Last updated in November 2023

Rolling Back Drivers in Windows XP and Vista

Back in the day, it was extremely hard to repair or update problematic drivers in early versions of Windows. Thankfully, Windows XP and Windows Vista are much more user-friendly when it comes to troubleshooting drivers, mainly due to a new feature baked into Windows called Roll Back Driver. Drivers are small applications that enable hardware devices to talk to your PC's Windows operating system. Usually, you'll find a driver disk included in the box with whatever peripheral you're trying to use. In addition, most vendor's websites contain a download repository of new and archived driver files.

Windows Roll Back Driver is a lot like Windows System Restore utility. Both Roll Back Driver and System Restore help you by taking your computer 'back in time' to a state where things were working correctly on your PC. Now, System Restore is for going back to a time prior to the installation of a new application or a big system change; Roll Back Driver is only for taking you back to a point before a driver became corrupt or was incorrectly installed. One important note: if you choose to use Windows System Restore feature rather than Roll Back Driver you could see a lot of old changes come back and may even lose files installed or created since the most recent restore date, so be careful if you choose that route - back up your important files first!

With Roll Back Driver your system's current state is preserved, the only change being that the problematic driver is wiped out and is completely replaced by an older version you've had installed in the past. The most typical use for this feature is when you've installed a new driver update and start having problems or your device stops working. This can often be traced back to the new driver you've just installed. In these cases the Roll Back Driver feature can be a life-saver.