Most of the drivers on your computer may never need to be updated, but there is one area where technology and software are always changing: video and 3D graphics.
Even if your computer and its graphics accelerator are years old, chances are there is a new driver that can update your compatibility with video players, software, and games. It may even boost your performance or fix errors that occurred in previous versions. All in all, new video drivers can add more life to your system by keeping it functional and compatible with new developments in computing.
Updating your video drivers isn’t very hard, but the first step involves identifying what kind of graphics accelerator you have.
To find out what your graphics accelerator is, right-click anywhere on your desktop (except for over icons) and left-click on Properties. This will take you to the Display Properties menu.
Click the Settings tab on the far right. This tab will show you the current configuration of your monitors and, just underneath this visual representation, the graphics accelerator that your computer is currently using. The example below shows the ATI Radeon 5800 series as the graphics accelerator.
Remember the full name and number of your graphics accelerator, and then close this menu by clicking the X button at the top right of the window. Next, open your internet browser.
The internet is a big reason that video drivers can update and improve so frequently: it gives users the ability to access new drivers without having to get a physical driver disc. More than one company makes graphics accelerators, but almost every single graphics chip in home computers is made by Nvidia, ATI, or Intel.
If you find that you have an Nvidia graphics accelerator, visit http://www.nvidia.com and select your country to access their site. Click the link for downloading drivers.
If you find that you have an ATI graphics accelerator, visit http://ati.amd.com and look on the main page for a drivers menu.
If you have an Intel graphics accelerator, visit http://downloadcenter.intel.com and use the driver selection menu.
Web sites can change frequently, but you should see something like the image below. Use the menus to select the graphics accelerator name and number from your Display Properties.
There are lots of names for graphics accelerators, but they are divided into three main categories: desktop graphics, laptop graphics, and integrated graphics. Desktop graphics are a card found in desktop computers. Laptop graphics are, naturally, a graphics accelerator inside a laptop. Integrated graphics can be found on desktops or laptops, are generally for more basic systems, and are essentially a graphics accelerator that shares power and memory with the computer’s processor and RAM.
You’ll know if you have integrated graphics if the name and number in the Display Properties included the words “integrated” or “on-board.” Otherwise, you’re just looking for the model name and number of your graphics accelerator – and the “laptop” or “mobility” version of it if you happen to be using a laptop computer.
Select and download the driver that matches your graphics accelerator. Once the file has finished downloading, you can simply double-click it and an installer will begin. The driver installations for Nvidia, ATI, and Intel graphics are all easy, step-by-step affairs. Once the installation has finished, you should be using the most current video drivers on your system. Not only can this keep your system prepared for new programs, but it may solve that long-running video problem – or fix one before it can happen.