How to Determine What Drivers a Computer Needs

By Cameron Easey

Device drivers are needed to communicate with a hardware device within a computer. A computer program, such as the operating system, sends an instruction to an device driver, which then tells the hardware device what to do. Operating systems typically contain drivers for all types of hardware devices, but they are mostly generic. Finding the drivers that are needed by a computer can be done by finding the type of hardware being used and updating or installing software.

Step 1

Go into the computer's BIOS to view installed hardware. When starting the computer, press the F2 key to enter the BIOS. The BIOS will display the type of hard drive as well as the type of CD/DVD drive that is installed in the system.

Step 2

Look in the Device Manager within Windows to see the hardware devices that are installed. Double-click on the "System" icon within the Control Panel and then go to the "Hardware" tab. Click on the "Device Manager" button to see a list of devices that are installed and used by the operating system.

Step 3

Check Windows Update for available updates to on-board hardware devices. Hardware components, such as a video controller and audio controller, can have an updated driver that can be downloaded and installed from Windows Update.

Step 4

Use the installation CD that came with the hardware device. The setup program will install the software and drivers that are needed to use the device.

Step 5

Refer to the manual that came with the computer or hardware component. The manual will list the model number of the device as well as the website of the manufacturer.

Step 6

Visit the manufacturer's website for a hardware device that is installed on the system. Updated drivers to devices are available from a manufacturer to correct problems and to add additional functionality to a device.

Step 7

Visit a website such as DriverGuide (see Resources) to find drivers that are needed for hardware that is no longer supported by the manufacturer. The site can also be used to find drivers for hardware if the manufacturer is no longer in business.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit the website of a manufacturer if a manual cannot be found for an installed hardware device.
  • Using the wrong driver can result in a system conflict, which can cause a hardware component not to work correctly.