Q. What are drivers? I get a message on my Windows screen that says I need to update my drivers. Do I need to do this?
A. Device drivers, also just known as drivers, are basically little pieces of software that let the computer’s operating system communicate properly with the hardware connected to it. Companies that make hardware devices sometimes update their driver software to make it work better with the operating system, or to make the hardware work with an updated operating system.
The Windows system itself comes with many of the drivers you need for your computer’s internal hardware and its peripherals, like keyboards, printers and monitors. In Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, you can get any newly released drivers through Windows Update. Unless a driver becomes corrupted or you play a lot of PC games and are advised to update your video card’s drivers for better performance, you may not need to fiddle much.
If you have Windows Update configured to install new software automatically, you should get any newly released drivers along with the regular software patches and security fixes. If you are having trouble with a device and want to install the latest driver software manually, you can do so by using the Windows Device Manager utility or by going to the hardware manufacturer’s website to download and install the latest drivers for the device that is having the problem.
The web is full of driver-library sites and third-party tools you can use to download what you need all in one place, but be leery of installing software from unfamiliar places. Additionally, some messages about updating your computer’s drivers may actually be coming from malicious software or viruses lurking on your PC. If you are besieged with driver-update messages, run an antivirus and anti-malware utility on the computer first and then run Windows Update.