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A Crash Course in Device Drivers
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Figure 5-1 When you install a digitally signed driver, you re presented with this consent dialog box.
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By contrast, if you point the driver installer to an unsigned file while running a 32-bit version of Windows Vista, you see the dialog box shown in Figure 5-2. You can cancel the installation and look for a signed file, or you can ignore the warning and continue.
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Figure 5-2 On 32-bit versions of Windows Vista, administrators will see this warning message when attempting to install an unsigned driver.
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To be properly installed in Windows Vista, a hardware driver must have a Setup Information file (with the extension .inf). This is a text file that contains detailed information about the device to be installed, including the names of its driver files, the locations where they are to be installed, any required registry settings, and version information. All devices with drivers in the DriverStore folder include Setup Information files in the %SystemRoot%\Inf folder. The basic structure of a Setup Information file is similar to an old-fashioned Windows 3.x style .ini file. Each piece of setup information appears on its own line under a bracketed section heading. Windows will not allow the driver package to be copied into the driver store unless these sections are present and filled in correctly. In particular, an
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.inf file must contain valid [SourceDisksFiles] and [SourceDisksNames] sections. At the time the .inf file is copied into the driver store, Windows creates a folder for the driver files using the name of the .inf file with an eight-character hash appended to it. Inside that folder, Windows uses the data in the .inf file to create a Precompiled Setup Information file with the .pnf extension, which it uses for installation tasks. Although the Setup Information file is a crucial part of the driver installation process, you don t work with it directly. Instead, this file supplies instructions that the operating system uses during Plug and Play detection, or when you use the Add Hardware Wizard or a Setup program to install a device.
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Note
The syntax of Setup Information files is complex, and the intricacies of .inf files can trip up even experienced software developers. If you find that a driver setup routine isn t working properly, you might be tempted to try editing the Setup Information file to work around the hang-up. Trust us: That approach is almost certain to fail. In fact, by tinkering with .inf files, you run the risk of corrupting registry settings and crashing your system.
When Windows completes the installation of a driver package, it performs all the tasks specified by the Setup Information file and copies the driver files themselves to %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers.
Is That Driver Signed
As we noted earlier in this chapter, Windows Vista requires that all driver packages be trusted before they can be added to the driver store. Drivers pass an initial threshold of trust when they are digitally signed. But not all signatures are created equal. Here s a description of how Windows Vista handles different types of drivers:
The highest level of trust is assigned to drivers that are signed by Microsoft s Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL) through the Windows Logo Program. These so-called WHQL-signed drivers can be installed by any user, on any 32- or 64-bit version of Windows Vista, without any warnings or request for consent. Drivers can also be signed by third parties using Authenticode signatures, which use a certificate that is issued by a Certificate Authority whose certificate is stored in the Trusted Root Certification Authorities store. If an Administrator has added the publisher s certificate to the Trusted Publishers store, the driver can be installed with no prompts by any user. If a driver is signed by a publisher whose certificate is not in the Trusted Publishers store, it can be installed by an administrator only. Installation will fail silently for users who are not members of the Administrators group. An administrator can also choose to add this type of signed driver to the driver store, after which it can be installed by any user with no prompts.
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