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How to Update Device Drivers

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

What Are Device Drivers?

Device drivers are software packages that permit a computer's operating system to communicate with a hardware device. Your computer has multiple drivers on it, such as one for the mouse and another for your printer.

The Device Manager is used to update device drivers. You can configure Windows Update to maintain device drivers as well as operating system patches.

Plug and Play or PnP devices are those that can be plugged in and immediately recognized by your computer's operating system. You won't need to find drivers off of the internet and install them or even reboot your computer to use the peripheral device. For users with plug and play devices, you may still need to update the default device drivers that come with the device to work with your operating system.

Device drivers help peripherals communicate with your computer.
Device drivers help peripherals communicate with your computer. | Source

How to Install Device Drivers

You may be prompted to install the device driver when the new device is connected to the PC, install the driver via a CD that came with the hardware or need to find and download the device driver from the internet.

Windows requires users to install a device driver before you can use the new hardware. Windows determines whether any new hardware was installed and automatically attempts to install the correct driver for the hardware. Windows setup takes this a step further and will search for drivers not installed by default on the device.

How to Update Device Drivers

Users with Windows can update device drivers by typing "windows update" in the Start menu search field or selecting Start, Control Panel, Windows Update.

Your choices are to turn automatic updating on or off, check for updates or view install updates. Check for updates gives the date the system was last updated and updates available for installation. Windows shows essential drivers for hardware like video cards and hard disk controllers as important driver updates.

All other device drivers are listed as optional updates. Essential updates will be selected for installation. Put check in the box to the left side of each optional driver if you want it to be installed. Once all of the device drivers to be installed are selected, click on the OK button to download it and install it.

How to Verify Device Drivers

Windows requires all drivers to be digitally signed to be installed on 64 bit Windows OS. Device driver verification occurs when the digital signature on the device driver executable is verified against a list of drivers approved by Microsoft.

To verify the digital signature of drivers, you can use the File Signature Verification sigverif.exe tool, check the signature via the Device Manager Properties box or use a tool called the Driver Query.

Access controls intended for IT security can hinder the updates of device drivers.
Access controls intended for IT security can hinder the updates of device drivers. | Source

Access Control Limits on Device Management

You can only install and update drivers through the Device Manager in Windows if you have administrative rights. If you do not have admin rights (administrative rights) on the computer, Device Manager will open but you cannot add or alter the drivers on the device.

If you want to open the Device Manager on a remote machine, first open Computer Management. Go to the "Action" menu. Select "Connect to Another Computer". You will need to enter the computer name if the computer name is not listed in the drop down box. Once the computer has been selected, click on "OK" to open it. From this connection, you can view the Device Manager for the remote computer but Windows will not be able to change them.

Troubleshooting Device Driver Problems

Device drivers do not always work as intended. Kernel drivers can crash your computer if they do not work properly. Corrupted or poorly written device drivers may not work once installed on your computer. Device driver roll back is when you remove the driver with the previously installed driver that worked.

To uninstall drivers, first go to the Device Manager window. For Windows systems, enter devmgmt.msc in the Run box or go to the Hardware tab on the System Properties windows. Select the device whose driver is not working correctly. Right click on the device and select to uninstall the driver. After the driver has been removed, right click on the device and select Update Driver Software to reinstall the driver.


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