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What Is a Chipset Driver?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

How To Check My Chipset Driver Version

Whether the task is simple emailing or intense gaming, personal computers require a hardware link between the central processing unit and the motherboard devices that make the magic happen. PC chipsets make that essential connection. Motherboard chipsets range from single chips to as many as four processors. Manufacturers customize these sets for a family of CPUs, and new chipsets roll out with each new generation of processors.

Different Strokes for Different Operating Systems

Naturally, a computer operating system must manage the communications between the CPU, the chipset and the motherboard devices. With Linux distributions and Apple’s macOS, this code resides in the OS’s kernel. Microsoft Windows, the OS used by the majority of the world’s PCs, takes a different approach. From the operating system’s launch in 1985 to the introduction of Windows 11, customized chipset driver files have served as the motherboard traffic cops. To fix bugs and to keep up with the expanding capabilities of new devices, chipmakers release new driver versions.

Version Verification Steps

In Windows, you can find your chipset driver version with these steps:

  1. Type “Device Manager” in the Windows search field and then double-click the Device Manager icon.
  2. In the Device Manager window, click on System Devices.
  3. If your PC uses AMD chips, you will see an item named “AMD SMBus.” If your system uses Intel chips, click on the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers icon, and then locate the item containing “Bus Master” in its name.
  4. Right-click on the item to open a popup menu, and then select Properties.
  5. In the Properties window, click the Driver tab to reveal your chipset version and release date.

With your chipset version noted, you are ready to learn about the two chipmakers' driver files and their differing update approaches.

What Is an Intel Chipset Driver?

Beginning with its 8088 chip architecture in the 1980s, Intel helped usher in the PC revolution. Since Microsoft launched Windows in 1985, Intel chipset drivers have been part of the package. Drivers are collections of files, with more sophisticated motherboards needing more files to take full advantage of their capabilities. The Intel Management Engine lies at the heart of the chipmaker's current driver package. This software engine allows Intel-equipped motherboards to perform numerous tasks while the primary system remains in deep sleep mode, thereby conserving laptop battery life.

What Is an AMD Chipset Driver?

For much of the personal computing era, Advanced Micro Devices acted as the scrappy underdog nipping at Intel's heels. That tide has turned, and AMD now competes toe-to-toe against Intel in nearly every CPU market segment. As with Intel, AMD’s chipset driver includes sophisticated power management features in the form of the Ryzen Power Plan. AMD releases chipset driver updates more frequently than Intel, and in some cases, the Windows Update utility may fall behind the chipmaker’s aggressive schedule.

What Are the Best Practices for Updating Chipset Drivers?

With the overwhelming number of users, allowing Windows to manage chipset driver updates is the best practice. By default, Windows performs operating system updates automatically in the overnight hours. When necessary, these updates include chipset drivers. Laptop owners frequently disable automatic updates, and these users should run Windows Update weekly. Automatic or manual, heed Microsoft's warning and do not disconnect the power cord during an update.

Are Manual Chipset Driver Updates Worthwhile?

A small number of demanding computer users may benefit from manually updating chipset drivers. Video editors working against deadlines need to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of their computers. Dedicated gamers, many of whom build their computers, form another cadre of power users. AMD’s Ryzen chips have won favor among these users, and the chipmaker responded by providing a streamlined chipset download utility on its website.

Here are the steps to update the chipset for AMD Ryzen family motherboards:

  1. From the support section of AMD’s website, download the matching chipset driver for your CPU.
  2. Run Windows Update. From the Start Menu, select Settings and then click Update & Security. You may need to cycle through several restarts to install every update.
  3. The chipset driver installation requires administrator privileges; switch to administrator account if necessary.
  4. Disable your anti-virus software until the update completes.
  5. Navigate to your Downloads folder and double-click the file named “AMD_Chipset_Software.”
  6. With the installer running, select the software components to install. AMD recommends selecting all of the options.
  7. Click the Install button in the lower-right corner and wait for the process to finish. Installation may take several minutes.
  8. When the “Installed successfully” message appears, click the Restart button to complete the installation and take advantage of the new driver.
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Discussion Comments

By anon991571 — On Jul 01, 2015

@anon255909: If you really can't afford a new computer and also can't get a factory restore, you can always reformat and then download and install the drivers. This will take some time, but it will refresh your computer and having it working decently again.

First, you search the internet for a free working copy of Windows. Since you got this in 2009, I would say Windows XP. As far as how to get a free working copy, you'll have to figure that one out. Just look it up, I guess.

Then you burn the image of Windows XP onto a CD (if it's Windows 7, you'll need a DVD because Windows 7 is about 4 Gigs). You can use a program like "Alcohol 120", or "Nero", or something like that.

Then you get an external hard drive (or a series of DVD's if your struggling for money) and save all your data on it. All the "My documents" folders and "Download folders" and so forth. Everything you want to save. Make sure to get all Users accounts saved if there are multiple users. Another thing might be to make sure some folders aren't hidden because I'm not sure that if once you reformat, your new user account will be able to see them.

Also, I would try to save a printscreen of the "Devices" installed. Right-click on "My Computer" go to "Properties" and click on "Device Manager" (or something like that). Then expand all the devices and hit Ctrl+Alt+PrntScr to copy the "Devices" image. Go to the "Paint" program and hit "Ctrl+V" to paste the image, save the file, and then add this to your data to be saved. You save this because this way you ensure that you have a reference point if you're missing devices (drivers) once you reformat.

You can also go on the internet and download all the relevant drivers for your PC. Just go to your PC manufacturers website for driver software. You can add this to your files to be saved. But truthfully, you can just download the drivers after you've reformatted, if you have internet connection. The only risk is that it's possible that the driver responsible for your internet connection is missing or incorrect. But this is a very small risk.

Once you've saved everything you need, pop the disc in and restart the PC. If the PC doesn't boot from the CD, make sure you configure the BIOS to do so (restart the computer and immediately hit F12... I think). Then install your new operating system.

After the operating system is installed. You install all your drivers, checking your previously saved "Devices" print screen so that you get a sense of how well your drivers are matching up. Sometimes the drivers are just zip files, but they don't actually install the software. Make sure you navigate to where the zip file is unzipped, and open the executable (.exe file). Usually something like "Setup.exe" or something like that. Confirm that everything is actually installed correctly and boom, practically a new computer.

By anon924423 — On Jan 04, 2014

Please save yourself from more heartache and buy a new one. Once you purchase it you'll regret why hadn't done it earlier. If it can't be of help to you then it's not worth your precious time.

By anon255909 — On Mar 19, 2012

I am in desperte need of help. I have a eMachines EL 1210 - 9, built in 2008.

Here's the problem. I purchased this CPU in 2009,in the USA. I was not used to computers at that time. It was my first. When I purchased it, there was no factory restore system set up installed.

It is now 2012 and I live in the Philippines. My computer is running like crap and very slow and constantly shutting down.

I contacted Gateway and Acer and eMachines about it. They all tell me I need to place a purchase order for the disc online to factory restore the system. I went online, entered all the required information needed amd now I get the message "item not available."

How can I restore my CPU? I need it very much. It's my only communication with family in the us and my elderly sick mother whom I worship!

Please help me if you can in any way.

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