What is the driver?
A computer driver is a type of software that has the purpose to inform the operating system how to operate the equipment. The driver is like a translator or mediator between the hardware and the operating system.
For some devices there are drivers?
For memory (RAM) does not . For all other hardware drivers exist. Of course, not need the driver and the power supply, but that doesn’t count, because the operating system does not have direct contact with him.
For most devices need a single driver, i.e. if the device is not complicated, the driver for it is basic. Therefore, the operating system installs most drivers automatically, and the user must/can install some additional drivers for more complex and/or specific devices.
The computer can run without drivers?
No. Without drivers, the computer is impossible. Yes, immediately after installing Windows the computer is running, but that’s only because the main device is detected and drivers were installed automatically, without user intervention.
Do I have to install drivers?
Actually, Yes, but not necessarily from a purely technical point of view, since Windows automatically installs drivers for all critical components. Ie the computer will work, but its functionality will be very limited.
Consider the example of video cards. For you to be able to see anything on the screen, Windows uses a basic driver. However, if you want to do something more serious: enable Aero (Vista or 7), have hardware accelerated video decoding, etc., you will need to install the driver. Another example can be the sound card that are supported in Windows rather poorly. If the sound card is not detected, the system will not sound. This is not fatal – it is possible to work and without sound, but no image on the monitor is impossible. However, we all understand how limited is the computer, which cannot reproduce the sound, i.e. from a practical point of view, the driver must be installed.
Do I need to install additional drivers if Windows is already all set up and everything is working fine?
As a rule, if the device is available an additional driver from the manufacturer, it is advisable to use it instead of the driver from Microsoft. However, there are some exceptions.
The first exception is the network card, whether wireless or standard. If the network card is detected and everything works fine, then there’s no need to install additional driver, because he is unlikely to offer anything more for the average user.
The second exception are CRT monitors. The most important thing for these monitors to be able to work without flicker, i.e., to support a refresh rate of 100 Hz at the required resolution. Sometimes with driver installed by default, the monitor may not work on 100 Hz with the necessary permission, so you need to install a separate driver. However, in most cases everything works fine and no extra drivers. This does not apply to TFT monitors, as they will not flicker even at low refresh rate 60 Hz due to the LCD technology.
The third exception is the mouse and keyboard. Windows recognizes and supports at a basic level, absolutely all the mouse and keyboard, even those that are equipped with additional buttons. However, there may be a special driver (or application) from the manufacturer of the mouse and keyboard, which offers additional options to configure these buttons. All the gaming-oriented mouse and keyboard usually includes a number of specific buttons, for their operation it is required to install the driver/application from the manufacturer.
For everything else, or necessary, or preferable to install separate drivers.
How to view hardware components to find out which drivers to look for?
With the help of specialized programs.
The best tool for this purpose is AIDA64 Extreme Edition. It is paid, but offers the most accurate and complete information. All you need is to enter the section («Computer») -> Summary («General information»).
A great free alternative is PC Wizard. Database this program is not so accurate as the previous but good enough. Information about sound card are not on the tab General information, and in the Multimedia, i.e., it is required to click on the icon with a note and a speaker.
Another good free alternative is HWiNFO. If you do not wish to see detailed information, you can check the Summary-only, to see only basic information.
I have a device from an unknown manufacturer/brand and no program recognizes it. How do I know what it is and/or where I can find a driver for it?
Very often this situation occurs with web cameras, but can occur with other types of devices from different manufacturers. Anyway, you can find the driver for not detected devices according to their identification codes. Here’s how…
Click with the right mouse button on «This Computer» («Computer» or «My computer» if you have Windows 7 or XP) -> «Manage» -> «device Manager». Find the problem device in the list of categories, double-click on it, click on the tab «Information» and in the drop-down menu, select «hardware ID». Use the manufacturer’s codes (VEN), device (DEV), and subsystem (SUBSYS) to try to find online information/driver for the device.
Here is an example of my device:
Important information in this window is VEN_1969, DEV_1083 and SUBSYS_E0001458, i.e. almost the entire second line.
Where to get drivers?
On the Internet, on the website of the manufacturer. Under manufacturer I mean the producer of the relevant chip, as not all equipment. For example: if your graphics card is equipped with chip from NVIDIA, but they were made of, say, MSI, the driver should consult the NVIDIA website.
In the case of motherboards, the situation is slightly more complicated, because they usually contain more integrated components: mandatory today are network card, sound card and USB controller (if 2.0 is automatically recognized, then 3.0 is not always), but may be other integrated components, such as graphics chip.
Usually, all integrated components, drivers are available on the website of the manufacturer of the motherboard, i.e. collected in one place. However, they are not always updated and accordingly obsolete. To get the latest drivers should check the websites of the manufacturers of the chips/components.
What about the CD with drivers/software that comes with the equipment?
It’s not the best idea since the most current drivers, you will only find on the Internet. Drivers on discs eventually become outdated, which makes them not the preferred. If you do not have access to the Internet and/or you need to install any drivers immediately (urgently), you can use the installation disk, but it will be good if you update these drivers as soon as possible.
Do you regularly update your drivers and stick with the latest versions?
It’s not required, but recommended. New drivers add new features, functions, fix bugs and incompatibilities. Of course, there is no guarantee that a new driver will be better than the previous one, and that you will feel the difference – it is possible that a new driver will be even worse, but this is the exception to the rule. As a rule, it is better to keep the drivers up to date, although you are not required to update them on the day of release of new versions.
How to check the version of the driver?
Start «device Manager»: click the right mouse button on «This Computer» («Computer» or «My computer» if you have Windows 7 or XP) -> «Manage» -> «device Manager». Find the device whose driver you want to check, double-click on it and go to the tab «Driver». There you will find information about the date and version of the driver. In principle, the same can be done with the help of specialized software for information about the equipment.
How to install drivers?
Most drivers in our days have their own installer that you just run, and he, in turn, will guide you through the entire installation process. Some drivers do not have such automated installer and are available in the archive. In this case, you should resort to manual install through «device Manager»:
- start «device Manager»: click the right mouse button on «This Computer» («Computer» or «My computer» if you have Windows 7 or XP) -> «Manage» -> «device Manager»;
- if the device is not recognized at all, it will be under «Other devices», otherwise it will be in the corresponding category;
- then right-click the device and select «Update driver software…»;
- select «Perform driver search on this computer»;
- click on «Browse» and specify the driver path (i.e. the folder where you extracted the driver files);
- you need to specify a folder that contains certain .inf files;
- when you click on the button «Next» Windows will check the folder and install the driver;
- after installation, click «Close» and restart the computer.
How to get back to the previous driver for a device, if with the new driver it works properly?
Again, this can be done through «device Manager»:
- click with the right mouse button on «This Computer» («Computer» or «My computer» if you have Windows 7 or XP) -> «Manage» -> «device Manager»;
- find your desired device and double click it;
- click the tab «Driver» and then click «Roll back driver» (to your previous driver).
How to remove driver?
Usually drivers have their own installer and have their own Uninstaller. Not always, but often. If the Uninstaller has to remove the driver you need to go to the same place where you remove programs («add or remove programs» in Windows XP or «Uninstall or change a program» in Windows Vista/7/8/10).
Not always, however, these Uninstallers do their work completely, and some may remain. So after uninstalling the driver is recommended to clean the system with special applications.
For this purpose you can use Driver Fusion.
Note: cleaning is recommended in safe mode. If you don’t know what it is and/or how to get into it, view this article.
Note # 2: in the process of installing Driver Fusion, select custom installation type and deselect the option «Install PC Mechanic». Otherwise, this program will be installed along with the Driver Fusion.
To work with the program is actually very simple:
- start the system in safe mode;
- run Driver Fusion;
- select the category to which belongs the driver that you want to completely remove;
- select the driver;
- click on the «Delete» (Delete).
«Device Manager» shows unrecognized device, but I do know what it is, and I’m sure(a) that they will not use it. Should I install the driver?
No. If you are 100% sure that this device is and is also 100% sure that you will never have to use it, you can safely install the driver for it. It’s even better because you will save system resources and reduce the likelihood of unstable operation of the computer. Of course, not all drivers consume a significant amount of resources and not all of them are unstable, but if you are sure that you do not need this device then you can skip the driver installation and even can disable it in «device Manager».
Is there a way to check how stable is the driver?
Yes, there is. Before describing the method, be sure to point out some things. The test is designed to test all drivers, not only drivers for hardware devices, but also drivers that are installed applications (that is, all files with the file extension .sys).
The test is not absolute. If the driver passes this test, it means that he is stable on your computer installed currently software. It also means that on other computers this driver also needs to be stable, but it is not guaranteed, since the other computer can be set up and completely different drivers that can cause conflicts.
If you want to check more than one driver it is advisable to check them one by one. So, if you want to check driver anti-virus software and such for the video card, it is better to check first one and then the other.
In fact, that’s how you test:
- run the «driver verifier Manager»:
- in any Windows version press the Windows logo key + R to open «Run» -> write «verifier» -> OK;
- on the first page, select «Create custom settings (for code program)» and click «Next»;
- on the next page, check the boxes next to the following options and click Next:
— for Windows XP: «Thorough, but perhaps overly strict, or invalid test»;
— for Windows Vista/7: «Forced processing of requests pending I / o» and «logging IRP»;
— for Windows 8.1/10: «Test I / o», «Forced processing of requests pending I / o» and «logging IRP»;
- on the next page select «Select driver name from a list» and click «Next»;
- now select the drivers you want to scan, and when done, click «Finish»;
Note: if you want to check the driver that is not included in the list (sometimes the drivers of some programs do not load), click «Add slow drivers to this list» and select the driver (.sys);
- then you will see a message prompting you to restart the computer; restart the system during Windows boot can verify the driver(s).
If the driver is unstable, you will get a blue screen during boot or shortly after loading. If Windows will boot and will work fine for several minutes, the driver can be considered stable. However, if it fails (due to unstable drivers), then you should report «driver verifier Manager» that the test should be stopped. If the system is not loaded, you will have to enter safe mode (if you don’t know what it is and/or how to get into it, see this article). In safe mode, then run «driver verifier Manager», but this time select «Delete existing settings», click «Finish» and restart the system.
Deadly if the driver is unstable?
No, it is not fatal. Even if the driver fails this test, it does not guarantee that you will definitely have problems. This is a very thorough testing and it is possible that during the daily work with the computer driver will never be in a situation where his job was aborted during these special tests. On the other hand, this means that your system is potentially unstable driver, who at some point may cause a crash.
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