Mark Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #80 Late August 2009

Document copyright 2009 Mark Minasi; please see below for info on subscribing, unsubscribing or copying portions of this text.

What's Inside

  • News
    • Join Me At a Seminar!
  • Tech Section
    • Making Windows 7 Use Vista Drivers, Even if it Doesn't Want To
    • Need to Mount an ISO from Vista or Win 7 — Even 64-Bit ?  Use Virtual Clone Drive
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News

Hi all —

As promised (and reported in my last two "Windows 7:  Adopt or Not" newsletters at http://www.minasi.com/newsletters/nws0907.htm and http://www.minasi.com/newsletters/nws0908.htm), on August 6, Microsoft delivered Windows 7 via TechNet Plus, and I've been busy getting my workstations and laptops running Win 7.  I have, however, run into a few driver problems — but don't run away, Windows 7's driver problems are often soluble with a couple of tricks that I wanted to share.  They're just two of the things that I cover in my new Win 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 seminars, and speaking of them...

Tech Section

This month, a tip on making Windows 7 take those Vista drivers that it refuses to install but is perfectly capable of using... if it only knew how.  Also, a pointer to a great freeware app that lets you mount ISO images as drives, even on 64-bit systems.  (No MP3 version this month, sorry — it's just a short newsletter — but, I hope, a useful one!)

Got a Vista Driver That Won't Install on Windows 7?  Here's How To Fix Most of Those Problems

As I settle into using a Windows 7 laptop all day every day, I run into driver problems now and then.  Now, understand — I'm running 64-bit Windows 7 and I used to run 64-bit Vista, and in theory "if it's a Vista driver, it's a Win 7 driver."  But sometimes it seems that the drivers (or, rather, their driver's setup programs) don't seem to know that, and won't install correctly.  So here are a couple of tips that I've used to good effect.

Has Installing This Driver Been a Problem Even Before Windows 7?

Setting up my Win 7 systems has led to a number of problems installing USB-attached devices.  I started cursing Windows 7, until I eventually remembered that I'd seen problems with some of these drivers before.  I've occasionally had troubles installing drivers for USB-attached devices in XP and Vista if I'm running VMWare Workstation.  VMWare's usually-convenient ability to let me directly connect USB devices to particular VMs has gotten in the way of a few driver installs, but because I'd not run into that problem in a while, I'd forgotten an old rule:  when installing something USB-related for the first time and it won't install, make sure VMWare's not running.

Lie to the Driver

I was trying to get the driver for my Edirol UA-4FX USB audio capture box (the reasonably-priced tool that makes recording my newsletters easy) to load, but it refused, as the driver's setup.exe installation routine complained:

"The operating system that you are using is not supported.  Please check the supported operating systems.  Setup will be terminated."

Ah, I thought, the old "I'm not gonna run even if I could run, just because my programmer put a paranoid version check into the setup program" trick.  Heck, I know how to fix that:  just tell the setup program what it wants to hear.  To do that, make it believe that your OS is not that newfangled, frightening Windows 7 but instead good old Vista SP1.  (Anyone out there remember the "setver" command in DOS?)  Here's how I accomplished it, Windows 7-style:

  1. I right-clicked setup.exe and clicked Properties.
  2. In the resultant property page, I clicked the the "Compatibility" tab.
  3. On that page, I checked the box labeled "Run this program in compatibility mode for" and then selected "Windows Vista (Service Pack 1)."

Thus, when the Setup program asks the operating system its version, Windows 7 responds "Vista SP1" rather than the truth, the setup program gets Win 7 to swallow the drivers and all is well.

Slip the Driver in the Back Door

Even the "call it Vista SP1" thing doesn't work for some drivers, and when that happens, I skip the setup programs and all of the other GUI nonsense and talk directly to the operating system using the pnputil command.  Pnputil.exe is a command that first appeared in Vista.  It's a command-line tool (which means it's also useful in Server Core) that lets you install a driver on a system before you ever physically install the hardware that the driver's associated with, as pnputil has the power to pre-populate the "driver store" with a driver.  To use it, you

  1. Get the driver for the hardware that you want to install.  Different companies package their drivers in different ways, but most either offer a zip file or an EXE that's basically just a self-extracting zip file.
  2. Run the EXE or extract the zip's contents and you'll usually have a folder full of of files with extensions like DLL, CAT, SYS, and at least one with the extension ".INF."
  3. Open an elevated command prompt and type pnputil -i -a name-of-folder\*.inf, like "pnputil -i -a c:\newdriver\*.inf."  The system will think about it for a moment or two and report that you've properly installed the driver.

Now, understand that this won't fix all problems, as some drivers were written sort of lamely in the first place back in the Vista days (like the ones for my Tascam US-144), but these should help in many cases.

Need to Mount an ISO from Vista or Win 7 — Even 64-Bit ?  Use Virtual Clone Drive

Finally, a well-designed, free ISO mounting utility that's easy to use, works in Windows, and even works on 64-bit Windows.

I find that while much of the software that I use is distributed on CD or DVD, I only infrequently actually get a physical CD or DVD for that software.  Instead, I often opt to skip the physical media and just download an ISO-format file of the CD or DVD.  That simplifies storage — no stacks of discs to manage, the files can be indexed and the like.  Additionally, I've been a heavy user of VMWare since 2002 and, as anyone who's ever used a virtual machine manager knows, being able to feed a VM an ISO of a CD (a two-click operation) is a whole heck of a lot simpler than rooting around looking for the physical CD.

Where having a folder full of ISOs isn't attractive is when I need to use one of those ISOs on my physical computer.  The most obvious way to access the data on an ISO with a physical computer is by just burning the ISO to a blank disc and then popping that disk into the computer, which requires time and blank discs.  Over the years, various "ISO mounter" programs have appeared that will fool the physical computer into thinking that I've burned an ISO to a physical disc and popped that disk into the PC's actual optical drive, but they always cost money and I'm cheap.  Microsoft has given away an ISO mounter tool for a while, but it never worked reliably on a 64-bit OS.

Just the other day, however, I ran across a quite well-built ISO mounter that's been running great both on my 64-bit Vista and 64-bit Windows 7 systems.  Called Virtual CloneDrive, a company named Slysoft is kind enough to give it away at http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.html.  Give it a shot and I think you'll like it — I mean, how many PC system utilities contain an option for "virtual sheep?"

I hope you're enjoying your summer.  Thanks for letting me visit with you; as always, I'm at http://www.minasi.com/gethelp and please join us at the Forum with technical questions at www.minasi.com/forum

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All contents copyright 2009 Mark Minasi.  I encourage you to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.