OK, then. It was with great curiosity and interest that I read a spate of stories about Intel’s latest round of DCH drivers (version 18.104.22.16841 to be incredibly specific). DCH, in case you didn’t know — I didn’t — stands for Declarative Componentized Hardware support. Here’s a link to the Microsoft Docs article “Universal Driver Scenarios” that explains this driver architecture.
What ordinary mortals need know only is that these are the kinds of drivers designed to work with UWP apps. In other words, DCH drivers represent the latest and greatest design and implementation thinking for device drivers from MS and its partners. Thus, the title of this article falls out almost naturally as a consequence of the way DCH works. The device maker (Intel) creates a base level DCH driver for some kind of component, and OEMs can add customizations through further add-on updates via WU. This beats the old mechanisms, wherein Intel would issue a “generic” driver and pass it off to OEMs, who would then customize it, for update release through their own update channels (not Windows Update).
The Intel Announcement For 22.214.171.12441
On April 27, Intel announced it would provide DCH drivers for its 6th generation and higher-numbered CPUs with integrated GPUs (6th gen = Skylake; 7th gen = Kaby Lake; 8th gen = Kaby Lake R; 9th gen = Coffee Lake; 10th gen = Cannon Lake/Ice Lake). In theory, this means that anyone can now install the generic driver on any suitably-equipped PC, and wait for the OEMs to issue such additional customizations as might be needed through Windows Update. Here’s how Intel explains it on their Intel Graphics — Windows 10 DCH Drivers web page, asserting that this unlock will start on April 28 (the day I wrote this story):
Unlocked drivers: We heard how much our users want the freedom to upgrade their systems to our regularly released generic graphics drivers and enable our latest game enhancements, feature updates, and fixes. As of this release, Intel Graphics DCH drivers are now unlocked to upgrade freely between Computer Manufacturer (OEM) drivers and the Intel generic graphics drivers on Download Center. Simply use the exe and enjoy the update on your 6th Generation Intel Processor platform or higher, and don’t worry about your OEM customizations–they remain intact with each upgrade and the OEMs can maintain customizations separately via Microsoft* Windows Update. Intel Drivers and Support Assistant drivers will also be unlocked starting April 28th, 2020.See the Release Notes section *4 for important information about this update.
Before I tried to run the afore-linked .exe file (see DCH driver page), here’s what Device Manager showed for my GPU driver. Indeed it is the latest and greatest customized graphics driver from Lenovo.
It Didn’t Quite Work Out as Described (for Me, Anyway)
To recap, Intel says “Download the .exe and you can install it on any PC running 6th gen or higher CPU/GPU combos without losing OEM customizations.” I have to laugh, because my experience was exactly the reverse of what they describe. When I tried running the .exe file on my 8th generation Lenovo X380 Yoga laptops, here’s what popped up on their screens in response:
This is the very kind of error message the new DCH drivers was supposed to obviate. Alas, it didn’t work as advertised.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Repeated tries, and attempts to update the driver file itself (named igfx_win10_100.8141.exe) produced the same results: the error message shown above, and no driver update.
Then inspiration struck: I downloaded the other option that Intel offers (a compressed file archive named igfx_win10_100.8141.zip). Next, I unzipped it into a folder on a secondary drive, and pointed the Device Manager’s Update Driver → Browse my computer for drivers → Search for drivers in this location folder to where I’d unpacked those contents. Voila! The Installing drivers... window popped up. It took its sweet time to install the latest Intel DCH driver (about 3 minutes, in fact). But indeed, the result was a driver version that matched the one named in the download file: 126.96.36.19941.
While things didn’t quite work out — for me, at least — the way Intel describes them in its download documentation, I was able to bring my test machines up to the latest DCH driver level. Here’s visual proof:
As you can see, the reported driver version matches the one on the Intel download file: 188.8.131.5241. Update success!
Now, I must hope that my back-handed methods produce a stable and reliable display environment. On both of my Lenovo X380 Yogas, things appear to be working OK. I’ll update likewise to my X1 Extreme and X390 Yoga soon. I will report back here should any hiccups occur. I’m not expecting that to happen, but who knows? It just goes to show that sometimes when the front door is barred, the back door remains open. I’ll let you make of that observation what you will…
Hopefully, by the time you read this, and try the .exe file on your own rig with customized OEM drivers, the error message will no longer pop up. But if it does, you can try my method and see if what worked for me also works for you. Cheers!
[Note added May 6, 2020] It turns out the generic Intel drivers should only be applied to PCs whose OEMs have already supplied their own customized DCH drivers. Then, indeed, the .exe installer will work and it won’t over-write those customizations. But if you do as I did, and force update from the ZIP file, it will over-write all OEM customizations as it installs the new driver (because Lenovo has not yet issued its own DCH drivers). I was able to roll back to the OEM version by downloading the Lenovo (non-DCH) customized driver, and using the “Have disk” method in Device Manager to roll back. See my May 6 blog post Beware Intel DCH Upgrades on Non-DCH Drivers for all those details. Live and learn, dear readers, live and learn. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader on Twitter who pointed out my fallacy — that is, believing the Lenovo drivers were DCH based — I have managed to fix things back up.
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.