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Device Drivers
A device driver is a program that a computer's operating system uses to
control a particular hardware device that is attached to a computer.
Devices can range from the display and hard disk drive, to sound cards
and video cards. Most operating systems contain device drivers that are
built-in, but they can also be installed when a new device is added to the
A device driver processes the request of an application and then sends
the instruction to the hardware device to produce the output. This is
how the display information is sent from the operating system to the
display or monitor. A device driver typically has a configuration interface
that can be accessed so that the user can make adjustments to the
hardware device.
A device driver is typically installed when the installation CD for a new
hardware device is used to run the setup program. The installation CD
contains the device drivers as well as any additional software
applications that are needed to use the new hardware device. A device
driver will stay on the system until it is removed or uninstalled.
Device drivers can be updated on a system using a variety of methods.
Typically, a device driver can be downloaded from the manufacturer if
an update is available. Many times a manufacturer will update a device
driver to add additional functionality or to fix a bug in the program. A
device driver can also be updated by installing updates to the operating
system or running the setup program from a device's installation CD.
Sometimes a device driver can conflict with other components on a
system. The Device Manager in Windows can be used to see if there is
any sort of conflict with an installed device. Conflicts can usually be
resolved by repairing corrupt files or removing a device and attempting
to reinstall it on the system.
File Types
A device driver can have a file type of DLL or EXE depending on what
type or program is being used. Many software programs that
communicate with a device use a combination of DLL and EXE files in
order for the device to function properly. An example of this would be a
TV Tuner card. Software needs to be installed to display the video on
the screen or send audio to the speakers.
Device drivers are small computer programs that
allow operating systems to read pieces of hardware
connected to your computer. There are countless
kinds of device drivers for dozens of different
pieces of computer hardware. However, for a
computer to have basic functionality there are a few
select drivers that all computers must have.
BIOS (basic input/output system) is, by definition, the
most basic computer driver in existence and is
designed to be the first program that boots when a
PC turns on. The BIOS is stored on memory built
into the motherboard and is designed to boot the
hardware connected to the PC, including the hard
drives, video display output (whether it be video
card or on-board), keyboard and mouse.
Motherboard drivers are small programs that are
read by either Windows or Linux and allow for basic
computer functions while inside the operating
system. These drivers normally include programs
that allow broadband ports, USB ports and I/O
ports for the mouse and keyboard. Depending on
the make of the motherboard, the drivers may also
have basic drivers for video and audio support.
BIOS are not the same as motherboard drivers.
Hardware drivers are programs that are designed to
allow pieces of computer hardware, such as
expansion slots, to function on a computer. Video
cards, sound cards, network cards and other
expansion cards come with driver discs to ease the
installation process of the hardware. Other devices,
like certain kinds of digital cameras and MP3
players, have PC drivers programmed into their
software for easy use on most makes of personal
Virtual device drivers are different than most drivers.
Unlike the majority of drivers, which allow pieces of
hardware to work with a particular operating
system, virtual device drivers emulate a piece of
hardware and essentially trick the computer into
thinking that it is reading from a piece of actual
hardware. A particularly popular use for virtual
device drivers is with reading .iso files without
having an actual disc, using one of these drivers to
emulate a CD or DVD drive.
The purpose of a device driver is to facilitate
communications between the CPU and
computer memory with each type of device on
the computer. Problems with device drivers can
be easily solved through a process of updating
and configuration of the device and the
Microsoft Windows Operating System.
Reboot the computer. Many problems with the
computer, ranging from unresponsive devices and
applications to devices that are not functioning
properly, are easily solved by rebooting the
computer. Rebooting the computer releases the
memory and CPU resources which are currently
being used by every device. When you turn the
computer back on, the troublesome device should
be functioning properly.
Many newer devices are considered to be plug and
play. Plug and play allows you to connect the
devices before you turn the computer on, or in
some cases, while you're using the computer. Using
plug and play, Windows will detect the new device
and automatically install it, as well as the new
drivers for the device, and configure the device to
properly function with Microsoft Windows.
Rollback to the old version of the device driver.
Sometimes newer versions of a device driver aren't
necessarily better than the previous version of the
device driver. Use Microsoft System Restore from
the Start Menu to rollback the driver of a
troublesome device. If the device is still functioning
improperly, use Windows Update to determine if
there is an operating system update which may be
causing the problem with the device driver
Update the driver for each device. Use Microsoft
Windows Update to determine whether there is an
update for the device driver of any given device
connected to the computer. Even if the device is
new, out of the box, there may be a new driver for
the device which was released after the device
driver installation CD was created. If there isn't an
update using Windows Update, then visit the device
manufacturer's website to determine if there is a
device driver update available.
Device drivers are needed to communicate with a
hardware device within a computer. A computer
program, such as the operating system, sends an
instruction to an device driver, which then tells the
hardware device what to do. Operating systems
typically contain drivers for all types of hardware
devices, but they are mostly generic. Finding the
drivers that are needed by a computer can be
done by finding the type of hardware being used
and updating or installing software.
1 Go into the computer's BIOS to view installed hardware. When starting the computer, press the F2 key to enter the BIOS.
The BIOS will display the type of hard drive as well as the type of CD/DVD drive that is installed in the system.
2 Look in the Device Manager within Windows to see the hardware devices that are installed. Double-click on the "System"
icon within the Control Panel and then go to the "Hardware" tab. Click on the "Device Manager" button to see a list of devices
that are installed and used by the operating system.
3 Check Windows Update for available updates to on-board hardware devices. Hardware components, such as a video
controller and audio controller, can have an updated driver that can be downloaded and installed from Windows Update.
4 Use the installation CD that came with the hardware device. The setup program will install the software and drivers that are
needed to use the device.
5 Refer to the manual that came with the computer or hardware component. The manual will list the model number of the
device as well as the website of the manufacturer.
6 Visit the manufacturer's website for a hardware device that is installed on the system. Updated drivers to devices are
available from a manufacturer to correct problems and to add additional functionality to a device.
7 Visit a website such as DriverGuide (see Resources) to find drivers that are needed for hardware that is no longer supported
by the manufacturer. The site can also be used to find drivers for hardware if the manufacturer is no longer in business.
Visit the website of a manufacturer if a manual
cannot be found for an installed hardware
 Using the wrong driver can result in a system
conflict, which can cause a hardware
component not to work correctly.
Drivers are required on your computer for a device to
perform properly. A driver is a type of software that
aids in the interaction between your computer and
a device that is connected to it, such as a printer,
camera or keyboard. Every time you plug a device
into your computer, Windows runs an installation
and asks you for the device driver. When this driver
is missing, the device will not run properly. Finding
the driver for your device is fairly straightforward
and requires little experience.
1 Make sure that the device is connected to your computer. It will probably
be plugged in to a USB port.
2 Click "Start" and right-click "Computer." Choose "Properties." A box will pop
up on your screen.
3 Click on "Device Manager." The Device Manager will open and includes a
list of everything that is connected to your computer.
4 Look at the list and see if anything has an exclamation mark by its name.
This is the device that is missing the driver. If the device is not listed, it is not
being read by Windows. This will normally happen if the device is not
plugged in properly. Unplug it and then plug it in again.
5 Right-click the item shown as having problems and click "Properties."
6 Click the tab labeled "Driver" and then click "Update Driver." You will be
given the option to search automatically or browse your computer for the
driver. Choose "Browse My Computer" and then navigate to your disk drive or
the place you copied the driver to.
1 Determine the brand of the device you want to install.
2 Navigate to the manufacturer's website. Select either
the Support or Downloads link on the manufacturer's
3 Enter the required information about your device and
navigate to the download link.
4 Download and install the driver. Some downloads will
be installed automatically after your download. If the
driver does not automatically install, refer to the
previous section to search for the driver.
Driver software lets a computer's operating system
communicate with hardware and peripherals.
Every component attached to your computer
requires a driver to function properly, whether it's a
video card, keyboard or printer. Most components
and peripherals include a driver disc when you
purchase them. The Windows operating system
also includes tools to identify missing drivers. Use
these tools to scan your computer for devices
without a driver installed. Windows then will
connect to the Internet to download a compatible
1 Click the Windows "Start" menu and select "Control Panel." Open "Device Manager" to view a list of
all hardware connected to your computer.
2 Look for any hardware listed in "Device Manager" flagged with a yellow exclamation mark. This
exclamation mark indicates that the device does not have a driver installed.
3 Right click on each of the devices flagged as needing a driver. Select "Update Driver Software."
Click "Search automatically for updated driver software" when asked "How do you want to search
for driver software?" Windows will now connect to the Internet to look for a compatible driver.
4 Click "Browse my computer for driver software" instead if you have a driver disc for the device.
Insert the disc into the drive and click "Browse." Select the disc's location and click "OK."
Windows will now scan the disc for the driver. Click "Install" when it's found. Restart your
computer when prompted to complete the installation.
5 Click the Windows "Start" menu and select "Windows Update" from the "All Programs" list if
Windows was unable to install the missing driver. Windows Update features more thorough driver
detection capabilities. Click "Check for Updates." Windows will scan your computer for missing
6 Click "Optional updates are available" when Windows Update finishes scanning your computer.
Check any drivers listed under "Windows" in the "Select the updates you want to install" menu.
Click "OK" and select "Install" to download the drivers. Restart your computer when prompted to
complete the installation.