What Is a Display Driver?

By Justin H. Pot

Computers can be amazingly useful, but amazingly complex. Pop-ups requesting you to maintain various things can lead to no end of frustration for the end user. You may read about but not quite understand the need for a "display driver." Don't worry---it's simpler than you think.

Display

Display, in the computing realm, is exactly what it sounds like: the visual components of the computer. This includes not only the computer screen that your reading this from right now, but also the computer's video card, which sends the signal to the screen. This video card is the technology that makes data visible.

Drivers

A driver is a piece of software that connects your operating system and your hardware. Your computer needs drivers to use its various parts; think of drivers as the instruction manuals your operating system uses in order to properly use your computer. Without drivers, your computer has no idea how to use a given part of your computer, be it your printer, your CD drive, your mouse or your video card.

Display Driver

A display driver, then, is the driver that makes it possible for your computer to use your video card. This is a very important piece of software to have, because without it, your video card is not being 100 percent utilized. By default, Windows can use most video cards a little bit, but cannot take full advantage of them without the proper drivers. Computers without proper drivers will have much lower resolution than they would with the proper drivers, and will often display graphics poorly, slowing down games.

Locate Drivers

The best place to find drivers for your computer, including video drivers, is on a CD that came with your computer. Typically, computers come with a "drivers" CD that contains all the software necessary to use the hardware that came with your computer. If not, be sure to check the website of your computer manufacturer for the drivers---for example, if you use a Dell head over to Dell.com. These sites all have sections where one can download drivers for the machine, sorted by the computer's model number. If that doesn't work, try the website of the company that made your video card---you just need to find out what type of video card you have.

Identifying Hardware

If you need to download display drivers, but aren't sure what sort of video card you have, Window's Hardware Manager is the easiest way to find out. Right-click "My Computer," then click the "Hardware" tab. Press the "Hardware Manager" button and you'll see a list of your hardware. Find your video card and write down the name; you'll need this name to find the drivers online.

Not Windows

The information here mostly focused on Windows computers, because, typically, Windows computers are the most difficult sort of computers to configure. For Ubuntu systems, for example, the process of finding drivers is very simple. In most cases, everything will work out of the box; if not, simply click "System," then "Administration," then "Hardware drivers." Ubuntu will scan your computer for necessary drivers and download them automatically. Mac-based systems come with all relevant drivers included, so finding display drivers is never necessary.