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Can XP Drivers Work On Vista?

Driver files are highly specialized, with plenty of coding going in to each distinct version of a particular file. If you could open the drivers and examine them, you would find great differences in the files needed to make one device work with a Windows XP system and a MacBook Pro. While this does make it a little harder to get devices working when you can’t seem to locate a matching driver file, it is necessary to prevent a lot of communication errors between a printer or MP3 player and the computer.

The Trouble With Generic Drivers

There have been many attempts to create generic driver files over the years that have backfired or mostly failed. Since the various operating systems are so different in how they operate, it is hard to design a set of instructions that work on all of them. Executing an action on Windows XP requires different code than it would on Windows Vista. This means that a driver written for XP will do nothing on Vista – or possible create havoc by executing inappropriate actions when triggered by the device. Installing the wrong drivers can send the system into a complete reboot loop. Many users attempt to force trustworthy XP drivers to install through the Device Manager. The computer may warn you about the practice or complete it without complaint. If you aren’t sure that a file is designed for the version of Windows you’re using, get a fresh download rather than attempting to install it manually.

Generic Exceptions

This rule about driver complications is mainly true for complex devices like printers, MP3 players, scanners, external hard drivers, and similar accessories. Very simple items, including USB flash drivers and basic keyboards, communicate with all Windows operating systems just fine. These items are covered by generic drivers. You can tell if a certain accessory falls into the umbrella of generic coverage by looking for the Plug and Play designation on the packaging. Devices with this capability tend to work just fine with both XP and Vista without any concerns about downloading and installing new drivers. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find devices more complicated than basic input or storage tools that can just start working with the computer without the download and installation of drivers.

Upgrading Your Operating System

Many people face a driver conundrum for the first time when they want to upgrade a computer with Windows XP to Vista or an even newer OS. Digging out the recovery or installation discs that came with the system will only provide you with a set of XP drivers if that is what was originally installed. Even if the system had an option to order with Vista pre-installed, the manufacturer was only allowed to send you discs for the OS you picked. Unless the system had a dual installation of the newer system, don’t expect recovery discs to be much help during an upgrade. You are going to have to go on the hunt for Vista appropriate drivers rather than relying on XP files.

The Generation Gap

It is perfectly possible for a computer running Windows XP to be incompatible for an upgrade despite being powerful enough to support it. Even if the processor and memory is sufficient, some older systems and components just don’t have support anymore. Check that the manufacturers decided to make Vista drivers for the computer and hardware you are trying to use. If they didn’t, there may be no safe and reliable way to force the newer operating system to work with the hardware. There is a generation gap between the two systems of quite a few years, so only expect the last few computers that shipped with XP to feature drivers and other forms of support for newer options.

Six Steps To Finding Vista Drivers

Always start by double checking that your computer can handle the higher demands of the newer operating system. Once you are sure it’s worth undertaking, you need to make a few preparations before popping the OS installation disc into the drive.

  1. Find a reliable driver program and save it. Look for a major installer that includes libraries for both XP and Vista drivers. If you run this program shortly after the fresh copy of Vista is in place, most to all of your drivers should be installed automatically.
  2. Make a list of all of the components inside the computer. You will likely need to hunt down drivers for each wireless card and graphics card separately, so use the Device Manager to examine what’s installed before attempting to make a switch.
  3. Check the manufacturer’s website for the computer and see if Vista drivers are available. If there are missing support files, head to the websites for the makers of each component. Use the exact model numbers reported by the Device Manager to make sure you are getting the right files.
  4. Don’t forget about 32 vs 64 bit system requirements. If you use 64 bit drivers for your XP installation, the same will be needed once Vista is the dominant OS.
  5. Load all of the drivers onto USB flash drives or burn them onto CDs. USB devices tend to be the best choice because the generic drivers that come along with the new version of the OS should mean that support is available after the initial Vista boot.
  6. Be prepared to roll back to your previous version of the system if there are unexpected incompatibilities. Having a second computer for driver and system file troubleshooting online is best when doing this kind of work. There can be issues with the installation itself, even if you have all of the right drivers and other files on hand.
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