMax - sufficient insurance, methinks.

The devices which are not connected to the system, but have their drivers installed, are called ghost devices. In earlier versions, DriverMax had an option to select the ghost devices exclusively, but it doesn't have anymore. So, it might be hit and miss for these. You can try SlimDrivers too, it's also a good software.

Download DoubleDriver from here -
www.softpedia.com/progDownload/Double-Driver-Download-26895.html
I tested the first link and I reckon it will download.
Rob
PS Softpedia is reliable, except you have to be a brain surgeon to find the correct download. I have done that operation (he he) for you.

Much appreciated Rob - much quicker and truely portable.