When new components are added to your computer system, device drivers allow for the communication and recognition of those components with the operating system. When hardware devices are purchased, necessary device drivers accompany the device for installation onto your computer system. Updates for device drivers can often be found on the device manufacturer's website and can be downloaded and installed onto your computer.
The function of a device driver is to allow the communication between the computer operating system and the device attached to it. Device drivers are programs that translate input and output information into signals that the operating system and the device can interpret in order to perform the necessary task.
Each hardware device installed on a computer requires a different type of device driver. The device driver provides specific instructions to the operating system in order for the hardware device to perform properly. Updates to device drivers are made to handle changes made in the operating system or to provide a more stable platform for the device to operate.
Device drivers on computer systems can be identified in the device manager. In order to access the device manager in Windows operating systems, right click on the "My Computer" icon and select "Properties." From the system properties window, select the "Hardware" tab and select the option to open the "Device Manager." The Device Manager will list all of the devices seen by your computer operating system. Devices that have errors or do not have device drivers installed will appear with a question mark icon. Devices listed in the Device Manager may also appear with an exclamation point, signifying that there is trouble with the device.
When installing new devices, special consideration should be paid to any device driver updates that may be available for the operating system. Device drivers are constantly changing to maintain performance of the device with the operating system. Upgrades to hardware components will require that new device drivers be installed, even if the hardware is made by the same manufacturer. Device drivers are not all compatible with all operating systems. Upgrades to operating systems may require the installation of new device drivers in order for the device to be identified by the computer.
In order to troubleshoot hardware problems, uninstall device drivers and locate new or updated drivers for the hardware component from the manufacture's website. Many common device issues can be connected to a malfunction in the device driver, or an incompatibility with between the device driver and the operating system. Specific hardware issues can often be solved by acquiring the current version of the device driver for the hardware.