Getting Started with 'Windows Drivers'

When you write a driver to run on the Windows operating system, you have two basic choices. You can write a Windows Desktop driver, which only runs on Windows Desktop editions. Or, you can meet a few extra requirements and write a Windows Driver, which runs on both Desktop and non-Desktop variants of Windows. The Windows Driver classification extends and replaces the older Universal Driver classification.

The following additional requirements apply to Windows Drivers:

The following table summarizes the distinctions between the two classifications:

Feature Windows Drivers Windows Desktop Drivers
Runs on Windows Desktop Yes Yes
Runs on non-Desktop variants of Windows Yes No
Must be certified with WHCP Yes No
WDK & HLK are primary vehicles for developing and certifying drivers Yes Yes
Adhere to stricter reliability and serviceability requirements (e.g. driver package isolation) Yes No

While it's not required for a driver running only on Windows Desktop to meet the additional requirements for a Windows Driver, doing so enhances driver serviceability and reliability, and also prepares the driver for possible future certification on non-Desktop variants of Windows.