Device Drivers: Defined and Explained

If you have worked on a computer for any period of time, it is likely that you are familiar with the term, “device driver”. You may be wondering what this term refers to, what function it serves and how to manage these device drivers. You will find the answers to these questions in this article.

Your computer is made up of hardware and software components. You also connect various peripheral devices, such as a keyboard, mouse and printers to it. In order to function properly, there needs to be proper communication between both hardware and software components. A device driver is the computer program that serves as an interface between the operating system of your PC and hardware devices such as printers, scanners and digital cameras. Device drivers perform these tasks by converting the message sent by your operating system into a language that your hardware device can understand and act accordingly. Various types of device drivers include video drivers, audio drivers, printer drivers and USB drivers.

Device drivers are primarily developed by manufacturers of hardware products and operating system manufacturers, such as Microsoft. It is quite common to find these two parties working together to ensure that your computer remains free from errors as well as deliver optimal performance. It is recommended that you also do your part by regularly checking for any updated drivers that hardware manufacturers may have released.

Each operating system has several pre-installed device drivers for commonly used devices. It is common for different operating systems to have different versions of drivers installed on them. That is the reason that you may need to install new drivers even for current hardware components if you are planning to upgrade your operating system.

Most commonly used hardware is directly supported by Microsoft Windows. A lot of credit for this goes to Plug-and-Play technology that detects the hardware resources automatically and then goes on to install the appropriate driver for it. For example, if you connect a pen drive, your operating system will recognize it automatically and install the proper driver for it.

Scanners and printers, however, often require additional device drivers. Therefore, you would find that such products are almost always accompanied by a CD/DVD-ROM that carries the latest drivers required by that device.

In order to monitor, manage, and update your device drivers you can make use of the utility known as the Device Manager. You can launch this utility easily by running the devmgmt.msc command. The device manager allows you to perform a range of functions related to device drivers such as detecting a corrupt driver, installing or uninstalling any driver and even rolling back any updates that may be causing problems on your system. Although useful, users oftentimes fail to update drivers using the Device Manager tool because the whole process is manual. To counter this problem, you may seek the help of a friendly driver scanner tool, such as Driver Finder. The main purpose of driver scanner tools is to keep track of devices on your PC and automatically download and install updates as and when they are required.