Back up your third-party hardware drivers in Windows 10

Tracking down drivers and control software for internal and external hardware devices after a clean reinstall of your Windows 10 Operating System doesn’t have to be a tedious job. The secret is to back up the driver file repository that Windows 10 kindly maintains for you.

Windows 10 includes a full library of class drivers that allow most devices, internal and external, to function without requiring any additional software. This core library is copied during Windows setup to a protected system folder, which means that most devices will work immediately after you finish Windows 10 Setup.

But unlocking the full capabilities of a device sometimes requires a third-party driver and control software, which can be installed by an OEM on a new PC or delivered via Windows Update. (You can also acquire up-to-date drivers by downloading them from the hardware vendor’s website and running an installer program.)

Regardless of how they’re acquired, all these added drivers (along with setup information files and supporting files required for installation) are saved in their own sub-folders within a special system folder. Back up that folder and you can save yourself hours of searching for drivers if you ever need to reinstall Windows from scratch on that device.

To back up your current collection of drivers, open File Explorer and go to C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore. Copy the FileRepository subfolder to a backup location, such as a USB flash drive or removable hard drive. (This folder and all its sub-folders can be several gigabytes in size, so make sure you use a big enough backup drive.)

After your clean install is complete, you can quickly reinstall any custom drivers by using the Update Driver option from Device Manager and specifying the backed-up copy of the FileRepository folder as the location where you want Windows to look for new driver files.

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