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What are Driver Updates?

By Phil Shepley
Updated May 16, 2024
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Driver updates are computer software updates that are designed to make corrections or add enhancements to existing drivers. Some types of drivers may need constant updates, while others may never need an update at all. Driver updates are made available to users through a variety of means, and are available for most computer device drivers.

A driver is a computer program that allows a computer system to communicate with a particular hardware component. For example, a computer printer needs to be "told" what to do by the computer it is connected to. When the "print" button is pressed for the purpose of printing a document, for example, the printer's driver will translate the document into a language the printer can understand. It also gives the printer all of the details about the how the document is supposed to be printed, like the colors, paper size, and more. The driver software also relays information back to the computer, so the user can be aware of ink levels, hardware errors, etc.

Often, the driver software that first comes with computer hardware may contain errors. Driver updates can fix the errors of the driver software so that it runs correctly. A driver update can also be an entire new driver program that will replace the old one in its entirety. The first thing to consider when a piece of computer hardware is not behaving correctly is to see if there are any driver updates available for it.

One can obtain driver updates through different options. Sometimes these updates are included in an operating system's automatic updates, which can be the easiest way to receive them. Many driver updates are made available for download on the hardware manufacturer's website. This will require the user to check the website if he or she is looking for an update for a specific driver.

The way driver updates are installed into a computer can also vary, depending on the hardware, the software and the computer system itself. The simplest method is by running automatic updates on a computer, which will often identify drivers for which updates are available. Executable program updates can also be relatively simple to use. Once they are downloaded, the user will simply run the program, which will install the necessary driver updates.

For some pieces of hardware, however, the installation of a driver can be rather involved. This is especially true when the update is a whole new driver program. Video cards, for instance, are important pieces of computer hardware that the driver must be properly installed for. Otherwise, the computer screen may no longer be visible. More complex updates will require the updater to follow a detailed set of instructions to properly install an updated driver into a computer.

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