If you frequently check for updates on Windows 11 or Windows 10, you might have noticed old drivers and even defunct drivers under the optional updates section. In the past few years, users have received driver updates listed as “INTEL – System”, which is backdated to 1968 despite having been delivered right after upgrading to Windows 11.
Most of these drivers – which may appear problematic due to their odd specification – are available under the Optional Updates settings panel of Windows 11 and Windows 10. In a new blog post, Microsoft has explained why and how these drivers are backdated on Windows.
For those unaware, there are mainly three types of driver releases – drivers issued by Windows/Microsoft, companies like Intel and Nvidia, and custom drivers developed by PC manufacturers.
According to the company, the dates on all Windows drivers are set to June 21, 2006 to reduce compatibility issues.
How drivers are backdated on Windows
Windows Update ranks drivers on various factors including the date. For example, if a driver available in Microsoft’s driver library is a perfect match to the hardware ID of the device, then it will become the top candidate and users will be able to download it.
However, if there is more than one driver matching the hardware ID, a driver with the most recent timestamp is automatically chosen. If there is a tie between multiple drivers in this case as well, Microsoft will look at the highest file version number matching the build release date.
But there’s a catch – Windows drivers will automatically have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer when you install a new Windows build. As a result, your manufacturer drivers will get replaced by Windows drivers and this could break specific features on your device.
Windows drivers are apparently backdated to avoid the situation highlighted above.
By backdating Windows drivers, Microsoft is allowing manufacturer drivers to retain priority over the Windows-provided driver.
In another document, Microsoft said that Intel drivers are backdated to 1968 (the year when Intel was founded) for the same reason – lower the rank of Intel’s drivers when manufacturer drivers are available.
“This is necessary because it’s a supporting utility that should not overwrite any other drivers. Updating Intel(R) Chipset Device Software is not needed – do not worry if you don’t have the latest version,” Intel noted in a now-deleted blog post.