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What is a Driver

A driver is the software which accompanies a hardware component, facilitating the communication between your operating system and the hardware. If you have a device without any driver installed, it will not work and you will be unable to access any of its features. Windows automatically installs drivers for many components such as processors, mice and keyboards. For such hardware, further user intervention is not needed once the hardware is physically installed. Other components, such as graphics cards, sound cards and peripheral devices like printers and scanners do normally, however, need to have separate drivers installed in order for them to work.

It's very important that you keep your drivers up to date for the components that need them. Keeping your drivers up to date helps to keep your computer running optimally. It's especially important to keep your graphics card drivers up to date, for example. Keeping drivers up to date also helps to overcome compatibility issues which arise with newer software that relies on the hardware in question. Fortunately, Windows includes many drivers of its own, making it unnecessary to manually install additional drivers for most common components.

When you buy a new device for your computer, whether it's a peripheral or an upgrade component, you'll usually get a driver CD with it (except with processors and memory sticks which don't require additional drivers). It's usually a better idea to completely avoid these CDs, since the drivers contained on them are invariably out of date. You'll usually be able to find newer drivers available on the manufacturer's website, available for download for free. Always make sure that you have the newest version of any driver installed on your computer.

Windows often automatically installs adequate drivers of its own for certain components. This is, for example, the case with a lot of integrated sound cards. While using these basic generic drivers provided by Windows will allow you to use the main features of that component, it's better to get drivers provided by the manufacturer of the product. This will help to ensure that you have access to the full range of features that the hardware is capable of.


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