21 May 2015

Introduction to Windows Device Drivers


Device drivers are integral to effectively utilising both internal and external hardware components as they act as a link between the computer and the devices that are connected to it. Some hardware devices that require drivers include network ports, printers, webcams and many more.  

The fact that internal and external hardware devices, require drivers to work effectively, means that your computer comes with in-built drivers for the majority of generic hardware devices. However, occasionally some hardware components may require a driver that has not yet been installed and/or may require you to re-install the driver for the device if it is not working properly. In this case device drivers can be easily found on the provided discs or downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Installing and Maintaining Device Drivers

There are multiple ways to install or update device drivers. These include:

  • Windows Update – Windows Operating systems provide updates that allow users to automatically download and install device drivers that may be needed or that have been updated to remove any issues.
  • Installing software from the device manufacturer – Device drivers can also be installed from media that is provided by the device manufacturer. For example, when you purchase a multi-function printer, you receive the discs along with the printer. These discs include device drivers along with the manual to install them. 
  • Downloading and updating the driver yourself – Device manufacturers allow users to download and update drivers themselves by providing free downloads from their website. This method should be used if Windows Update can't find a driver for your device and you were not provided with media to install the drivers for your device.  

Apart from installing device drivers when you first attempt to connect your device. It is integral that you keep your device drivers up to date in order to maintain the performance of your device.  This is due to the fact that updates for the drivers are released in order to fix security issues and remove any bugs that have been detected. Additionally, device drivers may update automatically in order to maintain the effectiveness of your hardware device.

Figure 1 below shows when a device requires a driver or a driver update.  

Figure 1

Important Things to Remember

  • Always download the drivers from reliable sources i.e. manufacturer’s website, genuine manufacturer media or utilising Microsoft's updates.
  • Know what version ( 32-bit or 64-bit ) of operating system you are running. This is due to the fact that device drivers are specific to the version of the operating system.
  • Keep drivers up to date to avoid any future bugs and/or issues that may arise with the hardware.