What Are Ethernet Drivers?

Alex Tree

Ethernet drivers are software programs that provide hardware-software interaction between the operating system of a personal computer (PC) and its local area network (LAN) port. Installing compatible drivers will enable network access for the user. This enables a user to communicate with other PCs, connect to the Internet, or access a common printer or scanner.

An Ethernet cable.
An Ethernet cable.

A driver is a program that facilitates interaction between a computer’s hardware and operating system (OS). It is necessary for the accurate functioning of a computer. Drivers enable end users to access the hardware devices connected to their computer. Drivers are hardware and OS specific. The hardware manufacturer usually provides a CD or DVD containing the setup file of the relevant driver package.

Ethernet cables plugged into an Internet switch.
Ethernet cables plugged into an Internet switch.

Ethernet drivers determine the rate at which data can be sent and received between a computer and a network. These drivers, however, differ from the PC’s motherboard LAN configuration and the operating system in use. Advancement in computer bus communication technology allows new drivers to communicate faster and more efficiently than outdated ones. It is therefore important to use the latest drivers to complement high-speed LAN and Internet connections.

To install an Ethernet driver, a driver scan can be performed to give a summary of all drivers that need to be updated. This is automatically performed by some operating systems. The appropriate drivers are either automatically installed by the OS or can be manually installed from a CD/DVD, hard disk, or removable media, such as a universal serial bus (USB) flash device. Alternately, they can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, which might be a cumbersome task when seeking Ethernet drivers because, without one, there may be difficulty accessing the Internet. The drivers must then be installed by following the instructions of the setup wizard.

Regular driver updates are usually made available online by software providers via their website. Paperback and online user manuals published by vendors provide information on how a user can extract maximum value from her or his hardware. This includes a step-by-step guide on correct installation and compatibility checking.

Most operating systems have an automatic network error troubleshooting protocol, which attempts to repair the drivers in case of malfunction. Accordingly, driver packages are released for specific types of hardware. There is a driver corresponding to each external device. Examples include USB drivers for USB devices and CD/DVD drivers for internal or external magnetic drives. Ethernet drivers manage the wired network connections of a PC, while Wi-Fi drivers manage wireless connections.

The USB flash drive is a form of removable media.
The USB flash drive is a form of removable media.

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