The DPInst.exe utility from Microsoft allows you to pre-install device drivers. It is only officially available as part of the Windows Driver Kit.

From time to time I encounter the situation where I need to install device drivers onto a system when the hardware isn’t physically available. The DPInst.exe utility from Microsoft allows you to do this, by performing a driver pre-installation. It is only officially available as part of the Windows Driver Kit (free 619MB ISO), although some creative googling might help you find it without rinsing your bandwidth so much. You’ll also find it included in many driver packages already as an installation mechanism.

In the past I have used this utility to push out drivers to all systems on my network ahead of rolling out new hardware (e.g. portable printers) to some mobile users, so that when the users get the hardware, they can just plug it in and it works. This is especially good when your users don’t have any local admin privileges. You could also make a CD containing all your device drivers with a single, simple, installation interface.

I passionately hate the unnecessary rubbish that comes bundled on the discs with many device drivers! You might find the Microsoft Update Catalog useful if you are a fan of small and simple driver packages. It is basically a directory of all the drivers that are available to the Windows Update system. You can also search by hardware ID, which is nice for that ‘unknown device’.

Once you have got your driver package (it should contain .inf, .sys, .dll, .sys files), as a quick starter, you can simply copy 'DPInst.exe' into the folder, and run it from there. You’ll see a welcome screen (This can be customised via a configuration xml file placed in the same directory – more on that in a bit.)

Pre-install device drivers - DPInst.exe - Installation Wizard

Once the next button is clicked, you’ll see the drivers in the current directory being installed to your system.

Pre-install device drivers - DPInst.exe - Installation

Finally DPinst.exe will show a summary of all the drivers that it has installed. Any drivers that failed for any reason will have a red X beside them.

Pre-install device drivers - DPInst.exe - Installation Wizard

DPInst.exe has quite a few options that can be set by means of the DPInst.xml file (created in the same directory as DPInst.exe), here are a few examples, for a comprehensive list, please check the official documentation.

To install drivers silently (useful for incorporating into system build, logon script or with software delivery systems):

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<dpInst>
  <suppressWizard/>
  <quietInstallStrict/>
</dpInst>

To have DPInst.exe search subdirectories for drivers (This is great if making a CD that installs a selection of drivers, as you can create a folder for each driver type (graphics, sound, etc.) then another folder for each individual driver):

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<dpinst>
  <search>
   <subDirectory>*</subDirectory>
  </search>
</dpinst>

As mentioned earlier, you can customise the text in the utility, which can be useful in a number of situations:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<dpInst>
 <language code="0x0409">
  <dpinstTitle>GK Driver Installer</dpinstTitle>
  <welcomeTitle>Welcome to the GK Driver Install Utility</welcomeTitle>
  <welcomeIntro>This wizard will install GK drivers to your system.</welcomeIntro>
  <installHeaderTitle>Installing the software for your GK device...
    </installHeaderTitle>
  <finishTitle>Congratulations! You are finished installing your GK device.
    </finishTitle>
  <finishText>Drivers are now installed for your GK device.</finishText>
 </language>
</dpInst>

The full documentation is worth a look to get the full use out of this handy little utility!

4 Comments
  1. Sitaram 12 years ago

    This sounds useful. So, I can use this tool if I have to *update* drivers across all the computers in domain?.

  2. Geoff Kendal 12 years ago

    Sitaram, you should be able to use it to update drivers by using it in a login script, with the silent XML configuration, or a package deployment solution (I’ve used it with WPKG and Altiris in the past)

  3. Thomas 8 years ago

    Thanks for the creative googling trick to find dpinst.exe! That saved me a lot of time…

  4. Wicus 8 years ago

    Dude ….

    You rock ! After battling an entire night, now sitting with a “hangover” due to lack of sleep battling to change from IDE to AHCI on a SuperMicro X8SAX with Intel ICH10, you blog sorted me in 20 minutes !

    Thanks once again.

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