I always plug new hardware directly to the computer without using any installation CD, and let Windows look for the drivers(PSPO). A never had a problem with that. On the other hand, if I insert the installation CDs from the hardware manufacturers, they install all kinds of junk, especially startup programs, tray itmes, internet explorer plugins, and additional software like calendars, photo albums, etc. Usually this software works much worse than what comes with Windows, and often compromizes system integrity. It takes a lot of time to deinstall and clean up.
The worst case happened a few years ago to me: a wireless broadband modem by aon, a austrian internet provider. The installation CD, after many crashes and several telephone calls to the service line, even replaced the title bar of internet explorer to read “aon speed”. When trying the repair that, I corrupted my registry and had to reinstall WindowsXP from scratch (fortunately, I had up-to-date backups). On my new Vista Computer, I just connected to the wireless network Windows found on the air (the internet gave the hint that I have to press some button on the modem just before doing so for the first time, so that the modem registers and accepts the new computer) and everythink works. Additionally, I can now find the modem in the Network places list, and can look at the configuration through it’s embedded web server. This did not work with the software from the installation disk.
Similarly, I work with my Digital Camera (Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS) and my Scanner/Printer (HP PSC1600). For all of them, Vista has found drivers, and I can copy the images from the camera just as from a memory stick, and the printer/scanner dialog appears reliably if I print/scan. Both installation CDs want to install an album, despite Vista has a built-in Version (which I don’t use either), and also some free, probably junk picture editiors. Why should I use it if I have Photoshop? (before I forget to mention it: HP is much worse in this context than Canon).
Nov 9, 2008: I installed a Canon PIXMA MP240 Scanner/Printer without the installation CD and it worked perfectly! If I look into the manual, I can see that the installation CD would have installed junk like an OCR program (I have already two on my computer, one comes with Acrobat, ABBYY FinerReader is my favourite), a solution wizard, some manuals, and would have registered me at canon, and also asked me to join an extended survey. I can do the ink head calibration at any time later, actually the printout looks fine also without. I have saved a lot of time and disk space. Did I say somewhere on this blog that Canon products always work perfectly, and HP products don’t? The reason why I needed a new printer is that the my HP PSC1610 broke (at least a small plastic parts) after a few hundred pages and tree or four years.