DCH Design Principles and Best Practices
This page describes design principles and best practices for Windows Drivers.
DCH Design Principles
There are three design principles to consider for a Windows Driver to be DCH-compliant:
Declarative (D): Install the driver by using only declarative INF directives. Don't include co-installers or RegisterDll functions.
Componentized (C): Edition-specific, OEM-specific, and optional customizations to the driver are separate from the base driver package. As a result, the base driver, which provides only core device functionality, can be targeted, flighted, and serviced independently from the customizations.
Hardware Support App (H): Any user interface (UI) component associated with a Windows Driver must be packaged as a Hardware Support App (HSA) or preinstalled on the OEM device. An HSA is an optional device-specific app that's paired with a driver. The application can be a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) or Desktop Bridge app. You must distribute and update an HSA through the Microsoft Store. For details, see Hardware Support App (HSA): Steps for driver developers and Hardware Support App (HSA): Steps for app developers.
The acronym "DCH" refers to the principles listed above. Please refer to the DCH-Compliant Driver Package Example page to see how a driver sample can apply DCH design principles.
Driver packages that are DCH-compliant contain an INF file and binaries that install and run on Universal Windows Platform (UWP)-based editions of Windows. They also install and run on other editions of Windows 10 and 11 that share a common set of interfaces.
DCH-compliant drivers consist of the following parts:
- A base driver
- Optional component packages
- An optional hardware support app
The base driver contains all the core functionality and shared code. The optional component packages can contain customizations and additional settings.
Typically, a device manufacturer, or independent hardware vendor (IHV), writes the base driver. Then, a system builder, or original equipment manufacturer (OEM), provides any optional component packages.
After an IHV has certified the base driver package, it can be deployed on all OEM systems. Because a base driver package can be used across all systems that share a hardware part, Microsoft can test the base driver package 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 system.
To create a driver package that follows DCH design principles, follow these steps:
- Create an INF file for your driver:
- Review the list of INF sections and directives that are valid in Windows Driver packages.
- Use the InfVerif tool to verify that your driver package's INF file follows Declarative (D) requirements for Windows Drivers. It should pass
- Ensure that any optional component packages that do not contain core driver functionality are separated from the base driver package.
- Hardware support applications associated with your driver package must be distributed through the Microsoft Store.
If you're using the Windows Driver Kit (WDK) with the latest available Visual Studio, set the Target Platform value in the driver project properties to
Windows Driver. This automatically adds the correct libraries, and it runs the proper INF validation and ApiValidator as a part of build. To do this:
- Open the driver project properties.
- Select Driver Settings.
- Use the drop-down menu to set Target Platform to
If your INF performs any custom setup actions that depend on the target platform, consider separating them out into an extension INF. You can update an extension INF independently from the base driver package to make it more robust and serviceable. For more information, see Using an extension INF file.
If you want to provide an application that works with your device, include a UWP app. For more information, see Hardware Support App (HSA): Steps for driver developers. An OEM can preload such an app by using DISM - Deployment Image Servicing and Management. Or, users can manually download the app from the Microsoft Store.
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