Intel embraces Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform for future graphics drivers

Intel has a new graphics driver available, but it's a bit different than previous versions and comes with a pretty big warning—be careful if rolling back to a previous version, or you could mess up your system. More on that in a minute.

The latest driver is the first to support Microsoft's Windows Modern Drivers, also called a Universal Windows Driver (UWD). What this essentially means is that Intel is embracing Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) framework for its current and future graphics drivers. These consist of single packages that can be installed on any compatible Windows device, be it a PC, 2-in-1 laptop, tablet, or whatever.

"Microsoft is changing the way that hardware drivers work on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), Windows 10 (and later), and Microsoft Windows Server 2019 (and later). Hardware running on these operating systems can use Windows Modern Drivers (also known as Universal Windows Drivers - UWDs). Note that Microsoft requires the use of Windows Modern Drivers for Windows 10 1809 (RS5) and later. Intel will begin distributing Windows Modern Drivers for its products beginning in November 2018," Intel explains in a support document.

One of the benefits is that UWP drivers can be doled out to users automatically via Windows Update. The transition shouldn't have a big impact on users, though Intel warns that once you upgrade, it's not recommended to roll back to a previous, non-UWD release as it "involves a complex process that could result in system instability." Simply put, the new drivers are not backwards compatible with previous drivers.

"This means if later you want to revert to a legacy driver you will need to uninstall the driver via Windows Apps and Features and reboot the system before installing a legacy driver. Failure to do so may result in minor to catastrophic issues on your system as well as system instability," Intel explains.

"DO NOT use the INF / Have-Disk method to install or uninstall this driver as it bypasses the Intel installer designed to install these new drivers, thereby possibly resulting in minor to major system instability. For this reason, we're not providing the ZIP file for the next several driver releases while users transition to this new Microsoft driver platform," Intel further warns.

Beyond the new framework that Intel has adopted, the latest driver release is notable because it adds support/optimizations for a dozen games, including Fallout 4, Far Cry 5, FIFA 18, Paladins, Path of Exile, The Sims 4, Smite, Borderlands 2, Euro Truck Simulator 2, PUBG, Rocket League, and The Witcher. These are in addition to already supported games, including American Truck Simulator, Battlefield 1 and 4, Call of Duty: WWII, Destiny 2, DOTA 2, GTA V, League of Legends, Overwatch, and World of Tanks.

The latest driver also improves upon Intel's automatic game tuning feature, reduces RAM consumption when using OpenGL, adds Vulkan driver stability improvements, and improves battery life when using display refresh rate switching (DRRS) on supported monitors, according to the release notes (PDF). A bunch of bug fixes are included as well.

If you're using integrated graphics and are ready to make the jump, follow this link to grab the new driver package.