Driver is one of those computer terms that gets tossed around quite a bit but what exactly is a driver and why is it important to keep it up-to-date? A driver is basically a tiny piece of software which tells your operating system how to interact with a specific piece of hardware. For example, your video driver ensures that your operating system can properly communicate with your graphics card, thus allowing you to see an image on your monitor. It’s important to keep your drivers current for the following reasons:
• System stability
• System security
• Ensure proper hardware functionality
By updating your drivers on a regular basis you reduce the risk of system instability which can manifest itself as blue screens, system lock-ups, system errors, and other computer issues. Operating system security can even be compromised if a vulnerability is discovered in a driver. Malicious code can be written to exploit this vulnerability and may result in a hacker gaining access to your computer. Finally, having the latest driver that is written for your hardware will make sure your hardware and software work as efficiently as possible. When a poorly-written line of code is being used in a piece of driver software, the hardware will suffer from sub-par performance.
So how do you ensure you have the latest drivers available? There are four options:
• Visit the manufacturer’s website
• Check out the computer company’s website
• Run Microsoft Update
• Use driver-update software
If you have plenty of time and inclination you can go to your device manager and write down all of your primary hardware components and visit each one’s manufacturer’s site and look for updated drivers. Obviously, this would be quite time-consuming and is not recommended nor often attempted. Typically, you would suspect a certain piece of hardware, such as your network card, to be not functioning properly. You would then visit the manufacturer’s site and look up your model network card and download and install the latest driver for it.
Another, oftentimes better, solution is to visit your computer manufacturer’s website. In other words, if you have a Dell computer you would visit Dell’s site and go to drivers and downloads. Then enter your service tag number and see if it returns any updated drivers for your hardware. This is a better option than the hardware manufacturer’s site because the PC maker’s site will have drivers specifically designed to work with their systems.
Occasionally, going to Microsoft’s Windows Update site will reveal updated drivers for your hardware. Be sure to run a Custom Scan and select by type: Hardware. It is best to visit your computer manufacturer’s site first, in my opinion.
A final, and perhaps best, all-inclusive solution to driver updates is to use a third-part tool to do the work for you. Software such as DriverMax, Driver Robot, Driver Smith, and others all scan your drivers and can automatically update them for you. Moreover, some of these products can backup and restore your drivers for you. Which is great if you ever need to reinstall your operating system.
You now know what a driver is and why it is important to keep them updated. Doing so will cause fewer errors and keep your computer running smoothly. Of highest importance is the fact that updating your drivers can keep your system safe from security exploits.