Windows 10 has several different security features. Some are obvious such as the UAC prompt you get when you run an unsigned executable, or when Windows Defender blocks an EXE from running. Besides these two obvious security features, there is plenty under-the-hood that keeps your system safe. Driver signature enforcement is one such feature.
Driver signature enforcement
Driver signature enforcement is much like signed apps; a signature on a file verifies that the app that is being run is both safe and approved by the developer and Microsoft. The two-tier approval means that the manufacturer has released drivers for a particular system and OS, and that they also have Microsoft’s stamp of approval. They’re delivered through the OS so that it’s easier for users to get them, and also for Microsoft to distribute them.
As great as the feature is, it can sometimes cause problems i.e., when you’re installing drivers that aren’t digitally signed when no signed alternative is available. Unfortunately, installing drivers that aren’t signed is much more difficult than installing apps that aren’t signed. You cannot just click an ‘allow run’ option to get it done. Instead, you have to disable driver signature enforcement to install the driver.
Restart with driver signature enforcement disabled
This is a temporary fix. You can boot to your desktop with driver signature enforcement disabled and install the driver you need to install. When you next boot to your system, it will be enabled again.
- Open the Start menu and click the Power button.
- Hold down the Shift key and click Restart.
- When you next boot, you will see the Troubleshoot screen/menu.
- Go to Advanced Settings. Select Startup Settings.
- Use the number keys to select the Disable driver signature enforcement option. It’s seven in the screenshot below but it might be different on your machine.
- When you boot back to your desktop, you will be able to install the driver.
Disable signing from the group policy
This solution works if you own Windows 10 Profession. Group policy is not available on Windows 10 Home and while you can install it on Windows 10 Home, it may not work right.
- Tap the Win+R keyboard shortcut to open the Run box.
- In the Run box, enter ‘gpedit.msc’, and tap Enter.
- Expand User Configuration.
- Go to Administrative Templates>System>Driver Installation.
- Look for and double-click Code signing for device drivers entry.
- In the window that opens, look under the ‘Options‘ section. Open the dropdown and select ‘Ignore‘.
- Click OK and restart your system.
Run Windows 10 in test mode
Windows 10 has a mode that you can run it in that’s built for when you have apps or drivers that are unsigned. It’s called Test Mode.
- Open Command Prompt with admin rights.
- Run the following command.
bcdedit /set TESTSIGNING OFF
- Restart your system and install the driver you want to use.
- When you’re done, open Command Prompt with admin rights.
- Run the following command to return to the normal Windows 10 mode.
bcdedit /set TESTSIGNING ON
- Restart your system.
Permanently disable driver signature enforcement
This is a method you should use with caution. Permanently disabling a security feature on any OS is rarely a good idea but it might be the only way to go in some cases.
- Open Command Prompt with admin rights.
- Run the following command to permanently disable driver signature enforcement.
bcdedit.exe /set nointegritychecks on
- Restart the system and install drivers.
- If you want to enable drier signature enforcement, you can open Command Prompt and run the following command. Restart your system.
bcdedit.exe /set nointegritychecks off
Installing unsigned drivers on Windows 10
Users normally have to install unsigned drivers in one of two cases; when their hardware is either very old, or exceptionally new. If a driver is too old, it is entirely possible that Microsoft no longer allows it to run on its OS. For newer drivers, those for new hardware, the driver may not have been submitted or Microsoft may not have approved it because the OS technology needs to catch up to the hardware’s capabilities.
In either case, you can see why running the driver may not be a good idea; you can run into issues either with hardware or with the OS.
Of course, installing these drivers isn’t always a bad idea. In some cases, the driver is perfectly suited for a system. The only thing it lacks is a signature. If you know for a fact that an unsigned driver will improve hardware performance on your system, you can install it.
Installing unsigned drivers on Windows 10 should not be taken lightly. Try and make do with drivers that are signed and delivered via Windows Updates. If you start getting frequent BSsOD, the unsigned driver might be to blame and you should roll it back. If you’re not sure about a driver, but are still determined to install it, make sure you create a restore point for your system before you proceed with the installation.