Technology is ever-expanding. New things are invented every day and then improved upon. Sometimes these new things need to be integrated or added to inventions we already use to make them more efficient. New models always have new things, but older models need appendices.
For computers and the Internet, the appendices are often software updates. However, the hardware on our computers also needs software to accommodate improvements in technology. Just as your computer needs an operating system, so do all the devices associated with it. That’s where driver updates come in.
A driver is software that runs hardware like your graphics card, modem, or printer. Drivers are very small bits of code whose function is to ensure that the hardware is compatible with the most up-to-date software. Think of them as Windows Updates for your hardware.
You can usually tell if you need a driver update because a component stops working as efficiently. Your graphics might lag, your mouse might stop working, or your webcam can’t be detected. What can seem like complicated hardware malfunctions are often just a need to update drivers.
Drivers extend the use of your hardware by keeping it current with technological demands. A driver update might not stop your video card from burning out physically from wear and tear, but it can keep overuse to a minimum by ensuring your computer can process increasingly sophisticated graphics. Components that don’t have to work as hard to keep up last longer.
You should install driver updates to extend the life of your hardware components from obsolescence as well. Hardware does become obsolete after a while as new technology is developed, and sometimes these developments happen so quickly it seems that the tech we just bought is already outdated. Updating outdated drivers is especially useful to keep older components working with newer code.
Driver updates are easy to find. Often, the component will automatically scan for drivers once it is installed. Components connected to services, like modems, cable and satellite television boxes, and gaming consoles, update automatically whenever the service sends the data. If you have drivers that don’t update automatically, there are a lot of methods you can use to keep them current.
As driver updates are released, they are given IDs, which are usually numbers. Driver versioning stores old drivers, so they are not replaced when updated drivers are installed. The old versions act as driver backups, which are sometimes needed to run older apps and programs. Usually, if there is a new version available, users will be prompted to proceed to the driver download.
Some driver updates need to be sought out, especially for specialty hardware like graphics, video, and sound cards. You can usually locate the component in your device manager, and find its driver updater tool through the Properties window.
If you know the manufacturer of your computer’s components, you can also go directly to their websites. Updates and patch notes explaining the updates are usually posted as soon as they are available.
If you bought your computer from a tech store, you might be able to take it to their tech support department for updates. Tech support departments do this as part of routine maintenance, but it means doing without your computer for a little while and paying someone else to do it.
There are also numerous apps that read your computer’s components and find the driver tools for you. They constantly update so the latest versions of your drivers are available in one convenient place. Subscriptions to pro versions of these apps allow users to download and install all their drivers in a single click.
Deciding which driver updater is the best depends on what drivers you need and how often they update. The decision also depends on what operating system you use and what updates are included with it. Some apps cost money, which is worth it if you have a lot of specialty hardware but not very cost-effective if all your components are standard.
Some popular driver updater tools include:
However, if you use an operating system other than Windows, you might need to do a little extra work looking for an app that suits your needs.
Since so many driver updates are directly transmitted from the service provider to the device or component, a fast, reliable Internet connection is vital to maintaining the health of your devices. As long as you are connected to the Internet, you can set your drivers to update whenever you’re not using your computer.
Many automatic updates take place overnight, during low usage times. This includes updates for gaming consoles, smart devices, and cell phone operating systems. Modems especially need to receive updates, so they can efficiently update the rest of the devices in your home or office.