A few weeks ago, we did a post on why hardware drivers cause computer crashes. Today, we want to dive a little deeper on the topic of when and how you should update your hardware drivers.
What is a Hardware Driver?
A hardware driver is a translator for Windows and other applications to communicate with the hardware on your computer. A graphics card, for instance, may come with more features than just a display output. For Windows to utilize these features, they need some help. This is where a hardware driver comes in. Windows will have a set of generic drivers, which will work most of the time, but higher-end components should use the manufacturer generated drivers for optimum performance.
Which Drivers Need Updating?
General Computer Rule: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Updating drivers should only be completed if there is a specific problem that you are trying to solve. If your computer is running slow, updating your driver may fix it, but there are other things you should seek before updating the driver. Updating your drivers can cause more issues, then it may solve if it is done improperly. The exception to this general rule would be users with upgraded graphics. Keeping these updated with the current Nvidia or AMD drivers can vastly improve the gaming experience.
What Drivers Should Be Updated?
The right drivers might not always be the most up to date drivers. Different computers have different pieces of hardware, and there can be some instances where the most up to date driver is not right for your device. Below are common scenarios when you might wonder if you should update the installed drivers:
New PC from a Big Box Store
If you went to your local Best Buy or other retailer and purchased a new computer, chances are the drivers installed are excellent. They will be installed by the manufacturer then when the device is set up. These drivers will be compatible with your computer and shouldn’t need too much attention. You may want to look to upgrade the video driver, but other than that, if you are not having issues, you should leave them alone.
Built Your Computer/ Clean Installation of Windows
If you have completed a clean installation of Windows, or just finished your gaming PC, you will have the Windows approved drivers for the components of your computer. The Windows option may not always be the fastest option.
Go to the manufacturer’s website for your graphics card, motherboard/ chipset, sound card, and network cards. These components will have drivers created by the manufacturer that will allow you to take advantage of the more advanced features. The Windows approved drivers will allow you to use the basic functions. If you are a gamer, you will want to make sure your video card drivers are updated regularly.
Find Which Driver Version Currently Installed
If you’re having issues with a device, and you have tried other troubleshooting methods you will want to verify which driver is currently installed before making any changes. This is helpful if you are in a forum seeking advice on a particular issue.
To find out what driver you have installed, opened up Device Manager. Type ‘Device Manager’ in the search bar. Device Manager will list all the drivers currently installed on the computer. Once you find the driver of interest, right-click it and select ‘Properties.’
Updating Your Drivers
If you find a driver does need updating, there are two ways to update it. First, right-click and select ‘Update Driver Software.’ The popup below will appear, and you will have the option to search online or browse your computer to install manually. When you choose the first option, Windows will search online for the most current driver, install it, and require a reboot.
If you select the second option, you will have to search your computer for the downloaded driver. If you go this route, always download the driver from the manufacturer’s website. Once you select the downloaded file, it will run and install. Then you will need to reboot the computer to complete the installation. Most manufacturers will have an update that will do the same thing.
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