If you’re a long time Windows user reading a tech blog, chances are you’ve had to mess around with drivers in the Device Manager at some point. You might’ve noticed something peculiar – Microsoft’s drivers are from 2006. Specifically, June 21, 2006.
Surely Microsoft has updated drivers since then, right? After all, most of the components in your computer were probably released after 2006. Is it a bug that’s been around since last decade? Did Microsoft invent a time machine?
Turns out there’s a simple explanation. A Microsoft developer took to Reddit to explain the technical quirk – which is actually a purposeful choice:
When PNP [plug and play] ranks drivers, it first looks at the hardware ID that the driver matches. If any two drivers match identical hardware, the first tiebreaker is the date of the driver. So if you had a device that could use a built-in driver, but you had installed some custom/OEM driver on your device, every time MS updates our driver, it would overwrite your custom driver because the date is newer than the one you wanted. How do we avoid this? Every driver we ship has the Vista RTM date, regardless of when it was last updated (we update the version number, which is the next tiebreaker if the date is the same). Since only drivers as far back as Vista are compatible with new versions of Windows, every driver should have a date newer than Vista RTM, preserving the driver you installed as the best ranked driver.
Basically, Microsoft includes backup drivers for new installs and emergencies, but wants to make sure official manufacturer drivers are prioritized over its own. The easiest way to do that with the appears to be simply setting the date for its own drivers to be older than the rest. That doesn’t mean the drivers are actually from the Windows Vista era *shudders*.
Not the most elegant solution in the world, but hey, it works! Mystery solved. For a more thorough explanation, another Microsoft employee details the idea in a blog post here.