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What is an Audio Driver?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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An audio driver is a type of computer file used by a computer’s operating system (OS) to recognize and properly interact with an audio device. It usually refers to a driver used for sound cards within a computer, but can also be used in reference to drivers necessary for especially complex sound systems or audio input devices as well. An audio driver may come with a piece of audio hardware or may be downloaded or updated through the Internet.

Drivers are, in general, software files installed onto a computer to help devices and other types of hardware run properly with a computer. In order for an OS installed on a computer to recognize everything else connected to that computer and work with those things properly, drivers identify various components for an OS and help it all work effectively. An audio driver is simply a specific type of driver that focuses on audio devices and helping an OS recognize and work with such devices.

Audio devices can come in a number of forms, though typically a sound card or similar input or output device is involved. Sound cards may often be built into a computer system as part of a motherboard, usually referred to as onboard sound, or they can be separate components that need to be installed into a system. A sound card is usually used to allow a computer to process audio information and output that information through speakers as auditory sound.

The OS on a computer uses an audio driver to recognize a sound card and allow the computer to utilize all the options and features a sound card can provide. An OS can also sometimes have audio driver files installed during installation of the OS, to allow a number of different devices to operate at least in basic ways with a computer. Devices will typically have specific drivers made for use with the device, and installing this type of audio driver allows the OS on a computer to fully access and work with a device.

These drivers will usually come with an audio device on a disc and can be installed during the physical installation process of the device. Many manufacturers of audio devices will also frequently update and improve the audio drivers used by their devices. These updated drivers can usually be downloaded from the website of a manufacturer and can fix problems with device software or include new features that take better advantage of the hardware or device.

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Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Jan 11, 2013

@bythewell - It's really disappointing though, when everyone says that's the problem and you do that and nothing gets fixed. I think in some cases (such as mine) the problem is with the age of the computer and no amount of downloads is going to fix that.

By bythewell — On Jan 11, 2013

@KoiwiGal - It's true that you should keep your codecs up to date if you are going to be using a lot of different kinds of files, but it is also important to keep your drivers up to date, particularly if you aren't the kind of person to run out and buy the latest machine every year.

Technology moves so fast, and just assumes that everyone is keeping up.

It's easy for someone who doesn't know a lot about computers to not realize why they are getting an error when they try to play the latest game. It's always worth going to the website of whoever made your computer and checking that they don't have any new editions of audio or video drivers to download.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 10, 2013

If you've been having trouble playing a particular video file on your computer and you aren't sure why, it might not be a problem with your video or audio driver (which seems to be the first conclusion everyone jumps to).

It's more likely that you just don't have the right codec for your file. This is particularly true if you can play the video but not the audio, or vice versa.

Video and audio compression technology is always changing so you need to keep your codecs up to date. The best thing to do is to go on a trusted website that has freeware for download and get one of the codec packages that are available. Try to get one that a lot of people use and like and that is updated regularly.

It seems complicated, but it's not really. You basically just have to download and install it and it will work automatically whenever you play a file. If that doesn't fix the problem, then it's probably a problem with the file itself.

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