Microsoft Reveals Vista SP1 Driver Installation Failure Rates

One of the common problems when Windows Vista was released was that of missing or non-working drivers. Microsoft massively reworked many of Windows’ internal systems and frameworks, meaning lots of drivers broke, with most of them needing major work, and some even needed to be rewritten completely. Apparently, Microsoft didn’t communicate this well enough with its hardware partners – or the partners were lazy, who knows – because many devices failed to work with Vista during its early months of being out in the wild. Microsoft is trying to keep this story from repeating itself, saying that everything that works on Vista should work on Windows 7. To gain a little more insight into this problem, Microsoft gave out some very interesting figures regarding driver installation failure rates.

The below figures come from Microsoft’s Online Crash Analysis and Customer Experience Improvement Program tools, and show the success/failure rates of driver installations during September 2008, on Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 installed.

Vista SP1 driver failure rates September 2008.

These figures are interesting, but at the same time, a tad bit on the useless side of things because there’s no way to make any comparisons. How does this compare to Windows XP? Windows Vista pre-SP1? Ubuntu? OpenSUSE? Please note that we are talking driver installations here, so drivers that are already part of the base OS are not taken into account. Microsoft has stated that anything above 3% is not good.

Then there is the problem of not really knowing what’s causing the failures. Bugs in Windows Vista? Buggy drivers? People trying to install XP drivers on Windows Vista? Crappy driver installation programs? Messy vendor websites, leading to people picking the wrong drivers? Simply the fact that there are no Vista drivers for that piece of hardware? There could be so many things going wrong here, that it’s really impossible to blame one single factor – these figures are too skinny for that.

The solution already exists. Microsoft has been frantically at work adding drivers to Windows Update, but apparently, this turns out to be difficult. Right now, they are adding about 50 drivers a week, Microsoft’s Chris Matichuk revealed.

Matichuck also stated that the company has a goal of making sure that 90% of systems are fully covered via drivers included on the Windows 7 disk and those in Windows Update. “We’re tracking this as a metric, by the time we hit RTM we want to have at least 90% covered. It’d be great if we could get 95% or higher, but 90% is the goal we’re going to go for.” For all those for-the-sake-of-argument “grandmothers”, let’s hope they succeed.


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