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What are Display Drivers?

By Victoria Blackburn
Updated May 16, 2024
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A display driver is a computer program responsible for presenting video, as well as visual graphics and images, by a computer. It is a piece of software that helps the program being operated to connect with the monitor or laptop screen to display any visual elements. This produces the visual effect requested by the user through a process of electrical operations. Many different companies, including hardware and software companies, manufacture these types of programs.

Display drivers are unique to visual devices and software and will not work with other hardware, such as speakers or printers. A display driver takes the instructions given to the software from the user and communicates them to the hardware. The hardware then takes the appropriate action and relays it back to the software through the display driver. The user sees the visual result of the command he or she requested.

The type of display driver needed depends on the operating system installed on the computer. Hardware that has more than one operating system will have different display drivers for each of those operating systems. Ensuring compatibility between hardware and operating systems is often an ongoing process due to upgrades and repairs provided by the manufacturers of the hardware, device drivers and operating systems. If new display hardware or software programs are installed, a new display driver may need to be installed for either or both of them to work properly.

If a user is confused about the display driver required for his or her software or device, he or she can search out verification programs that will indicate the correct driver that is required by the system. Additionally, a software program may have this detection built into it. When the software is upgraded, it will either alert the user to any compatibility issues in the upgrade or the upgrade may include a new driver.

A user may need different display drivers for a monitor, camera and scanner to ensure all interfacing between the hardware and software is accomplished. They are also essential with certain types of software, such as image manipulation programs and games. Any media programs that are dependent on visual display, such as movie players or even movie creators, may need advanced display drivers, due to the many thousands of commands to the hardware that are made every second.

Improperly installed display drivers can cause a software program to quit, which is called a fatal error. This happens because the translation between the software and the hardware cannot happen. The lack of translation causes problems within the software, which cannot repair itself, closing the entire program.

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