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Disable requirement for signed drivers in 64-bit Windows Vista

Each successive version of Windows has gotten a bit tighter in terms of how it handles hardware drivers. There's good reason for this: Third-party hardware drivers, especially badly-written ones, have over time been revealed to be one of the biggest sources of system instability.

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Learn why when working with Windows Vista and hardware drivers, beware of the 64-bit hardware barrier.

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The x64 edition of Vista requires signed drivers for hardware—which can be a real problem if you have an application that attempts to install a driver that isn't signed. Because driver signing isn't something many independent software publishers bother to do (some simply lack the resources to do it), that often leaves them out in the cold.

Fortunately, according to Chris Holmes, there's a workaround: It's possible to manually edit 64-bit Vista's boot configuration to disable the check for signed drivers. If you do this, any driver, signed or unsigned, can be installed as long as you have admin privileges.

However, one thing to be mindful of is that if you do this, it's a one-way street: You have to leave driver-signing off in order for an unsigned driver to work. In other words, you can't disable driver signing, install the driver in question, then re-enable driver signing. The process is simple enough.

  1. Open an elevated CMD prompt (hit Start, type CMD in the search box, and then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter to run CMD as an admin).
  2. Type: bcdedit /set loadoptions DDISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS
    (Note: That's DDISABLE -- with two Ds -- for "Driver Disable.")

Driver signing should be disabled after you reboot. Note: The way this command is phrased, it'll only make the changes in question for the current boot configuration. (If you want to create a second boot configuration with driver signing turned back on, that may be useful.)

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

This was first published in May 2007

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