Where Can You Update Drivers for Free?

By Gregory Hamel

Drivers are computer software that support a certain hardware device by providing instructions to the operating system as to how to utilize the device. Hardware devices which require drivers typically come with an installation CD, but driver updates are often released by hardware manufacturers. Device drivers are typically free to download and use since computer makers and hardware manufacturers have a vested interest in providing hardware that works as efficiently as possible.

Computer Manufacturers

The first place to look for free drivers when you need an update is at the website of your computer's manufacturer. Computer makers like Dell, Gateway, HP, and others sometimes release drivers tailored specifically for their machines, which allow devices to work as well as possible with the hardware setup in their machines. Drivers from other sources will often work on such machines, but official releases are less likely to cause conflicts or loss of functionality. To download drivers, you will need to find the driver support section of the manufacturer's website and be able to provide your computer model number or other identifying information, which will allow the site to direct you to the appropriate free driver downloads for your machine.

Hardware Manufacturers

If you built your own computer, or installed a new device in your computer, you will not be able to find drivers at a computer manufacturer's website. Instead, you should search for drivers from the website of the manufacturer of the specific piece of hardware. This means that if you have a computer with components made by different manufacturers, you will have to search for drivers in several different places. For instance, you might have a video card made by Nvidia, a sound card produced by Creative, and an Ethernet card made by Netgear. In this case you would have to check three different places to find the appropriate drivers for your devices.

Third Party Drivers

A final place to look for free device drivers is from a third party release. Sometimes groups aside from a computer or device maker will release an unofficial driver, often in response to the manufacturer's failure to provide appropriate driver support for the device. The easiest way to find third party drivers for a certain device is to run an Internet search on the specific device type along with the word "drivers." Beware when installing drivers from unofficial providers, as they can sometimes cause system instability. If you end up installing a driver that causes your computer to become unstable, revert to an older official driver.