Security and system stability are two of the many reasons for updating drivers on your Windows 10 computer regularly. Updated drivers ensure that the hardware works properly with the latest or the newest tested version of the software. The majority of such updates happen automatically, but due to a variety of factors, the drivers may not be updating as they should be. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to update drivers on Windows 10 computers, and we have compiled some of the best practices.
Most people who work with drivers don't even know what it is or how it works. I will be addressing these questions in today's guide, where you will learn all there is to know about drivers on Windows 10.
What are Windows Drivers
A driver is like a 'software component' that allows the Windows OS (Operating System) to communicate with a device. One of the most common examples of this is a flash or external hard drive. It's a two-way process where data is transmitted to and back. Here's how a typical app's command and feedback flow happens with the device. The two arrows indicate the direction (to and back) of the communication flow whenever the user issues a command. Think of it the way when you press a key on a keyboard.
At times, some software also call some key components as software driver. The developer will divide the app into two components - one that works with the user and othe other that works behind the scenes. The former means the Graphical User Interface for you to view, navigate, interact, and select options that the OS looks as issuing commands. And the other component works behind the scenes by interacting with Windows, and facilitating the command execution, that only happens in kernal mode, to deal with the protected data.
In short, drivers act as a bridge between the app querying the data stored on the device—internal or external.
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How Drivers Work
Let's take a hardware example first. For instance, when you want to print a Word document, you will open the file, hit the print button, and the print machine makes a weird sound and voila! Everything that was on your screen is now on a piece of paper in your hand.
Here's what happened in the background.
In this case, the app is Microsoft Word. It will send the correct command to the OS telling it needs to print a document. The OS will use drivers associated with the printer to send the data with a command to print it. The printer will do its job and you see the result in your hand.
As simple as that sounds, we often miss out on the complicated chain of events that took place after such an action.
The browser is the app that communicates your desire to view that video to the OS. The OS involves a sound card or onboard audio hub (to play the sound) and a video chip or GPU (to show the video) that are present on your computer. And a network card for using the internet to stream the video stored across the world on a remote server. The OS will now send requests to three different drivers and ask them to relay the audio, video, and network duties.
All of this happens so fast that you don't even feel or notice it. You press a button and the video starts playing. And that's how you miss the symphony created by different drivers to play that video in a second or two.
How to Install Drivers on Windows
Most drivers are installed automatically the moment you connect a hardware device like a flash drive or printer. Of course, that requires internet connectivity on your computer.
The process takes some time as it will search for the same online. You should see a pop-up with progress details. In the case of software, the drivers will be installed by the software package installer. You don't have to worry about a thing.
Want to download and install drivers manually? You can always visit the download section of the manufacturer's site or Microsoft Download Center to get the correct or latest version of the driver. You can then use the method shared in the next point to install them.
While you may know the name of the device manufacturer, the real challenge is finding out the exact technical name and model number of the device. That's how you will search for drivers on the site. You can easily find these details by using an app like CPU-Z or Speccy (both are free).
Once you get the details of the hardware device you're looking for, head to the manufacturer's site to check for any latest drivers. Or you can fetch them through Windows Updates. I don't recommend installing drivers from third-party sites. They are often unreliable, not certified, and might leave your Windows system unstable. Worst, it could carry malware that steals your data.
Are you a gamer? In that case, you will need to install the latest drivers often as Windows update, or other methods usually install older versions. Most graphics card manufacturers like AMD and Nvidia have their proprietary apps like AMD ReLive and NVIDIA GeForce Experience for updating drivers. These apps also offer additional features like gameplay recording, taking and sharing screenshots, and so on.
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How to Update Drivers on Windows
The most simple way to do that is to update your OS. It will not only install new features, bug fixes, and security patches but also update drivers. Press Windows key+I to Settings and select Update & Security option.
You can check for new updates here and apply them once they are downloaded and ready.
Here's another way that gives you more control. The Device Manager is where you can view all the hardware devices installed on your computer. Search for and open it from the Start menu. You can also press the Windows+X keyboard shortcut to find it.
Double-click an option to expand it. Do you want to update mouse drivers? Expand Mice and other pointing devices, select your trackpad provider or HID option for external USB-connected mouse, right-click, and select Update driver option.
The last option is to visit the device manufacturer's website and download and install the drivers yourself. You will follow the same steps as above but select 'Browser my computer for driver software' instead and select the driver file in Device Manager.
How to Check Driver Version and Update Date
Go back to the Device Manager and right-click on the device you want to check. Select Properties this time and click on the Drivers tab.
You will see the device driver version along with the date it was installed on.
Uninstall or Rollback Driver
Some troubleshooting steps involve uninstalling the driver or rollback. The latter simply means going back to a previous version of the driver.
Both the options are available under the Driver tab in Properties menu. You can also uninstall the device itself here and then reinstall as we saw above.
Drivers play an important part in pretty much whatever you do on your computer. An outdated or missing driver will render the device simply useless. As much as you dread updates, installing the latest version will ensure smooth functioning of the hardware with the OS. That is why we suggest users update them on Windows 10 computers because it solves the error more often.
Are you facing issues or new to Windows 10? Learn how to create restore points in Windows 10. These backups will help in case something goes wrong on your computer or things break.
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