Keeping drivers up to date can help your computer run better, add features to your existing equipment, and/or make the device run faster. Of course, it can also make a piece of hardware compatible with a new operating system (like if you’ve gone from Win 98 to XP) or if you add a critical update to your OS like Service Pack 2 for Win XP.
Sounds like a no brainier huh? Well, for every good there is an evil… and drivers have their dark side, too (watch out Yoda!)
Sometimes updating a driver can cause more problems then it solves. The internet is full of horrific driver update stories. Little devices strewn out all over the information highway like myopic raccoons. When driver updates go bad, it can be incredibly difficult to get things up and running the way they should again. I hear FOX is going to make a TV show about it soon (OK, maybe I just made that up).
So, what should you do?
My advice is to update with care. Here are about the only three reasons I go for an updated driver:
1. Device Problems – If I have a device that is buggy and just not acting right, I’ll look for an updated driver to fix the problem.
2. Better Performance – If I see the manufacturer has issued an updated driver that makes the hardware perform better or do something extra I need, then I’ll update.
3. Software Compatibility – If I have a piece of software that needs an updated driver to work with my hardware, that’s another reason for me to update. In addition, if I switch to a bigger, buggier version of Windows, an updated driver may be a good idea.
Note that I don’t update my driver just because I can. If I find that my current driver and hardware are getting along and doing what I need, I’m not going to take a chance on an update. Nor will I update so that my hardware is compatible with software I don’t own. Unless a driver meets one of my 3 conditions mentioned above, I stick with what I have.
Now I bet you’re wondering, “Gee, that’s great Steve, but how do I update my drivers?”
Well, it all depends on the manufacturer.
The most common (and easiest) driver update is simply an “.exe” type file that runs a little setup program. You download it, double-click it, the setup program runs, and it’s a done deal. The most you’ll have to do is re-start your computer.
Another way is through the use of an “inf” file. Some of these, when right-clicked, will give a menu option to install the driver. Others (most) inf files don’t. You have to update the driver manually. Here’s how:
1. Right-click My Computer, Properties.
2. Next, go to the device manager tab and select the hardware item you would like to update (Win 2000 and Win XP users, head to the Hardware tab and hit the Device Manager button). You’ll probably need to click the plus (+) sign next to each category in order to actually get to a specific piece of hardware.
3. Right-click the item you want to update and select Properties from the resulting menu.
4. Click the Update driver button on that tab. A wizard will start and help you install your new driver. Click the Next button .
5. Click the ” Search for a better driver… ” radio button. Click Next.
6. Finally, tell the computer where the new driver file is using the “Specify a Location” drop box and the Browse button. If you’re using Win ME or XP, it will automatically start looking for the new driver at this point. If it doesn’t find it, you’ll have to tell it where to look.
Once the driver is located, you’ll be able to finish up with the wizard. You’ll probably need to re-start your computer, but that’s about it. Not too terribly hard, now was it?