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Load and unload device drivers


Applies To: Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8

This security policy reference topic for the IT professional describes the best practices, location, values, policy management, and security considerations for this policy setting.


This policy setting determines which users can dynamically load and unload device drivers. This user right is not required if a signed driver for the new hardware already exists in the file on the computer. Device drivers run as highly privileged code.

Windows supports the Plug and Play specifications that define how a computer can detect and configure newly added hardware, and then automatically install the device driver. Prior to Plug and Play, users needed to manually configure devices before attaching them to the computer. This model allows a user to plug in the hardware, then Windows searches for an appropriate device driver package and automatically configures it to work without interfering with other devices.

Because device driver software runs as if it is a part of the operating system with unrestricted access to the entire computer, it is critical that only known and authorized device drivers be permitted.

This policy setting is supported on versions of Windows that are designated in the Applies To list at the beginning of this topic.

Constant: SeLoadDriverPrivilege

Possible values

  • User-defined list of accounts

  • Default values

  • Not Defined

Best practices

  1. Because of the potential security risk, do not assign this user right to any user, group, or process that you do not want to take over the system.


GPO_name\Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\User Rights Assignment

Default values

By default this setting is Administrators and Print Operators on domain controllers and Administrators on stand-alone servers.

The following table lists the actual and effective default policy values for the most recent supported versions of Windows. Default values are also listed on the policy’s property page.

Server type or GPO

Default value

Default Domain Policy

Not defined

Default Domain Controller Policy


Print Operators

Stand-Alone Server Default Settings


Domain Controller Effective Default Settings


Print Operators

Member Server Effective Default Settings


Client Computer Effective Default Settings


Operating system version differences

There are no differences in the way this policy setting works between the supported versions of Windows that are designated in the Applies To list at the beginning of this topic.

Policy management

This section describes features, tools, and guidance to help you manage this policy.

A restart of the computer is not required for this policy setting to be effective.

Any change to the user rights assignment for an account becomes effective the next time the owner of the account logs on.

Group Policy

Settings are applied in the following order through a Group Policy Object (GPO), which will overwrite settings on the local computer at the next Group Policy update:

  1. Local policy settings

  2. Site policy settings

  3. Domain policy settings

  4. OU policy settings

When a local setting is greyed out, it indicates that a GPO currently controls that setting.

Security considerations

This section describes how an attacker might exploit a feature or its configuration, how to implement the countermeasure, and the possible negative consequences of countermeasure implementation.


Device drivers run as highly privileged code. A user who has the Load and unload device drivers user right could unintentionally install malicious software that masquerades as a device driver. Administrators should exercise care and install only drivers with verified digital signatures.


You must have this user right or be a member of the local Administrators group to install a new driver for a local printer or to manage a local printer and configure defaults for options such as duplex printing.


Do not assign the Load and unload device drivers user right to any user or group other than Administrators on member servers. On domain controllers, do not assign this user right to any user or group other than Domain Admins.

Potential impact

If you remove the Load and unload device drivers user right from the Print Operators group or other accounts, you could limit the abilities of users who are assigned to specific administrative roles in your environment. You should ensure that delegated tasks are not negatively affected.

See Also

User Rights Assignment