Why all of Microsoft's Windows drivers are dated June 21, 2006

Today is June 21, and this particular date is rather important for Windows, but probably not for a reason you might have expected. Should you be rocking drivers supplied by Microsoft for Windows, you'll be able to find out the date they were released by heading into Device Manager (simply search "Device Manager" with Cortana). Interestingly, all of these drivers are dated to June 21, which seems to imply that they were rolled out today, but that's not the case when you check the year: 2006, exactly 11 years ago.

So is Microsoft simply slacking when it comes to accurately dating its drivers? Not at all. As new versions are released, the version number tied to the driver increases (as one would expect) but the date remains the same. It turns out, there's another reason the company dates its drivers to that particular date. Microsoft discussed the reason in an article on MSDN:

When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen.

In a nutshell, when Windows looks for drivers for a new device connected to the PC, it attempts to match it via hardware ID. If more than one driver is a solid match, the OS selects the one with the most recent timestamp. This is why the company sets the older June 21 date on its drivers, which avoids a situation in which a Microsoft driver was selected over a manufacturer-provided alternative.

Unfortunately, there's no cool easter egg here but it's a neat way for Microsoft to ensure that better drivers are selected, should they be presently installed on the system. Again, Microsoft summed it up nicely in the MSDN blog:

It's an awesome example of something that seems stupid and insignificant turning out to have a profound purpose.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.