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Oh the Fun of Updating Drivers!

So what’s a driver and what does it do?

Although a driver may be you in your trusty car, in terms of a computer a driver is software that allows your computer to communicate with hardware devices.

Drivers seriously needing updates can actually cause the dreaded blue screen of death. (I know because this has happened to me!) Updating certain types of drivers can also at times improve the performance of your computer.

However, if you purchased your computer within the last year or two, it is most likely your drivers are up to date- that is unless you have reloaded Windows without downloading the computer manufacturers updates.

The device manufacturers drivers are almost always better and faster than the corresponding Plain Jane Windows versions.

So now to the nitty- gritty. How do I find out what drivers I have and what drivers I might need?

Enter good old Windows device manager. On most computers device manager is found in control panel. There are many other ways to get to it depending on your Windows version. You can also search for it. You’ll get something that looks similar to this.

Click on the little arrow and then double click on the device. Windows will tell you if the device is working properly. Then click on the driver tab.

There are 3 important things to note here

  • The driver date and version
  • The update driver button and
  • The roll back driver button.

Newer is not always better in all cases. In most cases if things are working well you don't want to change it.

If, however, if you do update and the device ceases to work, you definitely need to know where the roll back driver button is!

Since there are so many devices, what are the most important drivers?

If you want your system performance to be the best it can be, you need to make sure that your video card drivers, especially ATI AMD drivers and Nvidia are installed instead of the generic Windows drivers. Installing these can make a huge difference.

Sound card, chipset and networking drivers can also make an improvement in system performance.

Now back to device manager.

Using the update driver button you will be offered two choices- either to look locally on your computer for the driver, or to allow Windows to update the driver. Initially at least, allow Windows to update the driver.

Here is an example side by side of before and after of a completed general driver update:

This was not one of the important drivers, but it is a good example.

Now before you jump off to do this, in my personal experience I have found two other sources for driver updates and they may be better.

Your computer manufacturers help and support center and

The ATI AMD website and the NVidia website

Some computer manufacturers have entire lists of current updates for drivers on their help and support site and may even auto detect your computer and help you install them.

I was extremely surprised recently to discover that there was a major update for my video card that the device manager driver updater did not find even though it was using the manufacturers driver. So I would suggest to you that every 6 months or so, that you go into device manager, write down the exact video card that you have, go to your favorite search engine, type in the name you just got, and then add driver update (your video card exact name driver update). If you see updates listed by the search engine that are later than the one listed in device manager, go have a look. There may be a careful explanation on the website of why you should or should not install the update.

For further tips please go to ZookaWare on LinkedIn.

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