How to Identify a Buggy Device Driver on Windows Vista

If your computer is acting unpredictably, locking up, and encountering blue screens of death, then you’re most likely the victim of a faulty driver. There are two ways to do this: One is good ol’ device manager, and the other is something new in Vista called Driver Verifier Manager.

**Now before you shrug this article off, the second part of this article goes into something that is only available in Windows Vista. You can click here to immediately skip to that part.

Most people are already familiar with using the device manager to identify a troubling driver, but I will go over it just in case. If you have already tried that, you can click here to learn how to use the Driver Verifier Manager.

Using the Device Manager to identify a troubling driver:

You will know that you have a driver problem for a particular device if a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark is shown beside one of the icons above. To resolve the driver problem, open the specific category and right clicking the device. A new window will open up. Click on the driver tab to access those options.

The Driver Verifier Manager (DFV) is a great tool for troubleshooting driver problems by identifying the troubling driver. Although DFV does not actually fix the driver, it still is a really useful tool because it helps you identify the troubling driver so you can choose to delete or update the driver. Before you attempt to use this tool, please be sure that your are really having driver problems. The tool will prevent your computer from starting by identifying the troubling driver. I say this only because it may be a lengthy process for you but if you are having troubles, it will definitely be worth it.

To open the Driver Verifier Manager, open the Start Menu, type verifier in the search box and press Enter.

You’ll want to choose Create Standard Settings. Then press Next.

The most common culprit for weird computer behaviour is caused by an unsigned driver. If you believe otherwise, you can select a different option. If you’re not sure, it’s best to just select Automatically select unsigned drivers.

Now you can see a list of all the unsigned drivers being used. Note that this list may contain drivers used by your hardware, anti-virus programs, CD-burning software, or other low-level system utilities. You can be pretty sure that the troubling driver is one of these. At this stage, you can do one or all of the following: (Do not click Finish unless otherwise stated.)

  1. If you installed one of these drivers from a third-party website or encountered the “Unsigned Driver” notice when installing from a CD, you can run Windows Update and see if Windows has found a driver for you. You can access Windows Update by typing Windows Update in the Start Menu search. Then try installing the new driver from Windows Update and see if that fixes the problem. Do not click Finish when done. Click Cancel.
  2. Leave this list open, and attempt to update the drivers listed or uninstall the drivers you believe is causing you trouble. Make sure you know what you are uninstalling. If you are unsure, you can always use Google. For example, Nvidia is a graphics company so by uninstalling this driver, I can expect to be unable to play games and have a very bad looking display until I reinstall. I don’t recommend uninstalling anything you don’t know, but updating should be fine. Do not click Finish when done. Click Cancel.
  3. Click Finish and restart your computer. If your computer stops with a blue screen, this means the problem driver has been identified. The error message should include the offending driver and error code. Write this down. Since your computer will not be able to start anymore, turn off your computer and turn it back on, but this time making sure to press F8 during startup. Boot into safe mode (with networking if you want to go online) and uninstall the driver. After this, you can disable Driver Verifier by typing verifier /reset in the Start Menu Search. For more info on how to uninstall the drive, you’ll have to go back to the beginning of the article. (Click here). Instead of looking for the yellow triangle, you can proceed straight to the troubling driver. (You may have to do some Googling to figure out which driver uses the troubling driver.)

Hopefully this resolves a lot of the errors you guys have been posting in the comments about blue screens. Still need help? Check out our new forums where you can get an even faster and better response!