What are Network Card Drivers?

G. Wiesen

Network card drivers are a type of computer file that allow a computer’s operating system (OS) to properly recognize and interact with an installed network card. These files ensure that newly installed network cards are properly identified by an OS on a computer, and that the OS is able to access all of the functions and features of the card properly. Network card drivers are typically required for a network card to work properly once it is installed, and will usually come with a network card on a disc from the manufacturer or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Network card drivers allow office computers to work on a shared system.
Network card drivers allow office computers to work on a shared system.

Drivers are computer files that are typically installed into the files of a computer’s OS and allow that system to properly recognize and work with devices and hardware installed on a computer. Most new types of OS will have a good deal of generic drivers already installed to allow for simple usage of hardware, such as a sound card, keyboard, and mouse. Some devices, however, also require specific drivers for the device to be installed for the computer’s OS to utilize all of the features of the device.

Network card drivers might be installed in a generic way when the OS on a computer is installed, but these drivers typically are insufficient to fully utilize an installed network card. A network card is a device installed into a computer to allow that machine to be connected to part of a larger network of computers and hardware, such as printers, through a local area network (LAN) or a wireless local area network (WLAN). Network card drivers usually need to be installed as software into the OS as the card itself is physically installed into the computer.

These network card drivers allow a computer’s OS to recognize the device that is installed — otherwise the computer will potentially display an error message reporting an unrecognized device — and to use the card to connect to a network. This is especially important for connecting to a WLAN, where passwords and other information may be required to properly connect to the correct network. Even if an OS on a computer can recognize a card without the network card drivers, connectivity through the card to a network could be impeded or unstable. The network card drivers are usually installed from a disc that comes with a card or can be downloaded through the Internet. Many manufacturers update the drivers for their cards somewhat regularly, and updated drivers can sometimes increase performance or enhance functionality of network cards.

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