Windows 7's Spotty Driver Support

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Back in July, when there were premature rumors of Windows 7's RTM, I observed that my 64-bit desktop couldn't scan from my HP networked all-in-one printer, although it could print. Any hope that Microsoft and HP would surprise me by releasing working drivers for all devices supported by Windows Vista in time for the official Windows 7 release have been dashed, and those who rely heavily on peripherals may be frustrated by their Windows 7 experience for some time.

Yesterday, with the official release of Windows 7, the drivers download page for my printer showed Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit links for drivers. In both cases, the "driver" is just a notice: "Installing the Product with the USB Cable and Using the Driver Located in Windows 7 Until the Product Driver is Available for Download." The work-around is unsatisfactory, and the projected date for the "real" product driver is "late January 2010."

[ Get the full scoop on the new Windows 7 with InfoWorld's "Windows 7: The essential guide" compendium and the 21-page "Windows 7 Deep Dive" PDF report. ]

I'm surprised, but not pleasantly. I'm also sympathetic, but in a limited way. There was supposed to be plenty of time for vendors to upgrade their drivers from Windows Vista to Windows 7. On the other hand, the driver certification process for Windows 7 is more rigorous than was the driver certification process for Windows Vista.

Is this a widespread problem? Not compared to the driver situation at the Vista launch. At that time, many people couldn't even print, including Steve Sinofsky, who is currently running the Windows division at Microsoft. That situation evoked memories of IBM OS/2; as I recall, people couldn't print for years unless they caved in and bought supported IBM printers. (I kept my HP LaserJet II and booted to Windows 3 when I needed to print.)

As it stands, I can print with Windows 7 and have been able to since the Windows 7 beta; I can even print over the network. I could also scan from my Windows 7 PC if I wanted to connect the all-in-one with a USB cable; I don't want to do that, since I can scan from the other PCs on my network -- or from this PC, if I rebooted to Ubuntu. I haven't tried installing the XP drivers for this device into XP compatibility mode on Windows 7; that would be another avenue if you experience similar difficulties accessing your peripherals.

A spot check of other all-in-one printer-line-support Web sites suggests that Brother doesn't yet support Windows 7 for its networked all-in-ones, but Epson has. Further spot checks tell me that not all notebook drivers have made it through QA in time for the Windows 7 launch: HP's Web site lists all its notebooks that support or will support Windows 7. HP notebook series not on the list won't include support for Windows 7.

In short, the driver situation for Windows 7 isn't as bad as it could be, but it hasn't been smooth. Are you missing Windows 7 drivers for your hardware? If so, what is your work-around plan?

This story, "Windows 7's Spotty Driver Support" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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