Planning a Device Driver Strategy in Configuration Manager
Updated: May 14, 2015
Configuration Manager provides a driver catalog that you can use to manage the Windows device drivers in your System Center 2012 Configuration Manager environment. You can use the driver catalog to import device drivers into Configuration Manager, to group them in packages, and to distribute those packages to distribution points where you can access them when you deploy an operating system. Device drivers can be used when you install the full operating system on the destination computer and when you install Windows PE by using a boot image.
Windows device drivers consist of a Setup Information File (INF) file and any additional files that are required to support the device. When an operating system is deployed, Configuration Manager obtains the hardware and platform information for the device from its INF file.
You must import device drivers into the driver catalog before you can use them when you deploy an operating system. To better manage your device drivers, import only those device drivers that you plan to install as part of your operating system deployment. However, you can also store multiple versions of device drivers in the driver catalog to provide an easy way to upgrade existing device drivers when hardware device requirements change on your network.
For more information about how to import device drivers, see the How to Import Windows Device Drivers into the Driver Catalog section in the How to Manage the Driver Catalog in Configuration Manager topic.
When you import device drivers, you can assign the device drivers to a category. Device driver categories help group similarly used device drivers together in the driver catalog. For example, you can assign all network adapter device drivers to a specific category. Then, when you create a task sequence that includes the Auto Apply Drivers step, you can specify a specific category of device drivers. Configuration Manager then scans the hardware and selects the applicable drivers from that category to stage on the system for Windows Setup to use.
You can group similar device drivers in packages to help streamline operating system deployments; for example, you might decide to create a driver package for each computer manufacturer on your network. You can create a driver package while you are importing drivers into the driver catalog, or you can create them directly in the Driver Packages node. After the driver package is created, it must be distributed to distribution points from which Configuration Manager client computers can install the drivers as they are required. Driver packages also provide you the flexibility to distribute device driver content to only those distribution points that require them.
When you create a driver package, the source location of the package must point to an empty network share that is not used by another driver package, and the SMS Provider must have Read and Write permissions to that location.
For information about how to create a driver package from the Driver Packages node, see the How to Create Driver Packages section in the How to Manage the Driver Catalog in Configuration Manager topic.
When you add device drivers to a driver package, Configuration Manager copies the device driver to the driver package source location. You can add only device drivers that have been imported and that are enabled in the driver catalog to a driver package.
For information about how to add a device driver to a driver package, see the How to Add and Remove Device Drivers That Are Associated with Driver Packages and Boot Images section in the How to Manage the Driver Catalog in Configuration Manager topic.
If you want to copy a subset of the device drivers from an existing driver package, create a new driver package, add the subset of device drivers to the new package, and then distribute the new package to a distribution point.
You can add Windows device drivers that have been imported into the driver catalog to boot images. Use the following guidelines when you add device drivers to a boot image:
Add only mass storage and network adapter device drivers to boot images because other types of drivers are not generally required. Drivers that are not required increase the size of the boot image unnecessarily.
Add only device drivers for Windows 7 to a boot image because the required version of Windows PE is based on Windows 7.
Ensure that you use the correct device driver for the architecture of the boot image. Do not add an x86 device driver to an x64 boot image.
For information about how to add a device driver to boot images, see the How to Add and Remove Device Drivers That Are Associated with Driver Packages and Boot Images section in the How to Manage the Driver Catalog in Configuration Manager topic.
Use task sequences to automate how the operating system is deployed. Each step in the task sequence can perform a specific action, such as installing a device driver. You can use the following two task sequence steps to install device drivers while you are deploying operating systems:
Auto Apply Drivers. This step lets you automatically match and install device drivers as part of an operating system deployment. You can configure the task sequence step to install only the best matched driver for each detected hardware device, or specify that the task sequence step installs all compatible drivers for each detected hardware device, and then let Windows Setup choose the best driver. In addition, you can specify a category of device drivers to limit the drivers that are available for this step.
Apply Driver Package. This step lets you make all device drivers in a specific driver package available for Windows Setup. In the specified driver packages, Windows Setup searches for the device drivers that are required.
Also use this step if you require device drivers as part of your stand-alone media deployment.
When you use these task sequence steps, you can also specify how the device drivers are installed on the computer where you deploy the operating system.
You can use several reports in the Driver Management reports category to determine general information about the device drivers in the driver catalog. For more information about reports, see Reporting in Configuration Manager.