Using Windows Update to update drivers should be a last resort – it may install the wrong driver. In a recent article we discussed drivers and how to update them. This week we saw a timely reminder that using Windows Update to update drivers can cause problems by automatically installing the wrong driver.
Windows Updating Drivers Problem – This time it was a sound card driver causing the problem but we have seen the same issues with updates to other hardware devices. The sound on the laptop in question was working until an automatic update from Microsoft left it with no sound.
Device Manager reported that the new driver was correctly installed, was working OK and even gave the manufacturer’s name which would be good – if it was the right manufacturer! From a software perspective everything seemed to be working but there was still no sound.
Playing with the sound controls and configuration got the sound working but only for a while – after it cut out again we were called in to fix it.
Solution – Even though the new driver appeared to be the right one, we found that it was for a different manufacturer than the actual soundcard in the laptop. How it managed to install correctly and work occasionally is unclear but it is likely due to different manufacturers using very similar (but not identical) driver software – for some sounds it would work but for others it wouldn’t.
The solution was simply to uninstall the incorrect driver and reinstall the correct one from the manufacturer of the specific soundcard in the laptop. Also we changed Windows Update to only download important (including security) updates, not optional Recommended Updates which include hardware drivers.
It is important that this last step is followed to prevent the problem reoccurring.
How To Turn Off Recommended (Driver) Updates – We would advise users to check their Windows Update settings and switch off the ability to install Recommended Updates automatically. To do this:
Vista and 7
Click Start, type ‘Windows Update’ in the search box, and then click ‘Windows Update’ in the Programs list.
In the left pane, click ‘Change settings’.
Select the option that you want for ‘Important Updates’ (Install Updates Automatically is recommended).
Under ‘Recommended Updates’, UNTICK the ‘Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates’ or ‘Include recommended updates when downloading…’ check box, and then click OK.
There is no similar option for ‘Recommended Updates’ in XP and, in our experience, this issue only affects Vista and Windows 7 nowadays because driver updates are very infrequent for XP – a case where older is sometimes better.