In computing, a device driver or software driver is a computer program allowing higher-level computer programs to interact with a hardware device. In other words, it's the program that lets Windows, OS X, Linux, or whatever OS you may have, actually use the hardware you have plugged in. Frequently, the OS will come pre-bundled with some of its own Drivers, but these usually don't work as well as the official ones from the manufacturers. For example, Windows usually works fine out of the box, but if you want 3D acceleration, which is needed to play most games, you would need to download drivers from nVidia or AMD/ATI, depending on the type of card you have. Drivers are also usually on discs when you buy a new computer or piece of hardware, but these are usually outdated, and it's best to download the latest directly from the manufacturer.
Graphic (Display) Drivers
It is generally a good idea to stay relatively up to date with video drivers, newer revisions will often include fixes and performance increases depending on the title and hardware. Beta versions are also sometimes available for those who like to live on the bleeding edge at the potential cost of issues.
- It is recommended that you create a restore point before updating drivers.
Visit nVidia drivers page and fill in the form.
AMD / ATI Drivers
Visit ATI Drivers support page and fill in the form.
Custom Drivers/Experimental Beta Drivers
Use with extreme care, make sure you know what you are doing
Tips and Tricks
On newer operating systems such as Vista or Windows 7, should the display driver crash, it will typically reset and avoid bringing down the entire system down with it. However, even if recovery is successful, performance can sometimes be noticeably degraded until reboot (for example, GPU getting stuck at 2D clocks). It is possible to manually reset the driver and get it back to normal without having to restart.
- Open 'Device Manager'
- Find your GPU, right click and select 'Disable' (Don't panic! Your screen will blank out and end up at low resolution!)
- Do the same, except this time click 'Enable'
Performance should be back to normal now without having to spend time restarting.
Usually the latest driver is the best driver to use, however in some cases new drivers may cause problems. If this happens, use the driver rollback feature or system restore to bring back the old driver.
- Open 'Device Manager'
- Find your GPU, right click and select 'Properties'
- Go to the Driver tab.
- Click 'Roll Back Driver'
Every device in your computer has a driver. Later versions of windows are often able to find a driver for a given piece of hardware, but these drivers can sometimes be years old. Not only that, but older versions of vendor supplied drivers can sometimes cause issues in some circumstances. Thus, it is a good idea to install the latest drivers from a manufacturer.
Intel has a website that will check for driver updates for any Intel devices installed, which can be found here. Unless you are 100% sure you have no Intel devices at all in your computer, it is recommended that you visit that website at least once.
Driver Update Programs
While there are some programs out there that can check for driver updates, these can vary on how up to date they are. It is recommended that to avoid problems you do a manual check of the homepage of each device's manufacturer for driver updates.