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What Are Computer Drivers?

April 17th, 2013 No comments

Your desktop or laptop computer may seem like a single object, but it is actually a complex system comprised of dozens of independent components. It’s easy to add new functionality to your computer by connecting any number of peripherals or upgraded components. However, the system requires instructions to use these new additions properly. Some are support by the operating system while others require you to download separate drivers and install them. Understanding the importance and function of drivers will help you determine what to do when changing your computer’s physical hardware.

Simple Programs With Major Importance

These small files may not seem that exciting, but they are crucial for the operation of your computer. Nearly every part comes with its own driver to communicate with the rest of the system. Video cards, webcams, gaming devices, sound cards, certain monitors, and printers all usually need an independent driver to communicate with the rest of the system. The driver is simply a very small program that is responsible for transferring data and commands to the device you have added. Without the right driver, the new equipment simply won’t work. It may fail to respond at all, or react unexpectedly to inputs.

Do I Need Drivers?

When you purchase a new computer, it’s likely that it will come with an operating system installed. It should also have all of the drivers to support the equipment included inside and outside the case. Operating systems like Windows 8 usually include general drivers to accommodate a wide range of generic equipment options, which include monitors designed for “Plug and Play” use and simple input devices like mice and keyboards. When you decide to install a better graphics card or add a joystick, you may or may not need more drivers. The packaging of your product should indicate whether you can expect native support or if drivers are included with the item.

Don’t Forget To Update

In a perfect world, the first version of a driver would work just fine with all computers. Unfortunately, many small glitches and bugs are only discovered after a new computer product goes on the market. Nearly every major peripheral manufacturer offers updated drivers for their products for quite a few years after the initial release. If you order a computer assembled six to eight months ago, the drivers for your integrated equipment could already be outdated. Running a driver update service can identify which files need replacement with new versions for increased stability and better function. It’s recommended that you search for updated drivers at least once every six months if you want to keep your system secure and running smoothly.

Choosing Drivers

While the generic drivers that are part of your operating system may work with nearly any mouse or keyboard, the small programs used for printers and webcams are usually extremely specific. Each model from a manufacturer may require its own specific driver. Downloading and installing the wrong driver will only make it harder for your peripherals for function properly. Drivers are also designed to work with just one specific operating system. A printer that works on a wide variety of computers will offer a driver for Windows XP, a separate file for Windows 8, and a completely different option for OS X.

Once drivers are properly installed, there’s no need to run them again. You don’t have to start the driver each time you want to use the device because the system will handle this for you. Drivers are a crucial part of a computing system and should be maintained like any other part of the computer.

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