Up to recently, all Windows 10 video drivers have been distributed through Windows Update. With the OS still under active development and this specific version of Windows including the greatest overhaul to the OS’s graphics layer since Windows Vista, Microsoft and the GPU vendors have not been taking any chances so far, limiting driver releases to Windows Update. However with Windows 10 getting closer to completion, it looks like that policy is coming to an end this month with the first stand-alone WHQL Win10 driver release from NVIDIA.

At the tail-end of last week NVIDIA released driver version 352.84 for Windows 10, which for the most part is analogous to today’s 352.86 release for Win7/8. 352.84 in turn marks an important stage in the development of Windows 10 display drivers, as it’s the first stand-alone WHQL driver release from NVIDIA. NVIDIA’s only previous stand-alone release was 352.63 Beta (also from the same R352 branch), which came out a couple of weeks ago.

The fact that NVIDIA was proclaiming this as their first WHQL release threw me for a loop at first, but after reaching out I’ve finally been able to piece together a near-complete picture. Throughout the release cycle of WDDM 2.0 drivers for Windows 10, the drivers being distributed through Windows Update were flagged as WHQL certified, including drivers like NVIDIA’s 349.90 release from March. The fact that Windows 10 was already claiming to have WHQL certified drivers made NVIDIA’s announcement very odd, since it would mean that Windows Update has been sending out WHQL’d NVIDIA drivers for months now.

However as it turns out, WHQL flagging on those earlier releases has been for distribution purposes (I suspect Windows isn’t setup to distribute and silently install non-WHQL drivers), and not for certification purposes. From a certification perspective, Microsoft only started accepting drivers for WHQL certification last Friday. So the release of 352.84 really is the first and proper WHQL display driver release for Windows 10, with the WHQL flags on earlier Windows Update releases having essentially been false.

Given the state of Windows 10 development, this makes a great deal more sense, as Microsoft traditionally doesn’t start certifying drivers until close to the OS’s release. And with WHQL certification opened up, this also indicates that Microsoft is looking to release the OS to manufacturing within the next few months, as has been rumored for some time now. But with that said, at this point Windows 10 is still under active development – just go install build 10074 and see for yourself – so while we have our first WHQL display drivers, I wouldn’t pop the cork just yet as there are clearly still some issues in the OS to work out, and I expect the GPU vendors will be chasing obscure WDDM 2.0 bugs for months to come. However for game developers working on the first wave of DirectX 12 games, this should be welcome news as it gives them a better platform to test against.

WDDM 2.0 Support Status
  Current Status
NVIDIA Maxwell 2 (900 Series) WHQL
NVIDIA Maxwell 1 (750 Series) WHQL
NVIDIA Kepler (600/700 Series) WHQL
NVIDIA Fermi (400/500 Series) In Development

Meanwhile since this is the first stand-alone WHQL release from Microsoft, we attempted to give these drivers a run on a Fermi card only to find that there’s no Fermi support in these drivers. Since 2014, NVIDIA has run a two-tier development track where Fermi support is disabled in beta drivers, and then enabled in release/WHQL drivers. We had been expecting something similar on the Windows 10 front, however this is not the case, with the current driver set only supporting Kepler and Maxwell. After checking with NVIDIA on the status of Fermi, they’ve told us that Fermi support is still under development and that they are “working hard to bring DirectX 12 driver support to Fermi-based cards as soon as possible.” Given that Fermi is the oldest GPU architecture to support DirectX 12 it’s going to be an interesting test case for the new API, but at the same time I’m not surprised that NVIDIA has focused on Fermi last since Kepler replaced Fermi almost 3 years ago (before Windows 8 was even out). In any case, we should be seeing WDDM 2.0 support for Fermi a bit later this year.

Anyhow, as always you can grab the drivers for all current desktop and mobile NVIDIA GPUs over at NVIDIA’s driver download page.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • III-V - Monday, May 18, 2015 - link

    Been having a lot of issues with my HD 7750... not sure if it's immature drivers, my Windows installation, or if it's my card. I had to reinstall Windows 10 after an update -- to what I believe was the most recent build -- kept freezing. Now Windows is stable, but I have a feeling it's the same underlying issue.

    Specifically, they're browser issues. Doesn't seem to matter which browser, 3D acceleration or not -- I get black corruption on occasion. Chrome doesn't get it as bad, and doesn't crash, but Waterfox and Firefox would get really corrupted rendering and crash a lot. I want to give Edge/Spartan a try, but not having Ad-Block is a dealbreaker.

    My instability issues aside, Windows 10 has been okay. I don't like that a lot of the control panel-type settings are only available in the fullscreen, "modern UI" mode. I liked Windows 8/8.1 a lot, so in this way, Windows 10 feels like a regression. In particular, I'd really like the old Windows Update launching in Windows Explorer -- the fullscreen app sucks. People that didn't care for Windows 8 may find Windows 10 more palatable than Win8 was, though.
  • sunny_87 - Saturday, May 23, 2015 - link

    Similar here. After recommended driver update, pc ends with a black screen. Forced HW reboot, then monitor goes to sleep mode directly. After couple of reboots i realized it puts display port off work. Luckily via DVI cable install & safe mode, was able to rollback this piece of pain. Driver error was like `card reported an isuue'. Ev3a 770 & win 8.1 here.
  • HollyDOL - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    GTX 580 here, not a single issue with graphics since I moved to Win10 in January, fingers crossed it keeps that way...
    for your sake let's hope famous era of lousy AMD (ATI back then) drivers won't be back.
  • przemo_li - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    DX12 have much easier driver architecture. A lot.

    Only lacking feature in Win10 is distribution of graphic drivers in shape gpu manufacturers dean necessary. Good luck finding Vulkan with MS provided Windows Update drivers.
  • inighthawki - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    DX12 is not the same thing as WDDMv2. WDDM is the driver model, and all of the various graphics platforms/runtimes require new drivers. WDDMv2 requires a brand new driver for DX9, DX11, DX12, OpenGL, CUDA, Mantle, etc.

    WDDMv2 introduces GPU virtual memory support and a buttload of new asynchronous residency features, both of which I'm sure very much complicate driver development beyond what they had to do before. I would certainly not expect this to be an easy set of features to support without running into issues.

  • przemo_li - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    While Windows Update, is good to have....

    Its HORRIBLE from standpoint of gamers/professionals.

    First group wont have castrated drivers (MS strip anything from drivers that do not have extensive MS made test suite - guess how MS treat eg. OpneGL... or will treat Vulkan....).

    Second need more stability (as drivers are certified to work with app X, and that is that).

    Shame that MS wont do something about first group needs.
  • A5 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    From their perspective, they are much better off serving the 95% of their market that doesn't care about games.

    And it isn't like the WHQL drivers in Windows Update are bad, they're just a bit behind the bleeding edge.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    It's a pretty good sign for nVidia that in comment regarding their new driver people only chat about AMD GPU drivers and Windows.

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