Driver Package Isolation

Driver package isolation is a requirement for Windows Drivers that makes drivers more resilient to external changes, easier to update, and more straightforward to install.


While Driver Package Isolation is required for Windows Drivers, Windows Desktop Drivers still benefit from it through improved resiliency and serviceability.

The following table shows legacy driver practices that are no longer allowed for Windows Drivers in the left column along with the required behavior for Windows Drivers in the right column.

Non-isolated Driver Isolated Driver
INF copies files to System32\drivers Driver files are run from the driver store
Interacts with other drivers using hardcoded paths Interacts with other drivers using system-supplied functions or device interfaces
Hardcodes path to global registry locations Uses HKR and system-supplied functions for relative location of registry and file state
Runtime file writes to any location Driver writes files to system-supplied locations

Run From Driver Store

All isolated driver packages leave their driver package files in the driver store. This means that they specify DIRID 13 in their INF to specify the location for driver package files on install.

A WDM or KMDF driver that is running from the DriverStore on Windows 10 version 1803 and later which needs to access other files from its driver package should call IoGetDriverDirectory with DriverDirectoryImage as the directory type to get the directory path that the driver was loaded from.

Alternatively for drivers that need to support OS versions before Windows 10 version 1803, use IoQueryFullDriverPath to find the driver's path, get the directory path it was loaded from, and look for configuration files relative to that path. If the kernel mode driver is a KMDF driver, it can use WdfDriverWdmGetDriverObject to retrieve the WDM driver object to pass to IoQueryFullDriverPath. UMDF drivers can use GetModuleHandleExW and GetModuleFileNameW to determine where the driver was loaded from. For example:

if (bRet) {
    charsWritten = GetModuleFileNameW(handleModule,

For a file payloaded by an INF, the subdir listed in the SourceDisksFiles entry for the file in the INF must match the subdir listed in the DestinationDirs entry for the file in the INF.

Additionally, a CopyFiles directive cannot be used to rename a file. These restrictions are required so that the installation of an INF on a device does not result in the creation of new files in the DriverStore directory.

Since SourceDisksFiles entries cannot have multiple entries with the same filename and CopyFiles cannot be used to rename a file, every file that an INF references must have a unique file name.

Dynamically finding and loading files from the Driver Store

In some scenarios, a driver package may contain a file that is intended to be loaded by a binary in another driver package or by a user mode component.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • A user mode DLL provides an interface for communicating with a driver in the driver package.
  • An extension driver package contains a configuration file that is loaded by the driver in the base driver package.

In these situations, the driver package should set some state indicating the path of the file or a device interface exposed by the device.

For example, the driver package could use an HKR AddReg to set this state. For this example, it should be assumed that for ExampleFile.dll, the driver package has a SourceDisksFiles entry with no subdir. This results in the file being at the root of the driver package directory, and the DestinationDirs for a CopyFiles directive specifies dirid 13.

Here is an INF example for setting this as device state:

AddReg = Example_DDInstall.AddReg


An INF example for setting this as device interface state would be:

AddInterface = {<fill in an interface class GUID for an interface exposed by the device>},,Example_Add_Interface_Section

AddReg = Example_Add_Interface_Section.AddReg


The previous examples use an empty flags value, which results in a REG_SZ registry value. This results in the %13% being turned into a fully qualified user mode file path. In many cases, it is preferable to have the path be relative to an environment variable. If a flags value of 0x20000 is used, the registry value is of type REG_EXPAND_SZ and the %13% converts to a path with appropriate environment variables to abstract the location of the path. When retrieving this registry value, call ExpandEnvironmentStrings to resolve the environment variables in the path.

If the value needs to be read by a kernel mode component, the value should be a REG_SZ value. When the kernel mode component reads that value, it should prepend \??\ before passing it to APIs such as ZwOpenFile.

To access this setting when it is part of the device's state, first the application must find the identity of the device. User mode code can use CM_Get_Device_ID_List_Size and CM_Get_Device_ID_List to get a list of devices, filtered as necessary. That list of devices might contain multiple devices, so search for the appropriate device before reading state from the device. For example, call CM_Get_DevNode_Property to retrieve properties on the device when looking for a device matching specific criteria.

Once the correct device is found, call CM_Open_DevNode_Key to get a handle to the registry location where the device state was stored.

Kernel mode code should retrieve a PDO (physical device object) and call IoOpenDeviceRegistryKey.

To access this setting when it is device interface state, User mode code can call CM_Get_Device_Interface_List_Size and CM_Get_Device_Interface_List.

Additionally CM_Register_Notification can be used to be notified of arrivals and removals of device interfaces so the code gets notified when the interface is enabled and then can retrieve the state. There may be multiple device interfaces in the device interface class used in the above APIs. Examine those interfaces to determine which is the correct interface for the setting to read.

Once the correct device interface is found, call CM_Open_Device_Interface_Key.

Kernel mode code can retrieve a symbolic link name for the device interface from which to get state. To do so, call IoRegisterPlugPlayNotification to register for device interface notifications on the appropriate device interface class. Alternatively, call IoGetDeviceInterfaces to get a list of current device interfaces on the system. There may be multiple device interfaces in the device interface class used in the above APIs. Examine those interfaces to determine which is the correct interface that should have the setting to be read.

Once the appropriate symbolic link name is found, call IoOpenDeviceInterfaceRegistryKey to retrieve a handle to the registry location where the device interface state was stored.


Use the CM_GETIDLIST_FILTER_PRESENT flag with CM_Get_Device_ID_List_Size and CM_Get_Device_ID_List or the CM_GET_DEVICE_INTERFACE_LIST_PRESENT flag with CM_Get_Device_Interface_List_Size and CM_Get_Device_Interface_List. This ensures that hardware is present and ready for communication.

Using Device Interfaces

When state needs to be shared between drivers, there should be a single driver that owns the shared state, and it should expose a way for other drivers to read and modify that state.

Typically, the driver that owns the state exposes a device interface in a custom device interface class. When the driver is ready for other drivers to have access to the state, it enables the interface. Other drivers can register for device interface arrival notifications. To access the state, the custom device interface class can define one of two contracts:

  • An I/O contract can be associated with that device interface class that provides a mechanism for accessing the state. Other drivers use the enabled device interface to send I/O requests that conform to the contract.
  • A direct-call interface that gets returned via a query interface. Other drivers could send IRP_MN_QUERY_INTERFACE to retrieve function pointers from the driver to call.

Alternatively, if the driver that owns the state allows direct access to the state, other drivers could access state by using system-supplied functions for programmatic access to device interface state.

These interfaces or state (depending on sharing method used) need to be properly versioned so the driver owning the state can be serviced independently of other drivers that access that state. Driver vendors cannot rely on both drivers being serviced at the same time and staying at the same version.

Because devices and drivers controlling interfaces come and go, drivers and applications should avoid calling IoGetDeviceInterfaces at component start-up to get a list of enabled interfaces.

Instead, the best practice is to register for notifications of device interface arrival or removal and then call the appropriate function to get the list of existing enabled interfaces on the machine.

For more information about device interfaces, see:

Reading and Writing State


If your component is using device or device interface properties to store state, continue to use that method and the appropriate OS API's to store and access state. The following guidance is for other state that needs to be stored by a component.

Access to various state should be done by calling functions that provide a caller with the location of the state and then the state is read/written relative to that location. Do not use hardcoded absolute registry paths and file paths.

This section contains the following subsections:

PnP Device Registry State

Isolated driver packages and user-mode components typically use two locations to store device state in the registry. These are the hardware key (device key) for the device and the software key (driver key) for the device. To retrieve a handle to these registry locations, use one of the following options, based on the platform you are using:

AddReg = Example_DDInstall.AddReg


Device Interface Registry State

Use device interfaces to share state with other drivers and components. Do not hardcode paths to global registry locations.

To read and write device interface registry state, use one of the following options, based on the platform you are using:

Service Registry State

Registry values that are set by the INF for driver and Win32 services should be stored under the "Parameters" subkey of the service by providing an HKR line in an AddReg section, and then referencing that section in the service install section in the INF. For example:

Addservice = ExampleService, 0x2, Example_Service_Inst

DisplayName    = %ExampleService.SvcDesc%
ServiceType    = 1
StartType      = 3
ErrorControl   = 1
ServiceBinary  = %13%\ExampleService.sys

HKR, Parameters, ExampleValue, 0x00010001, 1

To access the location of this state, use one of these functions, based on your platform:

These registry values supplied by the INF in the “Parameters” subkey for the service should not be modified at runtime and should be treated as read only. Registry values that are written at runtime should be written under a different location. To access the location for state to be written at runtime, use one of these functions:

Device File State

If files related to a device need to be written, those files should be stored relative to a handle or file path provided via OS API’s. Configuration files specific to that device is one example of what types of files to be stored here.

Service File State

Both Win32 and driver services read and write state about themselves.

To access its own internal state values, a service uses one of the following options:

To share internal state of the service with other components, use a controlled, versioned interface instead of direct registry or file reads.

DriverData and ProgramData

Files that are to be used as part of intermediate operations that can be shared with other components should be written to either DriverData or ProgramData locations.

These locations offer components a location to write temporary state or state that is meant to be consumed by other components and potentially collected and copied from a system to be processed by another system. For example, custom log files or crash dumps fit this description.

Avoid writing files in the root of the DriverData or ProgramData directories. Instead, create a subdirectory with your company name and then write files and further subdirectories within that directory.

For example, for a company name of Contoso, a kernel-mode driver could write a custom log to \DriverData\Contoso\Logs and a user-mode application could collect or analyze the log files from %DriverData%\Contoso\Logs.


The DriverData directory is available in Windows 10, version 1803 and later, and is accessible to administrators and UMDF drivers.

Kernel-mode drivers access the DriverData directory by using a system-supplied symbolic link called \DriverData. User-mode programs access the DriverData directory by using the environment variable %DriverData%.


The %ProgramData% user-mode environment variable is available for user-mode components to use when storing data.