It is very important to equip your PC with the most optimal drivers, otherwise you will quickly run into errors when connecting new devices, for example. Also, hardware may not function optimally if your drivers are outdated. We'll show you how to find, install and keep the right drivers up to date.
Years ago, in the days of DOS, drivers barely existed. At the time, software developers had to make sure that their programs could control the necessary hardware. Fortunately, that time is behind us. Drivers, also known as drivers, provide an extra layer between the hardware and the software, as it were. The programs no longer have to take care of controlling the hardware themselves.
Once you've installed a good driver for a hardware component, basically all programs can handle that hardware. However, that also means that a wrong or defective driver can put your (system) in serious trouble. It is therefore very important to equip your system with optimal drivers and to have it checked regularly for updates.
01 Automatic installation
When you install Windows, the drivers for most hardware components will be installed automatically. During the installation process, Windows detects the connected hardware and immediately tries to provide it with the necessary drivers. Windows has many thousands of drivers on board. However, it can happen that not all (or not the most recent or optimal) drivers are installed. This is especially the case with older versions of Windows. In case of problems, therefore, first check whether the Windows Update settings are optimally set. Open it Control Panel (in Windows 8 you can find this option via Windows key + X), choose behind Show on in front of Big Icons and select Windows Update. First click on Change settings and see if there is a check mark next to it Receive recommended updates in the same way as important updates. If not, place the check mark. Confirm with OK and choose Looking for updates.
The link will appear afterwards x optional updates are available, click on them and place a check mark next to the (driver) updates that you want to install. Confirm with OK and press the button Install updates. The updates are downloaded and then installed. Fortunately, Windows is wise to create a system restore point first, so that you can always return to the previous state in case of problems.
02 Windows update tweak
Do you dread calling Windows Update on a regular basis and (after any selection) Install updates You can also set Windows to automatically check for updates at regular intervals. That can also be set via Change settings. In the drop-down menu, choose Install updates automatically (recommended), after which you set a suitable time (default is every day at 3:00 AM).
It is also possible to have Windows automatically search for drivers as soon as you have a new device connected to your system. You activate this option from the Control Panel where you (in icon view) Devices and Printers selects. Then right-click the name of your computer and choose Device installation settings. Dot the option Yes, automatically download drivers and icons (recommended) if you indeed prefer such an automatic installation. The alternative is No, I decide what needs to be done, after which you for example Install drivers from Windows Update if they are not on the computer can touch. Confirm your choice with Saving Changes.
03 Device Manager
In any case, it is a good idea to check after the installation of Windows and every time after the installation of a device whether the required driver has been installed correctly. This can be done through the Device Manager, which you can also find in the Control Panel. Are you often in the Device Manager now? Then you can call it even faster via Windows key+R / type devmgmt.msc and press Enter.
If all drivers are installed correctly and so your devices are supposed to function correctly, you will get a list with the different device types listed. Click a white triangle next to such a device type to see the individual devices. If you see a red cross (Windows XP) or a small black arrow in the device icon, it means that this device has been disabled for some reason. If you need the device, right click it and choose Switch. It can be this easy.
04 Device Manager Problems
The problem of a switched off device is easy to solve. However, a few other problems can arise that are often less quick or less easy to solve.
We briefly discuss the different indications in the Device Manager. When you see an exclamation mark on a yellow background, it usually means that Windows has recognized the device, but has not found or was unable to install the correct driver. If you see the 'device type' Unknown device in the list, with the item Unknown device in it one or more times, then Windows has failed to recognize the device. Then it is also possible that Windows has installed a generic (and therefore not product-specific) driver for a certain device. This usually works, but often not optimally (due to fewer features or performance).
05 Quirky Driver
Suppose a device does not work (or does not work properly) and an exclamation mark in the Device Manager is already a strong indication that something is wrong with the driver. At first you can try it like this, but the chances are relatively small that it will yield anything. Right-click the appropriate device and select Update Drivers / Search for Updated Drivers Automatically. If Windows still finds a suitable driver, have it installed. If that's not the case, you still have a few options: either you track down the correct driver yourself, or you call on a more specialized tool. We will tell you more about this last option in step 9 of this article. We first focus on the 'manual' method.
06 Device known
Finding the correct driver is usually not that difficult if the device name tells you exactly which device it is. In that case you will probably find the corresponding and up-to-date driver on the site of the manufacturer of your computer, especially if you have a ready-made PC or laptop. You will usually find a section like Support, Software or Downloads on your computer manufacturer's website. You can also google the name of the device in combination with the word 'driver'. Be careful in this case, because some hits can lead to shady sites that are mainly out to have their own, malicious or not, software installed.
You can also try your luck at driver collections like www.driverscollection.com or www.driverguide.com. The latter also gives each hit a user rating, which is an immediate signal that some skepticism when picking up drivers is always in order. Always check the download first with a service such as www.virustotal.com and always create a system restore point before installation! Depending on the download, you only need to run one exe file. You can also reinstall the driver from the Device Manager: choose Update drivers / Browse my computer for drivers and point to the folder where you extracted the download.
Does the installation not succeed, but do you have the correct driver? In that case, it may help to remove the device in Device Manager first. Choose this Undo installation in the context menu of the device. Then restart Windows and try installing the driver again.
07 Unknown device
What if it is not immediately apparent from the device name what exactly it is about, or when 'Unknown device' appears in the Device Manager? Then you look for the corresponding device ID yourself. Right click the device and choose Characteristics. Open the tab Details and choose Hardware IDs in the drop-down menu. One or more lines of text will now appear in which you usually enter the Vendor ID (VEN or VID), as well as the Device ID (THE V or DID), the Class Code (CC) and the Revision (REV). Search with Google initially for the top (most detailed) ID: there is a good chance that you will be directed to a site with the suitable driver. If the search does not yield useful results, try with a shorter, less detailed ID.
By the way, there is also a free tool that makes searching for the hardware IDs a bit easier: Unknown Device Identifier. This not only gives you the hardware IDs, but also immediately tells you who the manufacturer is and possibly also which device it is. Through the menu Drivers / Find Driver the program then immediately passes on a suitable search to Google.
If you think you have found a suitable driver, the same applies here (and as always when downloading and installing drivers): always scan for viruses first and create a system restore point!
08 Generic Driver
Even if the Device Manager doesn't complain about anything, that doesn't necessarily mean you have the most appropriate and most recent driver installed for each device. It is therefore wise to check this yourself. It often happens that Windows has installed a generic driver that does not unlock all functions or the full speed of the device. This is particularly common with monitor adapters (Standard VGA graphics adapter) and monitors (General PnP monitor). In most cases, replace those better device-specific drivers. You can use the methods described earlier (with hardware IDs) if you do not know exactly which product it is.
You can also always use a decent system information tool, such as the free SiSoftware Sandra Lite. There is a good chance that, despite the installation of a generic driver, it will still be able to tell you what the exact product type is, so that you can still look for the most suitable driver.
09 Additional tools
If you are unable to find a suitable or up-to-date driver, you can also leave the checking and search to an external tool. A free program that you can use is Driveridentifier.
Once Driveridentifier is installed, press Scan Drivers, after which you will see an overview of the detected drivers in your browser. With a bit of luck, the tool can even identify unknown devices. In the column Download tells the link Update you if there might be a newer driver ready for you. Mind you, that link almost always takes you to a page with various drivers. It's up to you to decide which driver might be the right one. So not entirely risk-free.
Fortunately, they are becoming rarer, those infamous BSODs (Blue Screen of Death). But if you encounter such a stop error, there is a good chance that a faulty driver is the cause. To check that you can use the Windows tool Driver Verifier Manager. Press Windows key+R and feed verify from. Dot Standard settings on, press Next one and choose Automatically select unsigned drivers (since it is usually those drivers that can cause problems). Confirm with Next one. You will now be presented with the list of unsigned drivers. click on Cancel if you have enough information with this. when you're on Complete click, the tool will check those drivers on the next Windows startup and show you an error message if one of these drivers is indeed causing problems.
Based on the error code and the driver name, you can then do further research (via Google, for example) or try (from safe mode) to update, roll back or disable the driver if necessary.
Intel & AMD
Major manufacturers such as Intel and AMD often offer their own tool to check whether you have the most recent and optimal drivers for their equipment. Intel, for example, offers the Intel Driver Update Utility, a tool that works via ActiveX or Java. It identifies, searches, downloads and installs the appropriate drivers for your system. AMD makes AMD Driver Autodetect available. This program can also retrieve and install the most recent drivers. Tools that come from the manufacturer itself are always preferable to generic tools such as DriverMax.