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How do I stop Windows from re-installing drivers just because I used a different USB port?


How can I stop Windows Me/2000/XP from reinstalling the same drivers for
the same and only one USB device that’s been inserted into different USB
ports on the same PC? In other words, I have this same device which I’ve
inserted into different USB ports on just one PC and Windows just keeps
installing drivers for it, when it’s just that one device but inserted into
a different USB port. Can’t Windows just use the same driver installed the
first time it detected such a device? My particular example is a webcam. A
driver is installed whenever I move it to a different USB port.

I don’t believe you can.

However, I also believe that Windows is actually lying to you.
Unintentionally perhaps, but it’s not being completely truthful about what
it’s doing.

It may say that it’s installing drivers every time.

But it’s my strong belief that after the first time … it’s not.

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Installing drivers for the first time

When Windows encounters a new device connected via just about any means,
its plug-and-play architecture kicks in and attempts to identify the device
to make sure that the system has everything that it needs to properly
interface to the device.

Obviously, that means that the first time that Windows encounters a device for
which it does not already have installed or built-in support, it needs to
somehow locate and install the software that provides that support; namely,
what we refer to as the “drivers” for that device. Drivers are nothing
more than software that knows how to “translate,” if you will, between
Windows and the specific needs and capabilities of the hardware device being

Windows includes many drivers – some are simply part of Windows while some are
included on the Windows distribution media and are installed (or requested)
only when needed. Often, drivers are not part of Windows itself, but are
available via the Microsoft website where they are download automatically as

Of course, neither Windows not the Microsoft website provide drivers for
some devices, which means that the drivers need to be provided by a third
party. Typically, it’s the device manufacturer. Often, the process is automatic,
and it requires a few extra steps on your part to locate the drivers
for Windows to use.

But regardless of where they came from, once the drivers are installed, the
device that they support can be used.

Installing drivers after the first time

The phrase “Installing Drivers” is, I believe, actually a misnomer, and
only refers to one part of what’s really happening. It might typically be the
most time-consuming part of the process, but it’s not the only part of the

I believe that “Installing Drivers” means (at least) two things:

  • Locating and installing any missing software drivers for a new device

  • Configuring Windows and the driver to access the device

For example, when you insert a device into a different USB port than it
was originally plugged into, that same process kicks in. The drivers are
already there, but the configuration needs updating to reflect the
new location of the device.

I believe that Windows simply pops up the “Installing” message even if the
only thing it needs to do is update the configuration for the device in its
new location. That’s probably just a number of settings in the
registry, but it could certainly be a lot more.

So is it actually “Installing Drivers” the second time?

Probably not.

It’s more like a misleading message, or at worst, a little white lie.

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3 comments on “How do I stop Windows from re-installing drivers just because I used a different USB port?”

  1. thanks for that info. I thought that was what was happening, and usually try to use the same usb device in the regular port/socket, cheers, david.

  2. If I notice my PC do this (i.e. go through the procedure simply because I used a different port), then I tend to plug the item into all the available USB ports at that point, to stop it doing it again when I am in a hurry.
    On a side note (and kind of this article’s question in reverse), is there a way to get windows to display the “this may work better in a 2.0 port” every time it is applicable? I have no idea which ports are 2.0 on my system, but I have noticed it only ever does it once, regardless of how many ports I try.

    On most computers if one port is a 2.0 port they all are. That message misfires and comes up occasionally for other reasons, which is why it seems to only happen “sometimes”.

  3. I think that you are you are half correct and half wrong.

    What is wrong ?
    1) Files are being copied during the “second” instalation.
    2) Registry keys are being changed during the “second” instalation.

    Basically the whole instalation takes place again, and what is being done depends a lot on whatever exists in the inf file.

    But, you are correct that there is nothing to do about it, because from windows point of view, this is a comletly new device, and hence it needs it’s own installation. Remeber that windows does NOT know if this is a new device or not. So, windows acts based on the USB port number. I think that windows “expects” the old device to re-appear in “it’s” old USB port.



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