There are only two common situations where you might need to move a driver from one computer to another: moving a driver from a computer with Internet access to a computer without Internet access and copying an obscure driver which you can’t find anywhere else from a computer which has it to a computer which doesn’t have it.
I do not recommend most other situations where you copy drivers from one computer to another. There are too many things which can go wrong. Copying all of the drivers from one computer to another computer, even if it has the same hardware and the same version of Windows, can break your computer so that it won’t even boot into safe mode.
The Easiest Way To Copy Drivers From One Computer To Another
If you manually installed the driver on the first computer, you may have the executable (.exe) file you used to install the driver. I always try to keep every installation program I use in a directory called Installers on my desktop so that I can easy reinstall programs if they start behaving weird. If you do something similar, you can copy the driver installer to the computer which needs it and run it.
Beware that most driver installers are specific to particular versions of Windows and particular versions of the hardware. You probably can’t install a driver on the wrong version of Windows; it just won’t work. If you install the wrong driver for your hardware, it can cause your hardware to malfunction—sometimes permanently.
In general, if you have a working Internet connection, you should use it to install the correct drivers for your computer. But this is where I see most people needing to install drivers from one computer to another: when they can’t get the Internet working on a particular computer, but they know the same network card works on another computer. If that’s your situation, then use the computer which can connect to the Internet to download the driver installer directly from the network card manufacturer’s website. Then copy that file to the offline computer and install the driver.
What To Do If You Can’t Find The Driver Installer
If you have a piece of obscure hardware on your computer and you can’t find a driver installer for it on the Internet, you may be able to find a computer which does have the driver currently installed. If you have the same (or similar) version of Windows and the same model of device, you might be able to use the already-installed driver files, but it will be a lot of work and success is not guaranteed. Before you start this process, you may want to try searching a little harder on the Web for a driver installer you can use.
If you really must use the already installed drivers, open the Control Panel on the computer which has the driver already installed and go the the Device Manager. On some versions of Windows, this is a tab in the System Properties window. Find the hardware you need the driver for and open its setting screen. One of the tabs (it varies on different versions of Windows) should tell you what files the driver uses; it may also tell you about Windows registry settings. You need to copy these files to the same location on the other version of Windows and duplicate these registry settings.
To copy the files, I recommend that you copy them each individually to a single folder on your desktop. Then copy that folder to a USB drive or Dropbox share and use the USB drive or Dropbox share to copy them to the computer you want to install the driver on. Then copy each file to its location.
To change the registry settings on your computer, you will need to use the Registry Editor. Be very careful: messing up the your Windows Registry can make your computer behave oddly. You can start the Registry Editor by typing regedit into the Run… box on the Start menu.
You probably won’t be able to copy and paste from one computer to another unless you use software like Synergy, so you need to retype the registry entries by hand. Be very careful to type everything correctly. After that’s done, save your changes to the registry and reboot your computer.
If it worked, your device should start working after the reboot. If it didn’t, make sure you put all the files in the right place and that you transcribed the registry entries correctly. Even if you did everything correctly it may not work—this is an unofficial way of copying drivers from one computer to another and it won’t work in all circumstances.
Alternative Ways To Copy Drivers
If you absolutely need to copy drivers from one computer to another and the above solutions didn’t help, you have two more options.
The first one is to get paid help. Take both of your computers to a computer repair shop, explain your problem, and ask for their fee. I recommend that you ask that they guarantee the work so you don’t have to pay if they can’t copy your driver successfully. Repair experts can often figure out how to shoehorn a driver from one computer to another in ways that are particular to each driver.
The other method is a bit more drastic, unless you have a new computer. You can clone the entire computer with the working driver and install the cloned software on the computer without a working driver. To clone a computer, you can use any full-system backup and restore software.
Cloning a computer will wipe out any information stored on the target computer, so this isn’t a step you should undertake lightly. It’s a last ditch attempt you should use after you’re absolutely sure there is no other way to get a driver installer.
After you install the cloned system on the target system, the two computers will be identical (in software), so they’ll both have the same software and you will have successfully moved the driver from one computer to another.
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