By Friday, the end of the current week, Intel plans to remove old drivers and BIOS updates from its official website.
“This download, BIOS Update [BLH6710H.86A] 0163, will no longer be available after November 22, 2019 and will not be supported with any additional functional, security, or other updates,” reads a message posted to the download page of one of the impacted components.
“Intel recommends that users of BIOS Update [BLH6710H.86A] 0163 uninstall and/or discontinue use as soon as possible,” the message continues.
The downloads are drivers and BIOS updates for Intel desktop components and motherboards the company released in the 90s and early-to-mid 2000s.
Downloads for hundreds of components are believed to have been impacted, from motherboards to NIC cards and graphics cards.
Most of the drivers are for Windows versions like 98, ME, XP, and older Windows Server editions — old Windows OS versions that have themselves reached end-of-life (EOL)
All components and motherboards reached (EOL) years ago, and Intel stopped delivering firmware updates as a result. Its website was merely hosting the older files for convenience.
Users who needed the drivers to reinstall old workstations were using Intel official site to get the most recent versions of the drivers or BIOS updates.
Now, the files will be removed, in a move that has sparked anger with many system administrators who are still running legacy systems using older Intel gear.
One tweet perfectly describes the frustration and rage of most system administrators when hearing of Intel’s plans.
“DEAR COMPANIES THAT MAKE HARDWARE: YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HOST YOUR DRIVERS UNTIL THE SUN EXPLODES OR YOU GO OUT OF BUSINESS, NOT UNTIL YOU GET TIRED OF HOSTING 20 MEGABYTES,” said a Twitter user in September when Intel first began showing the EOL message on its Downloads Center.
“I can’t believe this. All these years I’ve been recommending Intel products because of their long term support,” said a user on a HackerNews discussion. “I know these boards are legacy, but does it really cost them that much to host the files for occasional downloaders?”
The company’s move is a very controversial one. As the two users cited above point out, most users expect that a hardware vendor will host its drivers for eternity, despite the product itself reaching EOL and not being available commercially.
This allows users who’ve lost old installation media to get access to a component’s driver or BIOS update from an official location.
But the reality is that things don’t always work like this. While users believe a vendor will make drivers available in perpetuity, contracts and terms of service don’t guarantee this, and there’s no obligation on the vendor’s part to do so.
Intel is certainly not the first hardware vendor to purge drivers and BIOS updates from its website for EOL products. HP did something similar in 2017.
Many users believe companies purge old firmware in an attempt to force customers to buy new gear once they find themselves in a situation unable to install and use older components.
However, not all hardware vendors take this approach. For example, both Dell and Lenovo are known to provide users with full access to older drivers. Lenovo, in particular, has a section on its website specifically dedicated access to downloads for EOL products.
MIRRORS AND MALWARE WARNINGS!
In the meantime, there are certain things that owners of older Intel gear must do. The first is to download the drivers and BIOS updates for their respective components and motherboards from Intel’s official website, while they’re still available.
Second, if they’re reading this piece after the November 22 deadline, they can use a mirror of Intel’s FTP site, like this one or this one, to download the needed files. Other community efforts are also underway.
Third, they should stay away from downloading Intel drivers and BIOS updates from dodgy “downloads websites.” As several users commenting on a HackerNews discussion pointed out, this is the ideal time and circumstance for malware authors to create websites that offer firmware downloads laced with malware for older Intel gear.
Additional discussions on this topic are available in this Vogons forum discussion and this HackerNews comment thread.