Drivers are an aspect of computers that many users take for granted. You can think of drivers as pieces of code that lets the software talk to the hardware. Drivers are used for both internal devices, such as video cards, and external devices, such as printers. The reason many people do not even think about drivers is because Windows often handles much of the legwork behind the scenes.
What is a Driver?
A driver is a program that interfaces between the Operating System and the hardware device. This distinction is important because the specific driver is written for a specific Operating System, and this is why many Windows users don’t think about them. As Windows is the most prevalent OS, nearly every piece of hardware has a Windows driver available. If you use a less mainstream OS, such as Linux or Apple’s OS, you may sometimes have difficulty finding a driver for your device.
What Driver Do I Need?
The time that most users begin thinking about drivers is when a device isn’t recognized or is not working properly. For instance, maybe you upgraded your OS or just added a new device and it isn’t working. If you are using Windows, you can go to Device Manager by right-clicking computer, selecting Properties, and then clicking on Device Manager. If there is a device attached to the computer that does not have a properly installed driver, it will show up with an exclamation point.
If you just want to look at the drivers that you have, you can click on one of the categories, such as Display Adapters, and then right-click your device and choose Properties. The Driver tab will show you which version of Driver you have installed. Some users are concerned about this because they want the latest version of the driver for their graphics card as these often have performance improvements.
Where Do I Get a New Driver?
After you know which devices you need drivers for, the best place to look is typically the manufacturer’s website. For instance, if you have an Nvidia graphics card, try going to Nvidia’s website and looking up your card. They will often have the latest driver available for download. Sometimes there is also an option for a beta driver. Realize that a beta release may still have some bugs present, so use these at your own risk. Most products also come with the software on a disc, although this may not be the latest version available. You can also check the Windows Update site to find new drivers.
The final option in finding a driver is to simply do a web search and see what turns up. There are sites that specialize in drivers for particular types of devices, and some that have a large collection of drivers. Some programmers perform tweaks to company released drivers and offer them for download on the web. This is often done with video cards.
These are the basics of computer drivers and how to obtain them. The process is relatively pain free if you use a mainstream OS, but can be a bit more difficult if you use a niche OS. Always backup before you install a new driver, just in case.