What is a Driver?
A driver is a piece of software that tells the operating system how to “talk” to a specific piece of hardware such as your printer, sound card, video card, etc. Every time you install new hard ware, you need to install a driver to make it work.
Unfortunately, this driver software is just as prone to errors, conflicts, and compatibility issues as any other software. Therefore manufacturers update their drivers frequently to keep up with new hardware, software, fix bugs, add new features, etc. These new versions of the drivers are usually made available on the manufacturers web site for download at no charge.
Always keep all drivers current
The first thing to remember is that even when you buy a new piece of hardware, let’s say a printer, and it comes with a driver on a CD or floppy, most of the time the driver is already outdated by the moment you open the box. A good example was when I installed a mouse on a laptop recently. It was a relatively new model, from a popular manufacturer of PC accesories. After installing it, I wrote down the driver version, then visited the manufacturers web site. There was already a newer version of the driver available which I then downloaded and installed.
To keep your system in good condition, you should put it on your list of annual chores, such as spring cleaning, to update all your drivers once a year. This is called preventative maintenance and really helps to prevent you from experiencing conflicts, crashes and other unwanted behavior. To do this, you should first make a list of all the hardware that is in or connected to your PC. If you bought the PC preconfigured, it probably already came with a list of components which is a good start. You just need to add any other components you might have added to the PC afterwards. If you build the PC yourself, you probably still have the invoice for all the parts you bought and you can assemble your list from there.
If you’re not sure, or want to verify, take these steps to get the information you need. Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel, double-click on System and select the Device Manager tab. You will see a list of hardware categories. Double-click each one of these lines and a new line will pop out with the description of the exact item. Write them down. The most important ones you will find here are Display adapter (your video card), Modem, Mouse, Network card, Sound Video and Game Controllers (your sound card, video accelerator cards, PC cameras, etc.).
Then look at the PC and everything that is plugged into it. Add all peripherals, such as joystick, printer, scanner, etc. Got it all? Then it’s time to get the drivers.