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What is a driver?

Your computer is composed of various hardware devices which can all be produced by a different manufacturer, at the very least your computer will comprise of:

  • Motherboard (including RAM and CPU)
  • Video card
  • Hard disk
  • Power supply
  • Network card
  • Sound card

The motherboard, video card, network card and sound card all require a driver, this is a small piece of software which acts as an interface between the hardware and Windows, and it allows Windows to utilise that piece of hardware. In some cases, for the most popular hardware devices, Windows may have a driver, written by Microsoft, included and can use the hardware device without the need for you to install the driver. However, it is common when you’ve just installed Windows, or added a new hardware device, for Windows to ask you to install the driver so it can use the hardware. The driver is usually provided on a CD bundled with the hardware, if not you can download the driver from the manufacturer’s website.

You can check if your computer is missing any drivers by looking in Device Manager. To do so, proceed as follows:

  1. On the keyboard hold down the [Windows Key] and press [R] to call a Run box.
  2. In the Open field dialogue type in DEVMGMT.MSC and click OK, this will open Device Manager.
  3. In the list of hardware devices look for an item with a yellow exclamation mark or an item listed as Unknown Device, these items have no driver installed.