How Do Device Drivers Work?

An operating system and the various software applications installed on it require device drivers to communicate with various hardware components. These drivers act as a bridge between your operating system and hardware devices. Every driver has a different role and each role relates to a different hardware.

For example, the function of a sound driver is to assist in sending input and output of audio signals between a computer system and the sound card.

Most device drivers are operating system-specific which means that they are developed in such a way that they work only for one version of an operating system. For example, Windows Vista drivers will not work on the Windows XP operating system and vice versa. Even if you are able to install the driver, you may not be able to use it and may encounter incompatible driver issues.

Both device manufacturers and operating system developers work side-by-side to develop device drivers. Operating systems such as Windows XP and Windows Vista have a large number of integrated drivers that support a wide range of hardware devices.

Even though an operating system can support an assortment of devices, there are still chances that some devices require a special driver. For example, an operating system won’t be able to support a device which is too old, uncommon or released after the operating system was released. Such drivers usually come on a CD or DVD-ROM along with the respective devices.

Device drivers play an important role in maintaining your computer’s performance and security. Outdated drivers can make your system slow and can also cause your system to crash. To keep your computer free of device-related errors, you should update your drivers on a regular basis.

Device manufacturers and operating system developers regularly release device driver updates. It is recommended that you visit these sites regularly to know about these updates and also download them as and when required.

When you are updating your device driver, the first task you have to perform is to identify the device that needs to be updated and then download the update and save it at an accessible location on your hard disk. Finally, install the driver on your computer.

At times, you may need to use the Device Manager utility to install device drivers. To open the Device Manger, first open the Control Panel from the Start menu. Next, in the Control Panel, click the System icon to open the System Properties dialog box. Here, open the Hardware tab and the click the Device Manager button.

In the Device Manager window, scroll through the list of devices and select the device you want to install the update for. Right-click on the device and then select Properties. In the properties dialog box, select the Update Driver button available on the Driver tab. This will open the Hardware Update Wizard. Here, follow the instructions to update your device driver.

If you find the above method tedious and time-consuming, you may opt for a user-friendly, automatic driver update tool, such as Driver Finder. You can use this tool to ensure that all your device drivers stay up-to-date automatically.