What is a Driver
Definition: A driver is a small piece of software that tells the operating system and other software how to communicate with a piece of hardware. For example, all printers come accompanied with drivers to install that tell the operating system exactly how to print information on the page. Sound card drivers tell your software exactly how to translate data into audio signals that the card can output to a set of speakers. The same applies to video cards, keyboards, monitors, etc. The drivers for each piece of hardware in your Windows computer are centrally managed from Device Manager, available in all versions of Microsoft Windows. Here are some common tasks in Windows involving drivers:
· How To Update Drivers in Windows
· How To Find a Driver’s Version Number in Windows
· How To Roll Back a Driver in Windows
Also Known As: device driver, computer driver
“When I installed my new game and it didn’t work I was sure that my computer was in trouble. It turns out that all I needed was an updated driver from my video card manufacturer.”
How To Update Drivers in Windows
You might need to perform a driver update in Windows for all kinds of reasons. Usually, a driver update is used as a solution to an issue with how Windows works with a piece of hardware. Updating a driver can also enable new or updated features for the hardware. Drivers are updated in Windows by using a driver update wizard from within Device Manager. The driver update wizard walks you through the entire driver update process, making updating drivers a fairly painless task. Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP all have slightly different processes for completing driver updates: Updating a hardware device’s driver is usually the first troubleshooting step to any hardware issue in Windows. In particular, a simple driver update will often correct many of the common Device Manager error codes.
Important: If you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows, you must install 32-bit drivers. If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows, you must install 64-bit drivers
How To Update Drivers in Windows 7
Updating drivers in Windows 7 is necessary when a hardware device doesn’t install automatically, when the hardware is having some kind of problem, or as part of some other troubleshooting with the hardware. Updating a driver is many times the solution to a Device Manager error code. Updating drivers for a piece of hardware will also sometimes enable additional features for the hardware. Follow these easy steps to update drivers from within Device Manager in Windows 7:
1. Download the latest drivers from the hardware manufacturer’s website. Drivers from the manufacturer will be the most current but there are several other driver download options. As part of this driver update process, you can choose to update drivers from a hardware installation disc or from Windows Update but updating drivers manually (as described below) is usually more effective.
Note: Many drivers come integrated with software that automatically installs the driver. The manufacturer’s website will tell you if the driver download is packaged this way and if so, the steps below aren’t usually necessary.
2. Open Device Manager from the Control Panel in Windows 7.
Note: There are also several other ways of opening Device Manager in Windows 7 but doing so from the Control Panel is probably the easiest.
3. With Device Manager open, locate the hardware device that you want to update the drivers for.
Note: Navigate through the categories of hardware devices by clicking the > icon. Specific hardware devices are listed under the major hardware categories.
4. After finding the hardware you’re updating drivers for, right click on the hardware’s name or icon and choose Properties. In this Properties window, click the Driver tab.
5. Click the Update Driver… button.
Note: The Update Driver Software wizard will begin.
6. On the How do you want to search for driver software? window, click on Browse my computer for driver software.
7. In the next window labeled Browse for driver software on your computer, click on Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer, located at the bottom of the window.
8. Click the Have Disk… button located under the text box.
9. Click the Browse… button on the Install From Disk dialog box that appeared. In the Locate File dialog box that appears next, navigate to the folder that you extracted as part of the driver download in Step 1 above. There may be multiple folders within the extracted folder so be sure to work your way to the one for Windows 7 if it exists. Don’t worry if you don’t find one labeled for Windows 7.
10. Click any INF file that displays in the file list and click the Open button.
Note: INF files are the only files that Device Manager accepts for driver setup information. See the tips at the bottom of the page for some INF file troubleshooting.
11. Click the OK button back on the Install From Disk dialog box.
12. Choose the newly added hardware in the text box and then click the Next > button. If you’re prompted with a message warning you about how the device driver may not be compatible with your hardware, click the Yes button to continue installing the driver. Many drivers are not Windows 7 certified but are still perfectly safe to install.
Important: If you’re installing a driver obtained from anywhere other than the manufacturer of the hardware, click the No button instead and obtain drivers from the manufacturer directly.
13. The Windows 7 Update Driver Software wizard will now use the instructions provided in the INF file from Step 10 to install the updated drivers for your hardware.
14. Follow any additional instructions on screen to complete the driver update.
15. You may be prompted to restart your computer after the driver update is complete.
Note: Not all driver updates require a restart of your computer. Even if you’re not prompted, I always recommend restarting anyway. The driver update process involves changes to the Windows Registry and other important areas of your computer and restarting is a good way to confirm that updating drivers hasn’t negatively impacted some other area of Windows. If a driver update causes a problem, you can always roll back the driver.
1. Couldn’t find an INF file in a folder from your driver download? Try looking in another folder.
2. Couldn’t find an INF file in any folder from the extracted driver files? The driver download itself may have been damaged. Try downloading and extracting the device drivers again.
3. Find multiple folders with INF files? Try each folder until you find the drivers for your specific hardware.
How To Roll Back a Driver in Windows 7
The Driver Roll Back feature, available within Device Manger in Windows 7, is used to uninstall the current driver for a hardware device and then automatically install the previously used driver. Most users that use this roll back driver feature do so because a driver update doesn’t correct an issue they expected it to or the update caused a new problem. Follow these easy steps to roll back a driver in Windows 7:
Time Required: Rolling back a driver in Windows 7 usually takes less than 5 minutes
1. Open Device Manger from the Windows 7 Control Panel.
Note: There are other ways to get to Device Manager in Windows 7 as well but accessing it via the Control Panel is probably easiest.
2. In Device Manager, locate the device that you want to roll back the driver for.
Note: Navigate through the hardware categories by clicking the > icon. You can find specific devices under these major hardware categories.
3. After finding the hardware you’re rolling back the driver for, right click on the device’s name or icon and click on Properties.
4. In the Properties window for the device, click the Driver tab.
5. On the Driver tab, click the Roll Back Driver button.
Note: If the Roll Back Driver button is disabled, Windows 7 does not have a previous driver to roll back to so you won’t be able to complete this process.
6. Click the Yes button to the “Are you sure you would like to roll back to the previously installed driver software?” question. The previously installed driver will now be restored. You should see the Roll Back Driver button as disabled after the roll back is complete.
7. Click the Close button at the bottom of the device properties screen.
8. Click Yes on the System Settings Change dialog box that says “Your hardware settings have changed. You must restart your computer for these changes to take effect. Do you want to restart your computer now?” If this message is hidden, closing the Control Panel window might help. You won’t be able to close Device Manager.
Note: Depending on the device driver you’re rolling back, it’s possible that you won’t need to restart your PC. If you don’t see the message, consider the roll back complete.
9. Your computer will now automatically restart.
When Windows 7 starts again, it will load with the device driver for this hardware you had previously installed.
Driver Roll Back only allows you to roll back a driver once. In other words, Windows 7 only keeps a copy of the very last driver installed. It does not keep an archive of all previously installed drivers for the device.