Device drivers are small pieces of software that provide the operating system with easier access to the hardware. Drivers are installed for every device on the computer. Some devices such as disk drives, the processor and the chipset on the motherboard are shipped with the operating system (the operating system wouldn't be able to get up and running without them). Other drivers must be installed after installing a new device. The manufacturer of the device will provide drivers if the operating system does not support the device. Drivers for any given device will differ by operating system and version. This means that a video card manufacturer may not make a driver for the particular operating system you are using. This is especially the case when you have an old operating system and a brand new piece of hardware. Drivers are free, come with the hardware and usually can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website as well. If your game crashes whenever it switches in and out of the game, you probably need to update your video drivers. If your computer's sound goes berzerk and then it crashes, you might need to update the sound drivers.
Driver problems are more likely to be an issue on Windows based computers instead of MacIntosh computers. This is NOT because Windows computers are 'more complicated', it's because there are more CHOICES with Windows computers. There are many times more devices available to be installed on Windows-compatible computers. Microsoft also assumes you are smart enough to handle drivers yourself. This is one of the fundamental differences between Microsoft and Apple: Microsoft assumes you are smart, Apple assumes you are stupid.
Here's a few quick checklists for issues related to computer drivers:
Windows Compatible Computers
The processes surrounding the management of drivers on Windows-based computers is becoming more standardized with each release of Windows. Thus, the drivers install the same way, regardless of where they come from.
- Downloading Drivers
- Installing Drivers
- Uninstalling Drivers
- Troubleshooting Driver Problems
- Is it the driver?
- Which driver is it?
Apple MacIntosh Computers
- Apple Hardware - Mostly, these will either be included or downloaded from Apple when you install the hardware.
- NON-Apple Hardware - You will probably have to install drivers yourself, but the system will likely prompt you to install them and the installers from most vendors are usually user-friendly. Apple OS X does a much better job of this than previous MacOS versions did.
Apple MacIntosh Computers (Prior to OS X)
- The Apple Lie: All the drivers you will ever need come with Mac OS version <whatever>
- The Reality: Apple used a closed, proprietary architecture for thier computers. Your ONLY resource for hardware was usually Apple, so drivers could only come from Apple.
- Installing Drivers on Apple computers - Sorry folks, we can't build a file on this. The driver installation is completely custom to each individual piece of hardware. Why? Because Apple doesn't provide a standard inteface for installing drivers. Remember, Apple assumes you aren't smart enough to install them yourself and need to fork over a fortune to have a professional install them for you.