Power User: Licensed to Drive Windows?

John McCormick

Verifier is a powerful tool for finding problem drivers, but it can also be dangerous if you use it without sufficient knowledge of what you're doing.

Windows device drivers are like drivers on the road in that they need to be licensed to operate. If a device driver's 'license' isn't current, your system may not operate properly. But who's checking their registrations?

A few basic tools let you test whether devices are working properly under Windows. But we all know that even though these basic system utilities may report that all is well, often something is still wrong. Fortunately, Microsoft has provided a management tool known as the Driver Verifier Manager. Unfortunately, they didn't really tell anyone about it.

To see what I'm talking about, you should first save all open files and close all open programs because the Verifier can, by design, trigger the infamous Blue Screen of Death.

Now select Start, Run [or use the Windows Key-R shortcut], then type Verifier and press Enter. You should see a dialog box offering you the chance to either view current driver settings or create your own.

From here, select 'Create standard settings' and click Next. On the following screen, choose 'Select driver names from a list' and you'll see a list of all the drivers running on your system.

Mark the check boxes next to drivers you suspect are causing a problem and click Finish. Now reboot your PC. Any problems should be readily apparent because you will get the Blue Screen of Death if you have tried to verify a driver that was causing problems. If not, you should experience a normal reboot.

Go through the same process to test various suspect drivers. Once you narrow down the problem, you can also use Verifier to fix the driver.

Actually fixing drivers with Verifier is an involved process, one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Microsoft offers a good Knowledgebase article, #244617, titled 'How to Use Driver Verifier to Troubleshoot Windows Drivers' [www.GCN.com/473]. I strongly suggest you read it thoroughly before doing anything more than verifying drivers. XP systems and Windows Server 2003 all come with Verifier, and most Windows 2000 versions should also have it.

The debugging tool offers a variety of ways to test drivers for compatibility problems and ways to fix them, so it should be part of any power user's arsenal. But it also falls into the category of command line system tools you probably shouldn't let average users access under any circumstances. Verifier involves editing Registry entries, so be certain you have a working Registry backup before starting the tool.

When you're done, you should manually turn off Verifier or it may remain active on your system. Select Start, Run and type in Verifier/reset to close the tool.

Verifier is a powerful tool for finding problem drivers, but it can also be dangerous if you use it without sufficient knowledge of what you're doing. If you wouldn't manually tinker with your Windows Registry, you may not want to delve into Verifier.

John McCormick is a freelance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at [email protected].

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