How to export Windows drivers using DISM

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 11, 2021
Windows tips

Did you know that you can use the built-in tool DISM on Windows machines to export drivers?

Windows comes with a set of drivers to make sure that most hardware devices work out of the box. Manufacturers create drivers for their devices that users may install; these may add support for functionality or may be required to get a device working at all on a Windows PC.

If you plan to migrate to a new Windows PC or to set up the current one from scratch, you may be interested in having these custom installed drivers at hand to install them.

Tip: you may list all installed third-party Windows drivers using the free tool DriverView. Nir Sofer has another tool, InstalledDriversList, which you may use as well. There is also Driver Store Explorer that you may use.

How to export drivers using DISM

export windows drivers dism

With DISM, it takes one command to export drivers on the current Windows system. Here is how that is done.

  1. Open Start.
  2. Type cmd.exe.
  3. Select Run as administrator.
  4. Run the command dism /online /export-driver /destination:<path>
    • replace <path> with the path that you want the exported drivers to be saved to, e.g. c:\users\martin\downloads\driver-export\
    • Note that the folder needs to exist, you get an error otherwise and no export.

The command exports all third-party drivers to the destination folder. Note that you may also use it to export drivers from an offline image using the following command (run from an elevated PowerShell prompt)

Export-WindowsDriver -Path c:\offline-image -Destination d:\drivers

Check out Microsoft's Docs website for a full list of available parameters.

The process may take a moment to complete. A test on a Surface Go device resulted in 101 exported drivers. The process took several minutes to complete.

The exported drivers are placed in the specified folder. Each driver is put in a separate folder.

exported drivers

Recognition may be difficult, as folder names may not reveal much about the driver. You may open the .inf file in a folder in a plain text editor to look up additional information.

Import the exported drivers

Importing can be done for individual drivers or, by using a special command, for all drivers.

You may right-click on an .inf file to install the driver. Another option that you have is to open the Windows Device Manager to use the update driver button. Using it, you get an option to pick a driver from the local system. Just pick the exported driver and wait for the process to complete.

A recursive import of all exported drivers requires the tool pnputil.exe. Run the following command in an elevated command prompt window:

pnputil.exe /add-driver <path>\*.inf /subdirs /install

Replace <path> with the full path of the exported drivers folder.

Closing Words

It takes a single command to export all third-party drivers on Windows systems. Using it before setting up a system anew or migrating to a new system may help users who don't have access to certain driver installations anymore. (via Born)

How to export Windows drivers using DISM
Article Name
How to export Windows drivers using DISM
Want to export all third-party drivers on Windows? You can do so using a single-command using DISM, to export all drivers so that you may install them again if the need arises.
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  1. Slam Down said on June 7, 2024 at 9:24 am

    Truly Epic. This is a life saver for restoring/upgrading old hardware with hard to find drivers or specially those who have newer, more finicky drivers while the old ones work perfectly. Windows update doesn’t always get the right ones. Thank you so much

  2. Norio said on August 13, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you, Martin! I didn’t know you could export drivers with a Windows mechanism.
    By the way, I don’t think you need to know which driver sub-folder contains a particular driver in order to import it. You can have the Windows “Update Driver Software” take care of that for you.

    1) Right-click the missing, problematic or old driver entry in Device Manager & choose Update Driver Software.
    2) Click on “Browse my computer for driver software.”
    3) In the “Search for driver software in this location” section, browse to the directory that contains all of your driver sub-folders. Be sure the “Include subfolders” box is toggled on.
    Windows will search through all the sub-folders until the appropriate one is found.

    I should say that this works with the driver bundle cabs that Dell provides for each of its computers, and I’m not aware of any reason it shouldn’t work with the exported driver folders as described in your article.

  3. Yuliya said on August 11, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    Very useful. I was aware you can export the drivers but I did not know you can import them all at once.

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