Keeping your PC’s scores of drivers up to date is a thankless task, but it’s an essential one if you want to keep your system running smoothly. Uniblue’s Driver Scanner 2010 tries to make this chore as effortless as possible and, despite a couple of annoyances, it succeeds.
Windows Update in Vista and 7 does include driver updates, but it’s not perfect; often these are flagged as ‘optional’ and so aren’t obvious unless you dig into Control Panel. If a driver isn’t WHQL-certified for any reason it won’t make it into the update queue, and updating obscure drivers manually is a time-sapping task. For XP users Microsoft Update is pretty well useless for most driver updates, leaving you to trawl the web in search of updates.
Driver Scanner uses an online database of drivers and matches these with the components it finds installed in your PC. It then lets you download and install any newer versions automatically. By default a scan runs every time you launch the program, and the program runs at Windows startup, although this can be changed. There’s no scheduler, which we would have preferred over this arrangement.
This new version of Driver Scanner features a faster scanning engine, a revamped interface and support for Windows Vista and 7, including the 64-bit versions. There are no technical settings to configure, although you can (reversibly) choose to ignore any individual driver updates if you would rather leave them alone.
We found that on two PCs that had been running Windows Vista and Windows 7 for over a year, and which we had only been updating using Windows Update, the program found no outdated drivers, which if nothing else is a testament to the improvements in Windows Update. On an XP system of the same vintage it found 10 new drivers, for the chipset and network adapters.
Once the scan is complete, you’re presented with a list of drivers to install, and one new improvement is that you’re shown the old and new driver version details. Drivers are flagged as ‘safe’ or ‘risky’; the latter being those that might present prompts or warnings (unsigned drivers, for example) during installation. An extra warning screen is shown before these are installed. Drivers are installed individually, with Driver Scanner creating a System Restore point before each. It won’t do this unless Windows System Restore is enabled, however, and the program warns you if it’s been turned off.
We encountered a problem with one driver package, which was looking in the wrong directory for a file; clicking the ‘Report’ link lets you send details of any such problems direct to Uniblue for investigation. We tried the restoration process and it worked without incident.
The product does just what it’s supposed to do in an unfussy and reliable manner. Our only small gripe is that it’s not shy about promoting other Uniblue products, with prominent links and red ‘NOT INSTALLED’ warnings on the main menu screen. This doesn’t interfere with or detract from the functionality of the program, but a bit more subtlety would be welcomed.