Intel has released a new version of its Windows 10 Graphics Driver, but there are some things to be aware of before you download and install the software. This new driver — 126.96.36.19944 — is the first Intel driver written to support Microsoft’s Windows Modern Drivers, also known as Universal Windows drivers. According to Microsoft, the benefit of using this style of driver is that they “enable developers to create a single driver package that runs across multiple different device types, from embedded systems to tablets and desktop PCs.” Unlike previous editions of Windows, Windows 10 1809 (the much-maligned October Update) requires UWDs.
According to Microsoft, adopting this style of driver simplifies the entire driver-writing process in multiple ways. The device manufacturer/integrated hardware vendor (IHV) is responsible for writing the base driver, while the OEM shipping the final product (Dell, HP, etc) is responsible for the integration of any optional component packages. Microsoft writes:
After IHV has certified the base driver, it can be deployed on all OEM systems. Because a base driver can be used across all systems that share a hardware part, Microsoft can test the base driver broadly via Windows Insider flighting, rather than limiting distribution to specific machines. The OEM validates only the optional customizations that it provides for the OEM device. Universal drivers are distributed through Windows Update, and hardware support apps are distributed through the Store.
Intel is evidently referring to these as both Modern Windows Drivers (MWD) and Universal Windows Drivers (UWD). The download file for 188.8.131.5244 has UWD in the file name, for example. These new drivers also support auto-tuning for a wider range of games; this feature is similar to the automatic optimization capabilities Nvidia provides through its GeForce Experience utility.
Intel does, however, warn users to be careful when making the shift from standard drivers to the new UWD format. If you wish to uninstall this driver and return to the older driver style, the company warns that you must uninstall the UWD driver via the Windows Apps and Features menu. “Failure to do so,” it writes, “may result in minor to catastrophic issues on your system as well as system instability.”
Users are also warned not (original emphasis) to use the INF/Have Disk method of installing the driver, as this can also result in major to minor system instability. Intel will not be distributing a ZIP file for the next several driver releases in order to make it clear that users need to install the driver through the executable rather than via manual process.
The net impact on end users should be small, though the new Intel drivers do include some nice features. In addition to supporting a larger number of games, the system can now scan for new titles without requiring a reboot, supports Valve’s new Artifact, reduces memory consumption when running OpenGL titles, and improves battery life when Display Refresh Rate Switching is enabled on supported monitors. Vulkan stability is also reportedly improved.