Deployment gurus Michael "Knowledge House" Niehaus and Johan Arwidmark are on stage now for a discussion on incorporating drivers within your operating system deployment process. One of the biggest challenges with operating system deployment today involves correctly deploying drivers for all models of machines in your organization. The issues that stand in the way include various vendor packaging methods, driver applications that are not easily imported, new driver versions that drop support for old devices, and badly-formed INFs. In the past administrators would follow through the painstaking sequence of downloading individual drives. OEMs began realizing this issue and are now offering solutions for bulk driver downloads. For instance, Dell offers the full driver catalog for each model. Lenovo offers the Lenovo Update Retriever tool. And HP has the HP Update Software Utility.

One important thing to note about drivers is that there is a sequence of steps you should keep in mind when searching for the right driver. In general you should always go to the vendor first, such as Dell, HP, or Lenovo. If you can’t find a current driver, then you should then approach the vendor’s vendor, such as Nvidia and Intel. From there, if the driver still doesn’t apply or work correctly then you should look for the driver on the Microsoft Update Catalog. And if the Microsoft Update Catalog doesn’t offer the driver, then you can fall back to as a last resort.

Once you’ve gathered your drivers, you should then decide how to deploy then. There are three deployment types, total chaos, added predictability, and control freak. With the total chaos mode, you import every driver into one bucket and let the deployment tool decide which driver to apply. Benefits to the total chaos mode include simplified administration and driver repository management. The drawback is that every time a new driver is introduced there comes a risk of breaking deployments for other machine models. Added predictability is a bit different from the total chaos approach in that you may opt to create selection profiles to filter certain driver types, such as the separation of Windows XP drivers from Windows 7 drivers. And the control freak scenario applies to configuring MDT in such a way to deploy only the set of drivers for a particular computer model. Refer to this link for more information on this topic:

The drawback to using the control freak method involves more administrative time dedicated for each laptop model. If you have twenty or thirty or more models within your organization, then it can take a while to create the required driver directory structure within MDT. Niehaus and Johan recommend maintaining a Windows folder structure for your drivers that closely mimics the driver folder structure within MDT. Once you have your drivers in place, then you can take a look at this reference for using PowerShell to create your folder structure within MDT:

If you are new to deploying drivers with MDT or Configuration Manager then you should check out Johan’s videos for MDT 2010 Unleashed.