Friday, July 11, 2008

Update Your Hardware Devices


This article explains how to download and install new software drivers to solve problems with your hardware and improve performance.


What Are Drivers?

Identifying Current Drivers

Downloading New Drivers

Installing New Drivers

What Are Drivers?

In order to make your hardware (such as graphics and sound cards, scanners, printers) work properly, Windows relies on special programs called Drivers.

These tell Windows how to use your hardware, and these drivers will either be installed on your PC along with Windows, pre-installed by the company you bought the PC from, or on the disks or CDs that came with your hardware. They can often also be downloaded from the website of the company who made the particular device, and this is also where you will be able to find any newer versions of the drivers.

Making sure you have the latest drivers for your hardware is the first step you should take if you encounter problems such as unstable Internet connection, graphics problems, crackling/popping sound, slow performance or crashes when running programs.

Identifying Current Drivers

First you need to identify the Driver version you currently have on your computer. Click on Start, go to Control Panel and then double-click System. Click on the Hardware tab and look for the button called Device Manager. You should now see a list of the hardware on your PC, divided into categories of hardware types.

By the side of each category you should see a small symbol. If the symbol looks like it means the section can be 'expanded' (i.e. opened up to show items within this section) by left-clicking once on the symbol. When the symbol looks like you should be able to see a list of items under this section.

Look for the piece of hardware you want to update. Here are some examples of the categories you might be able to find your hardware devices under:

Modem (e.g. SpeedTouch USB) - under Network adapters

Graphics card (e.g. Nvidia Geforce) - under Display adapters

Sound card (e.g. SoundBlaster) - under Sound, video and game controllers

Once you have located the piece of hardware you want to update, right-click the item and select Properties, then click on the Driver tab on the new window and you should now see some details about the driver currently being used for this hardware. Make a note of the Driver Date and the Driver Version, then close this window. Close the Device Manager window when you have made notes of all the devices you want to update.

Downloading New Drivers

To find the latest version of the driver for your hardware, you need to visit the manufacturer's web site. If you bought the device separately from your PC, finding the address of the manufacturer's web site may be as simple as looking in the manual or documentation that came with your hardware.

You can also try using a search engine and typing in the name of the company, or better still the name of your device. So for example, if you want to find the driver for your NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, type nvidia geforce driver into a search engine and try to find the correct web site - in this case

Once you have found the Driver download page, you will need to find and download the latest driver for your particular piece of hardware. You can then make a comparison between the drivers listed and the Driver Date and Driver Version you made a note of earlier, to see whether you need to update.

The process will vary from site to site, but before you download the driver file you may be asked to select things like your operating system (e.g. Windows XP), your language (e.g. English) and the name of your particular device.

Using NVIDIA's site as an example, you are presented with three tables from which you must select the type of download (e.g. Graphics driver), the make of device (e.g. GeForce) and the operating system you are running (e.g. Windows XP). When you have made your selections, clicking on the Go button will take you to a page where you can download the latest driver by clicking on one of the download site links.

When downloading a driver you may be asked to agree to some terms and conditions first, click Accept and then a File Download window will open, click Save to put the driver installation file somewhere on your computer.

Installing New Drivers

Locate the driver file you have downloaded, which will usually be of the file type .exe or .zip, and follow these instructions:

.EXE If it is an .exe file you can just double-click it to begin installation.

.ZIP If it is a .zip file then this is a compressed file and you will need to unzip it first using a program such as WinZip. Extract the file inside the zip to somewhere on your computer, then double-click it to open it.

Driver installation procedures may vary, but you may be asked to choose your Language, select certain options or agree to terms. After installation is complete, you may have to restart your PC, in which case you should make sure to save any work in other windows first. After restarting you can check the Driver Date and Driver Version number have changed to the latest version by going into Device Manager as before.

You can check the help and support pages, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or messageboards on the manufacturer's website if you have any problems.


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About Me


Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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