How to Check if My Drivers Are up to Date

By Cheryl A. Frost

Drivers are supporting instructional software that help computer hardware components work properly. When you install operating system updates, you may assume that all device drivers are updated as well. But driver updates are only installed when they are necessary for the OS to function properly. If your existing drivers are compatible with the newest system update, no changes are made. You can manually install updates if the current drivers are incompatible with newer technology, like a new media player or video game.

Perform a Windows Update

Before updating individual device drivers, do a system update. This ensures that your devices will still work right after patches and service packs are applied. Make sure that you are not trying to run an old service pack with a new device driver. If you don't have system updates set to install automatically, open the Windows menu and select "Windows Update." You can also perform an update from the Control Panel, System and Maintenance menu.

Determine if a Driver Update is Necessary

Just because a newer version of a driver exists, that does not mean that you have to update it. Your computer's performance will determine the need for an update. For example, if you can't install a new application, or if a graphics tool does not work properly, it could be an indication that a device driver needs updating.

Update Drivers From the Control Panel

Open the Control Panel and select "Hardware and Sound," then "Device Drivers." Select the devices that may need driver updates. Select "Action," and then "Update Driver Software." The system will scan for your current drivers and check if an updated version is available. If your drivers are several versions old, you may have to perform multiple updates.

Check for Updates at the Manufacturer's Website

If you think that your graphics card or media or audio player needs an updated driver, visit the website of the manufacturer and go to their support page. NVidia, for example, has a "Download Drivers" page that gives you the option to either select your exact device or allow them to detect the device for you, before providing update options.