Ever get an error on your computer that says something about "drivers?" Or maybe you have been told that your "drivers" are out of date? You have probably wondered what a "driver" is, and why it matters.
Simply put, a driver is software that manages the hardware of your computer. You have drivers for your video card, audio and pretty much any other physical component of your computer. Your operating system, whether it be Windows, Mac or other may be able to function without the hardware drivers. However, you will have poor or limited functionality of your machine. Drivers make sure your hardware functions appropriately.
If you have a Windows machine, you probably have heard about drivers more often. You may also have had more issues with drivers on a Windows machine versus a Mac. The reason is, Windows is a more open environment. Your Windows machine probably has hardware built by many different companies. Each has different drivers and sometimes they do not play nice with each other. Macs on the other hand, are all built and controlled by Apple. Apple rolls driver updates into the operating system updates so the end user rarely sees the need to install or update drivers.
Whichever type of computer you own, it is still good to stay up-to-date on your drivers for several reasons. First of all is performance. Updated drivers utilize your hardware better and more efficiently. It also reduces the risk on conflicts with other drivers or other software running on your computer. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, updated drivers fix security issues that are discovered. If you are using outdated drivers, your machine may be at an increased risk for hacks.
If you own a Mac, you can visit https://support.app.com/downloads to find updates for your computer. Again, since Apple develops both the hardware and software for Mac, this should be the only place you need to check for updates for your computer. Drivers should be included.
If you own a PC, it can be a little more complicated but tools are available to make it easy. Many hardware makers will provide software for your machine that routinely searches for and updates drivers provided by the manufacturer. You can also monitor the status of your drivers from Windows’ built-in "Device Manager." This program will show you a list of devices your computer is using including video cards, keyboards, monitors, printers and more. It also will show you any component that is having issues. Clicking on a device will give you options, including updating the driver. Windows will automatically search for Windows updates or updates from the manufacturer to find the best available driver for you.
Drivers sound very technical, and well, they are. However, many are made to be easy to support and deploy. While you most likely do not need all the nitty gritty of how a driver manages its hardware, it is important to be aware of what a driver is. More importantly, it is also good to know how and why to keep drivers up-to-date. When they do their job, you will never notice them. However, when there is an issue with a driver, your computer can become very frustrating to use. Bottom line: It is best to check the status of your drivers every now and then and make sure they are up-to-date and running correctly.
Brian Boyer is the managing partner of Web Pyro (http://?www.webpyro.com) located in Wooster.