The term chipset driver usually refers to a small computer file that is required for a computer operating system (OS) to recognize the motherboard inside a computer and work with it. Basic chipset drivers are typically included as part of operating system install, although motherboard manufacturers also include specific drivers to allow the most effective functionality from the motherboard. The term is also sometimes used to describe other types of drivers used for other internal components, such as audio and video cards, though this is often seen as an inaccurate usage of the phrase. The driver can usually be found on a compact disc (CD) or other media that accompanies a motherboard, or it may be downloaded from the board's manufacturer.
Drivers are types of software specifically created to help an OS operate with a device or component that is a part of a computer or connected to it. A chipset driver refers to a type of driver that is created to help an OS better operate with the motherboard. The motherboard functions as the central hub to which all other devices are connected in some way. These can be physically installed directly onto the board, as the processor, random access memory (RAM), and video card usually are, or connected through a universal serial bus (USB) port or similar connector.
In order for the OS installed onto a computer’s hard drive to properly recognize and function with all of these installed devices, it must be able to first recognize and work with the motherboard. Installed drivers allow this, and they indicate how the OS can identify and function with the motherboard. Most operating systems will have a basic chipset driver for just about any major motherboard on the market. This is done to ensure that a newly installed OS will work on a computer when it is first started up and has not been updated.
While an OS may have some drivers built-in, a CD or other form of media that comes with a motherboard will usually have a more specific one that can be installed. An updated driver can also usually be downloaded from the manufacturer of the motherboard to more effectively take advantage of the device. This can usually help solve hardware issues, such as installed devices not always being recognized properly, or RAM and video cards not functioning as they should.