Should you install Windows 10's Optional Driver updates?

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 28, 2020
Updated • Sep 28, 2020
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft moved driver updates in Windows 10 from the Device Manager to the Optional Updates section of the Windows Updates settings application this year after the company announced the change in 2019.

Windows 10 administrators who check these optional updates may see one or multiple drivers offered on the device there.

Some administrators may find the listing irritating; should these updates be installed if they are offered, or avoided?

windows 10 optional driver updates

Another question that may come to mind is why some updates are displayed with a release date that dates back to 1970, and why some updates lack date information altogether.

The answer is relatively simple, and Microsoft provides a short explanation on the page:

If you have a specific problem, one of these drivers might help. Otherwise, automatic drivers will keep your drivers up to date.

The optional drivers should not be installed on devices that don't have any issues or problems that may be associated with the devices that the listed drivers power, e.g. Wi-Fi connectivity or the printer. They are to be ignored if everything works as expected.

If problems or issues are encountered, then it is possible that these drivers may resolve these issues as they provide an alternative to the drivers that are used on the device currently.

Windows 10: roll back a driver

windows rollback driver

Windows administrators may uninstall the alternative drivers again after they have been installed, e.g. by using the Device Manager's driver rollback feature:

  • Use Windows-X to display the admin menu and select Device Manager.
  • Locate the component, right-click on it and select Properties from the menu.
  • Switch to the Driver tab.
  • Use the Roll Back Driver button to start the process.

Older or default drivers

The drivers offered under optional updates are usually older or default drivers, and that is one reason why some of them are backdated (as they might be installed otherwise, e.g. via Windows Updates or by the administrator).

Microsoft will push updated drivers to devices via Windows Updates if manufacturers release new driver versions that pass certification; this is an automatic process that happens behind the scenes. Drivers that are installed automatically via Windows Update are rolled out gradually.

Drivers in Optional updates provide an option if a device that is powered by one of the offered drivers is not working properly. Administrators could also hunt down a driver on the manufacturer's website instead. Older drivers, beta drivers, or new drivers may be offered there and they may resolve the issue as well.

Now You: Do you install drivers manually on your devices? (via Deskmodder)

Should you install Windows 10's Optional Driver updates?
Article Name
Should you install Windows 10's Optional Driver updates?
Recent Windows 10 devices may display a list of drivers under Windows Updates > Optional Updates. Should these be installed or best be avoided?
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  1. Ben said on November 15, 2020 at 2:22 am

    Regarding the 1968/1970 dates on some drivers: that is Intel’s fault, a few years ago, they decided to date some of their chipset drivers those years. Nothing to do with Microsoft.

    Regarding all the people saying to get drivers from an OEM, some OEMs send their drivers to Microsoft to be distributed on Windows Update. That being said, Microsoft doesn’t ask questions when OEMs stop sending them drivers which results in Windows sometimes downgrading your drivers if you upgraded a driver yourself but Windows deems the older driver in it’s catalog better, even if it’s older.

  2. Emil said on October 2, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    I turned this off after it kept installing some broken gfx card driver that made the system bluescreen. About time this was made optional.

  3. Al Unser said on October 2, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    I like race car drivers

  4. BSOD said on October 1, 2020 at 4:56 am

    This is the absolute Top #1 Priority in every fresh Windows Installation(Disconnect internet and disable Windows Driver Update)….. Download OEM/Manufacturer Drivers and their prerequisites like VC++/.Net Framework on a Flash Drive(on a separate computer/phone/tablets with OTG to transfer files), only Install M$ Drivers if you cannot find OEM/Manufacturers Drivers but make a Restore Point/Backup cause I had many cases of M$ Generic Drivers causing BSODs.

  5. Danniello said on September 30, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    The problem is that OEM “drivers” very often are not only installing drivers but also some bloatware and spying tools (so called “telemetry”). For example: nVidia installer by default is installing telemetry and plenty of bloatware (3D Viewer for example).

    The same problem is with Microsoft advertised drivers – many of them are installing some boatware/telemetry/spying tools. Sometimes they even not hiding it – they are visible in tray menu. For example additional Volume control that is duplicating system volume control (plus of course “telemetry”/”call home” spying functionality).

    What to do? The simplest method is… do not use Windows:) Linux (for example Fedora:) by default is free from spying/bloatware. One exception: nVidia. If you have nVidia GPU – unfortunately you need to use nVidia proprietary driver in Linux, but even then – nVidia Linux driver is much less boated than Windows version.

    1. SpywareFan said on September 30, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      Good luck with Linux if you rely on professional SW that is coded only for Windows.

  6. SpywareFan said on September 30, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Do you install drivers manually on your devices?
    Yes, mostly because I don’t trust M$ incompetence.
    Long time ago, before Win10 introduction, updated drivers were needed to fix driver bugs, now manufacturers must update drivers because of continuous useless changes in the inOS code and often to introduce useless forced telemetry (usage statistics/tracking).
    Main problem here is not M$ managing updates, it’s updating M$ managers!

  7. smmi said on September 29, 2020 at 9:23 am

    the clown-posse spies that are Microsoft – with their raggedy operating system – now wants to mess with my hardware?… hahahahaha….

  8. ULBoom said on September 29, 2020 at 4:29 am

    Drivers? Yeah, sure, I don’t install updates until they’re a month old or more. I’d never consider their drivers.

    Why? Try and update a Win 10 machine that’s been sitting unused for 2-3 years and watch the fun as Windows Update installs a mix of old and new, reboots and creates a different mix, reboots again and again until almost nothing works and you give up and ISO the OS offline after wiping the boot drive.

    Too proud to tell the user to reinstall the OS with the current version? The Linux people aren’t. Router people aren’t. Etc., etc.

    This is gonna sound strange but Snappy Driver Installer Origin is superb at finding drivers; one of the very few utilities I use. Otherwise, hardware mfg or OEM sites are safest.

    It was reviewed at gHacks:

  9. michlin said on September 28, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    My optional drivers were dated 7/18/1968. Are they too lazy to get the correct release dates???

    1. Jonh G. said on September 29, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      1968? Windows was not released already I guess. :[

  10. JohnIL said on September 28, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    These with my computers look like fall back drivers that are older then current ones installed. If your having issues with a more recent driver you could install one I guess. I think I would avoid them unless you discover they can fix a issue your having. Nothing new here previous Windows had a similar optional list for more obscure issues.

  11. Violetmoon said on September 28, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    I so implicitly trust Microsoft that if they say I need a driver, then I go ahead and install it. Printer, Wi-Fi, Network Card, FAX, whatever. There detector is supreme.

    Happy Yom Kippur–the Holiest Day of the Year!

    No antisemitism, please. Thanks!

    Shalom–wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence.

  12. EP said on September 28, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    only works with Windows 10 version 2004 & higher, Martin
    Optional Driver Updates may not occur with 1909 & older

  13. ipnonymous said on September 28, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    How does one activate the option to see optional drivers? Wondering if when adjusting windows 10 for improved privacy I accidentally turned this option off.

  14. John G. said on September 28, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Microsoft drivers should work better with Microsoft Windows, shouldn’t they? ;o

  15. spook said on September 28, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    Never more. I have before and it is usually loss of component function. Just this year I lost use of Brother printer thanks to ms forcing driver update. I found a procedure here on ghacks to delete it from the update queue.

  16. Mothy said on September 28, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    When I first started using computers back in the mid 1990’s I learned the hard way it is best to stick to OEM drivers. So when I briefly used Windows 10 Pro (went back to 8.1 now) one of the first things I did was block drivers updates via Group Policy.

    For OEM drivers I download their setup program (or INF files) then extract them into directories named for each piece of hardware (ex. chipset, network, video, audio, etc.) then save a copy to my local NAS for future use (ex. if wiping/re-installing the OS). Once the OS is installed I then manually install the drivers typically in the same order as listed above. After that I only look for/update drivers if there’s a problem which is rare.

  17. Sebas said on September 28, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    HP does not offer any driver updates for 2004, so in my situation it might be useful.

  18. Yuliya said on September 28, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Component manufacturer driver > device/OEM driver > Microsoft/generic driver
    Assuming compatibility is assured and/or the missing OEM software features (if any) have no use for you. Sometimes, especially on laptops, it’s best to use the OEM audio driver, but GPU driver always get the latest version from NVIDIA/Intel website.
    However, in my experience, WU pulled the device/OEM drivers for a couple of times while I set up a friend’s PC, which pretty much halfed my time spent on it.

  19. RobG said on September 28, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Microsoft should have large notices posted in all their developer’s offices, reading…..

    …If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it !!!

  20. PD said on September 28, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Article raises the question why some driver updates have dates from 1970. Then defers to an MS quote that does not answer this question.

    Anyone in computing for a second knows that 1970 is essentially the default date in computing when software has no other actually meaningful date to display. Any half-decent developer will display “N/A” or just nothing at all. That an actual OS is unable to get this detail right is yet another indication that Windows X.whatever_month_it_is_now is a perpetual beta quality piece of crap. Maybe one time next decade it might be finally ready for RTM?

  21. Trey said on September 28, 2020 at 9:11 am

    I wouldn’t ever, but the benefit of this is you may see a driver that you didn’t know was outdated and wouldn’t have otherwise. Then you can go investigate.

    A side rant: I don’t and never will sign into a Microsoft account. The DCH graphics drivers are a real piss-off. Unless you knew better, you basically were being coerced into needing a MS Store account to get the nvidia control panel. Screw them and their drivers. I have that junk turned off in gpedit.

    1. ULBoom said on September 29, 2020 at 3:47 am

      That’s a real mess. There are non-DCH versions available now. Try tech powerup, Nvidia drivers:

      Can’t tell the difference between versions, for a year or so you’d get the driver but no GUI without an MS account, which I don’t have and never have had, so during that period my graphics drivers were out of date.

      Now I get the whole thing with no account and Store access enabled or not in gpedit.

      Confusing as hell!

    2. Nicolaos said on September 28, 2020 at 10:54 pm

      I don’t have an account, yet I’m able to normally get Nvidia’s control panel and Realteks Sound Panel every time I manually update the driver.

  22. ilev said on September 28, 2020 at 8:15 am

    NEVER install Microsoft drivers. Block drivers updates.
    Always update/download drivers directly from OEM.

    1. Dan said on September 28, 2020 at 5:42 pm

      This is not really the case in 2020, while you are correct in the best drivers available are from the OEM. Microsoft since 64bit WHQL driver signing which is essentially Windows 7 going forward Microsoft driver updates via Windows Update have been overall quite good and a lot easier on the average consumer computer user and also helps the average computer user from trying to accidentally update the wrong driver for the hardware version then trying to force them because the user got it wrong, not Windows. 10-15 years ago I would have given the same advice as you posted. The article provided here is really just reflecting the recent change in updates. This recent change with optional drivers are for those who experience issues with current drivers as an alternate quick fix. Although what you suggest is a better method than using these optional updates though it is nice that Microsoft provides this as an alternative though it can be a bit confusing to someone who doesn’t understand this concept anyways. Most blue screens these days from from bad RAM or from bad power supplies. I just don’t agree with the “NEVER install Microsoft drivers.”, and “Block driver updates.” It is nice when the manufacturer provides an update tool for such purposes though such as Dell Command update, or any such service for a motherboard vendor. I don’t think many people are going to go to the respective website to search for such driver updates or understand the hardware or version number to the point to download the proper drivers as a alternate to your suggestion that can cause more issues than Microsoft driver updates.

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