A computer and the hardware you bought for it are not enough to function on their own. They need a missing piece that would make them function– a piece of software called a driver. But what are drivers exactly?
And why is your computer causing you so much trouble for not having them? Let’s find out.
Driver by Definition
All drivers are software, but not all software are drivers. Drivers are custom, manufacturer-made software designed to tell a device or component how to function.
It does so by communicating with the operating system (usually Windows) and the device. Hence, a driver’s job on your computer is of utmost importance. They are practically responsible for ensuring that a device or component operates as advertised and as intended.
Simply put, without the driver, your device either won’t work or won’t function optimally.
There are many different kinds of drivers but most of them are made for specific hardware components or devices.
What Happens if There’s No Driver?
While we mentioned that the device might not work or might not function as intended without the driver, there are deeper and more complex consequences for not having the driver or the correct one.
Windows usually has its own built-in universal drivers to help certain devices (such as GPUs) work without their dedicated drivers in order to provide users with visual input even without the ideal software. However, Windows’ own drivers usually won’t let the device perform to its maximum potential, or in worse cases, it might even cause the device to overheat or malfunction.
Drivers aren’t exactly known for causing damage– most software doesn’t have that capability. However, heat caused by poor function caused by improper software can be a culprit for hardware malfunction or gradual, premature wear and tear.
So for example, your drivers for your GPU are incorrect, not only will it perform sub-optimally, but there is also a risk of overheating or buggy operation.
That’s just one example based on a single component. There are other relatable examples with printers where the incorrect driver can cause frustration since the printer can’t use its features to produce an advertised output.
Why Are There So Many Drivers for Windows?
Such is the complexity of the computing world, even today. One of the reasons why Windows computers are becoming cheaper to build today is how components are modular and can come from many different brands and manufacturers.
This is a double-edged sword; because while it made building computers more accessible, it also made software needed for these computers more complex. Windows just can’t or doesn’t have the capacity to create a precise driver for every component, device, or hardware out there.
So the job of creating drivers for these hardware pieces typically falls on the manufacturer– to ensure that their devices work on Windows computers. This kind of brand interaction is, of course, prone to miscommunication, incompatibility, and bugs. And with the way Windows is always updating itself, brands and manufacturers also have to keep up with the updates.
It’s vastly different from how Apple does it with their iMac or MacBook computers. For Apple, all the necessary hardware and software for those hardware components come from them and only from them. Thus, developing a working software or driver for all the hardware they control is easier and they work more seamlessly compared to Windows computers and its chaotic ecosystem of modularity.
It’s one of the reasons why Apple is so user-friendly compared to Windows. The obvious downside is that repairs for Apple products are more expensive and modularity is almost nonexistent.
How to Update Drivers
This one is tricky. There are so many components with their own drivers for Windows computers and not all of them have an automatic update prompt or function.
Those that do will make themselves visible with prompts that might even annoy you at times. However, certain crucial drivers updates such as those for GPUs are often manual depending on how you installed them.
However, you can always check your list of devices that need drivers in Windows by typing ‘device manager’ in the Windows search bar and opening the Device Manager window.
There, you can check each piece of hardware component connected to your computer both internally and externally. You can right click on each and every one of them and select ‘Update driver’ in order to force a manual driver scan and to download an update.
Note that this doesn’t always work as Windows won’t always be able to fetch a website that connects directly to the manufacturer’s driver downloads. There are also times when manufacturers deactivate or change their websites. Of course, you can forget about this Windows feature if you’re not online because a lot of driver updates and downloads need the internet.
Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry about Windows and its set of drivers. It usually forces its updates on its users whether they like it or not. Sometimes, it’s all for the best, however.