How To Update Drivers

A Beginner’s Guide to Driver Updates

Finding the right device driver or update can be a very tricky and confusing endeavor. We created this guide to step you through the process. Even if you feel you have advanced computer skills, we strongly recommend that you read and understand the information provided below. Please note that while this guide is for recent versions of the Windows operating system, such as Windows 10, many of the concepts presented apply to all Windows and non-Windows operating systems.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Getting Started

What is a Device?

In computer terminology, all the electronic devices like your mouse, scanner, monitor or game controller that are attached to your desktop or laptop computer are called "Peripheral Devices" or simply "Devices." Each of these devices has a special "Protocol" to interact with the operating system. You can see the list of devices on your Windows system by right-clicking the "My Computer" icon, selecting Properties, and clicking on the Device Manager tab.

What is a Device Driver?

A device driver is a program that controls a device. Every device - for example, a printer, disk drive or keyboard - must have a driver program in order to interact with the computer’s operating system (such as Windows 10). A driver is software that lets the computer talk to peripheral devices, internal components and other hardware. It interprets operating system commands to the specific needs of the device.

How Does a Driver Work?

A driver acts like a translator between the device that it controls and programs that use the device. For example, a mouse driver translates the "actions" of the mouse to something more understandable by the operating system. Each device has its own set of specialized commands that only its driver knows. The driver, therefore, accepts special commands from a program and then translates them into specialized commands for the device.

Do I Need a Driver?

You MAY need a driver or update under the following conditions:

  • You acquired a device which does not have a device driver disk or CD.
  • You have just upgraded to a new version of Windows or a new operating system.
  • You have a device that is not recognized or working properly.
  • You have a device that is not working up to its full potential, or is missing features.
  • You are using an older version of a driver, but a new version may now be available.
  • You have lost or corrupted drivers due to a disk crash or virus.

You MAY NOT need a driver under the following conditions:

  • Often, core devices such as mice, keyboards, and monitors can work fine with drivers that are generic, or built-in, to the Windows operating system.
  • Some peripheral devices, such as printers, scanners and network or WiFi cards may have device drivers included in the Windows operating system. During device installation, Windows will usually search to find compatible drivers it may have. If none can be found, Windows will tell you so. In that case, you’ll need to find a driver.
  • If your device is a USB or FireWire device, and you are using Windows XP or later, typically no device driver is required. Just attach the new hardware via the USB or FireWire port, and Windows should do the rest.
  • If your device is working fine, and all of it’s features are enabled, then there may not be a compelling reason to upgrade. We recommend that you examine the details of the driver update on the company’s website to determine whether an upgrade is necessary.

Step 2: Collect Info

Collecting Information About Your Device

Sometimes, knowing only the model number and device type of your device or component is good enough to find the right driver. However, the more information you have about your device, the easier it will be to find your driver. We recommend that you collect the following information before you get started.

1. Company Name

It is extremely helpful if you know the name of the company that makes your device. Sometimes the company listed on the component is not the manufacturer who built the component. If you are having trouble determining the company, and you can visually inspect the device, then look for the FCC ID number. It usually says "FCCID:" right on the component. Once you have it, you can go to our FCCID Search to determine the company name. If the device has been installed, or detected by the Windows operating system when you plug it in, then the company name might be listed in the Windows Device Manager. You may also be able to determine the company name by searching our Driver Archive using only the model number, and see what company appears in the results.

2. Device Type

Your device or component could be one of the follow: BIOS, CD-ROM/CDR, Digital Camera, DVD, FireWire, Hard Drive, IDE Controller, Input Device (like a mouse), Modem, Monitor, Network Card, Printer, Plotter, Removable Storage, SCSI Adapter, Scanner, Sound Card, Tape Backup, USB Device, Video Card or WiFi Adapter.

3. Product Model Number

Knowing the model number of your component is one of the most important things to know when finding the right driver. When searching our Driver Archive, the model numbers listed in the search results may be slightly different than yours (a dash instead of a space, maybe some extra characters, etc.). You may need to enter only part of your model number in the search form to find the right match.

The model number should be listed in the documentation for the component or device. If the device has been installed, or detected by the Windows operating system when you plug it in, then it might be listed in Windows Device Manager. Sometimes you are able to tell the model number of the device from the name it is listed under.

If you are looking for a driver for a video or graphics card, it may help to know that on start up, the very first text flashed on the screen at system start up or power on is the make and model of your video card. Usually it lasts only a second or two. In some cases (especially when the video is integrated on the motherboard) the name or model number of the video adapter can be a bit cryptic. It helps if you have a general idea of what the number should look like. Refer to your documentation or search our Driver Archive and look at the names or numbers of the graphic cards listed.

4. Operating System

It is essential to know which operating system and version you are using. Common versions are Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Step 3: Finding Drivers

How to Locate the Correct Driver

To find the best device driver for your component, we suggest that you follow these steps:

1. Search our Driver Archive

DriverGuide maintains an extensive archive of device drivers, with hundreds of new drivers added daily. It is the best place to source recent as well as hard to find or older drivers. Search the entire archive from the Driver Search Page, or choose the device’s manufacturer from our comprehensive company database, and then search only the drivers that are associated with that company. You can also choose your device type and then search only the drivers that are that particular device. Be sure to read all of the driver specifications and uer reviews before downloading. Also, please add your own review once you have tried a driver.

2. Use the Driver Update Utility

The Driver Update Utility is software that automatically finds, downloads and installs the right driver for your system. You can even backup your drivers before making any changes, and revert back in case there were any problems. With the Driver Update Utility, you can safely update all of your drivers in just a few clicks.

3. Visit the website of the company that makes your device

The company website is usually the best place to find the newest drivers for the latest operating systems. However, companies typically do not support legacy products or older operating systems. Still, it may be worth seeing if they have the right driver for your device and operating system.

4. Request the Driver

If you’ve tried the steps above and still can’t find the driver you need, you can request a driver and we will find it for you. We employ a team from around the world. They add hundreds of new drivers to our site every day.

Step 4: Downloading & Installing Drivers

Downloading

Once you have found the right driver on DriverGuide, click the green "Download Now" button to download it. Every driver on DriverGuide is absolutely FREE to download! Typically, your driver will be saved to your computer’s Desktop or your Downloads folder. Be sure to make a note of the download location, since you will need to know where to find it.

Extracting

Many compressed driver files are self-extracting files and will have .exe in the file extension. You can uncompress them on your system just by double-clicking on the file name. Many others will have a .zip in the file extension. In order to extract files with a .zip extension, you will need software such as Winzip. There are many other software packages which perform the same function. Many are free and work on almost any operating system

Installing

What if you don’t have a setup or install file to install the drivers?
Chances are that you have an "inf" file (a file with the "inf" extension). Installation from an inf file is slightly different. It involves going into the control panel and choosing manual installation. Drivers can come in several other file types as well. Visit our Driver Support Page for step-by-step videos on how to install drivers for every file type.

An important step before installing:
Visit the Windows Device Manager to see if your device is already listed with a yellow exclamation mark or a red cross. If it is, then you have to delete that listing before attempting any new driver installation. This is especially true of sound and video cards.

What if the installation asks for a file that you don’t have?
Sometimes, halfway through the installation process, you may see a screen saying that a certain file is required and/or that it can’t be found. Very often the file required is in the Windows CD, compressed in one of the CAB files. On other occasions it may be elsewhere on the driver package, or on your hard drive. Don’t panic if you don’t know exactly where it is. Don’t hit the cancel button just yet. Right click on your start button and choose "find" from the menu. Type in the name of the file you are looking for, choose your drive, and click on "find now". Make sure that the "include subfolders" box is checked. If still not found, repeat the process with the driver package and the Windows CD as well.

What if you installed a driver and now your computer won’t go into Windows?
The problem may be that the driver installation wasn’t done properly, or you installed the wrong drivers. You can usually start Windows up in safe mode (hold down the Control key at Startup and you’ll get a menu offering to start Windows in safe mode). You can then disable or remove the driver for the faulty item from the Device Manager.

Step 5: Troubleshooting

Device conflicts

Sometimes two pieces of hardware, such as a CD-RW drive and a joystick, try to grab the same computer resources. The resulting conflict often immobilizes one or both pieces of hardware; they simply won’t work. Use the Windows System Information Tool to check for conflicts. In Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP, click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information. Next, click the plus sign next to Hardware Resources and select Conflicts/Sharing. You’ll see a list of devices that share the same computer resources; look for the driver that corresponds to your crashing device. Two or more plug-and-play devices may be able to share without problems, but legacy devices, or hardware that’s significantly older than your PC, may clash or crash. If you suspect such a conflict, check with the hardware manufacturer to see how to resolve it.

USB devices

Has a USB device suddenly stopped working or reported a missing driver? If you have a full plug-and-play system, try this first: Disconnect the device’s USB cable and the device’s power supply but leave your computer running. Wait a few moments, then plug in the device’s power and USB cable. Your computer may now automatically recognize the device and start working again.

Other driver problems

Sometimes when a device fails to work, the driver itself is innocent. Always check your hardware and make sure that your drivers aren’t displaying error messages. If you’ve updated the drivers and still can’t figure out the problem, here’s how to troubleshoot: Go to Device Manager and look at the bad device’s properties. Instead of telling you that the device is working properly, the manager may display an error message that includes a numeric code and one or more suggested fixes. Code 3 means that you have a bad driver and should replace it. Code 7 means that you’ll have to reinstall the driver. Code 6 indicates a resource conflict that an updated driver may or may not fix. Microsoft maintains a list of Device Manager error codes and lets you know what they mean and potentially how to solve those problems.

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