Chapter 5: Customizing Your Computer’s Hardware Devices
Early FireWire implementations, which I’ll call standard FireWire (as opposed to the
FireWire, FireWire 100, or FireWire 200 designation), have a different number of
pins on their connector cables and a different number of connectors on their ports.
Because of this, you can tell standard FireWire and FireWire 400 apart by looking
closely at the cables and ports. If you look closely at standard FireWire cables and
ports, you’ll see four pins or four connectors. If you look closely at FireWire 400
cables and ports, you’ll see six pins or six connectors. FireWire 400 cables may also
be slightly thicker than standard FireWire cables (because they have more wires and
require more shielding than standard FireWire).
When you are purchasing an external device for your computer, you’ll also want to
consider how easy it is to connect the device to different systems. Although just about
all Windows-based computers have USB 1.0 or higher ports, not all computers have
FireWire ports. Because of this, if you are purchasing an external device for use at
home and at the office, you may want to get a device that supports USB. For a bit more
money, you also may be able to get a device with a dual interface that supports USB 2.0
and FireWire 400, or a triple interface that supports USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and Fire-
Wire 800. A device with dual or triple interfaces will give you more options.
Hardware Installation: What You Need to Know
Each hardware device installed on your computer has an associated device driver.
The device driver tells the operating system how to use the hardware abstraction
layer (HAL) to work with the related hardware device. The HAL in turn performs the
low-level communications with the hardware device. When you install a hardware
device through the operating system, you are essentially telling the operating system
about the device driver it uses, and this is what allows the operating system to work
with the device.
When you are installing hardware devices and working with device drivers, you need
• Where the operating system stores device drivers
• How the operating system validates device drivers
• When the operating system checks for driver updates
You’ll find answers to these questions in the sections that follow.
Where Does the Operating System Store Device Drivers?
Windows Vista has an extensive library of device drivers, which are maintained in the
driver store. You’ll find the driver store in the %SystemRoot%\System32\DriverStore
folder. Within the driver store, you’ll find subfolders with localized driver informa-
tion for each language component configured on the system. For example, for local-
ized U.S. English driver information, you’ll find a subfolder called en-US.