Computer Drivers: The Basics

All computer systems have various peripheral and hardware devices connected to it such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and sound/video adapters. These devices require a special kind of software to communicate with the operating system and other applications installed on it. These software programs are known as Device Drivers.

When you purchase a hardware device, such as a printer or a scanner you get an installation CD/DVD along with it. This CD/DVD contains the driver for this hardware device. Operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and McIntosh have a large range of device drivers embedded into them. These device drivers are developed both by device manufacturers and operating system developers.

You should remember that all drivers are developed in such a way that they are compatible to only one type or version of operating system. For example, the display driver for Windows XP will be different from that of Windows Vista. Similarly, the driver for Windows OS will be different from Linux OS. Therefore, you should be very careful while installing device drivers. Installing an incompatible driver can not only damage your device, but also your computer system.

Device divers like any other software programs need to be updated regularly. Device manufacturers as well as operating system developers release updated versions of drivers on a regular basis. Therefore, to maintain your system’s performance you should update your drivers periodically to avoid conflicts, crashes and errors.

You can find the most recent and updated drivers easily on the Internet. Your device manufacturer’s website and your operating system’s website are the most reliable sources to download driver updates. While downloading, make sure that the driver you are downloading is compatible to your device as well as the operating system.

One way of updating your driver is to do it manually. You can do this with the help of the Windows Device Manager utility. This utility enables you to see the list of all system hardware components on your PC.

To manually update the drivers for any of these devices, first thing you need to do is to download the driver update from the Internet and then save it at a convenient location on your hard disk.

To open the Device Manager, go to Start, select Control Panel, click the System icon to open the System Properties dialog box. Here, select the Hardware tab and then click on Device Manager.

In the Device manger window you will see a list of all hardware components connected to your system. Here, identify the device you want to update, right-click on it, and then select Properties. In the device properties dialog box, open the Driver tab, and then click the Update Driver button. This will launch the Hardware Update Wizard. All you have to do now is to just follow the instructions to update your driver. To complete the update process and for updates to take effect restart your computer.

If you find the manual driver update process tedious and confusing, you can download user-friendly driver scanner and update tools such as Driver Finder to do the job for you. These tools are designed to automatically scan your computer for outdated drivers, recommend updates and if required, install the required updates.