How to update a driver

Question: What is a driver and how do I update it?

Answer: If you’ve been having computer problems and someone suggests that you “update your drivers” but you haven’t a clue what that means, you’re not alone. A lot of new computer users have trouble with the concept, but take heart, it’s not hard to learn.

Here’s a step-by-step on how to manually update your drivers below. However, if you are looking for a quick solution, here is a program that will seek out and manage drivers for you:

Try Driver Detective. Or download a Driver Detective Trial Version (note: a download will begin).

If it doesn’t help, then read on to learn how to do it all yourself.

First, it’s important to understand what a driver is. A driver is a file on a Windows-based personal computer that controls an internal or external device, such as a modem, video card, scanner or printer. Windows uses a driver to help the computer communicate with various gadgets attached to it.

Windows 95/98/ME/XP/Vista as well as Windows NT/2000 Professional come with built-in drivers and often will automatically install a driver when a new device is added if the driver is already in the Windows driver library on the machine.

Occasionally, the system won’t recognize a new device and so you need to install a driver manually from a floppy disk or CD or DVD or from the Internet.

It’s always better to use a driver provided by the maker of the device rather than use the built-in Windows driver. It is usually more up-to-date and better written.

You should update a driver if a device is working strangely, too. The odd behavior can be attributed to a bug in the existing driver.

To update a driver, you’ll need to retrieve it from the device maker’s Web site. Most peripheral makers have a support or customer care area on their Web site that contains driver files. Drivers also come on floppy disks or CDs that you have got with the device. Still, it is better to get the latest driver from the device manufacturer’s Web site. If you need help in finding a driver, look at these sites: or or or or perhaps

Before you find the right driver, you’ll need to figure out the make and model of the device you are updating. This usually isn’t hard. You will most often find this information in the manual of the device. It could be also on (or on the underside) of the device itself in the case of a printer or scanner and some other peripherals.

If the device is attached inside the computer, like an internal modem or video card, you can usually find out about it using the Windows “System” program found in the Control Panel area of your Start menu. Click the Start button, then Control Panel, then System then click Device Manager.

A list of devices and their various names will appear under headings on the left-hand side. For example, click the plus sign (+) next to “Components” and then “Display” to see which video card is installed or click CD-ROM under “Multimedia” to see which CD-ROM drive is installed.

Once you have the device name, you’ll be able to find the correct driver on the manufacturer’s Web site. When you click on the file containing the driver package, your Web browser will prompt you to run or download the file. Select “Download” and then specify a folder on your computer to save it to.

Your best bet is to click the desktop symbol on the top right of the download box. In Windows 95/98, this looks like a tiny blotter and pencil. In Windows ME, click the desktop icon on the left column of the dialog box. If you have Windows XP, click the symbol that looks like a folder with an up-arrow in it. Repeat until “Desktop” shows as your selected folder. In Windows Vista, click the Desktop folder on the left side of the window in the “Folders” list.

This will save the driver package to your desktop so it will be easy to find.

The driver will then download. When it finishes, close your Web browser and create a folder on your desktop. To do this, right-click with your mouse on the desktop and choose “New” and then “Folder”. Enter a name for the folder -- something like “driver files”. Now, right-click on the downloaded file, hold your mouse button down and drag it to the folder. Release the mouse button and select “Move”. The file will move to the “driver files” folder.

Now, open the “driver files” folder by double-clicking on it. Then, double-click the file you downloaded. The file will expand and uncompress all the items inside it and list them in the “driver files” folder. Sometimes, it won’t uncompress because it is in ZIP format. You can tell this by its .zip extension. You can use an unzip utility such as WinZip. Under Windows ME and XP and Vista, ZIP file management is built into the system. You just have to double click on a Zip file to see and work with its contents.

Now comes the part where you update the actual driver. Open your Control Panel. Click Start, (then pick Settings in 95/98/Me) then Control Panel. Double click the System icon and choose the Device Manager tab. Find the device for which you want to update the driver. Click the plus sign (+) next to the various categories, click on the device you want to update, and then click on “Properties” and the “Driver” tab.

Then click the “Update Driver” button. A dialog box will walk you through the process. Choose “Display a list of drivers ...,” then choose the “Have Disk” button and use the dialog box to find the “driver files” folder you created on your desktop. Choose the “.INF” file in that folder and click OK. The system will update the appropriate driver. If there is more than one .INF file, try each one until you get a successful install. Finally, reboot your machine so that the new driver can take effect.