Your drivers might be outdated and need updating, but how are you to know?
A driver is software that communicates with your hardware to make it work with your operating system. If you’re having system trouble, like a printer not working or games crashing, then it might be indicative of your drivers needing updating.
Drivers are available for your video card, audio, motherboard and much more. However, you don’t always need to update your drivers for the sake of it. If everything is working well on your system, then you might be better off leaving everything as it is. If they do need updating, though, we’ve rounded up a number of different methods to help you.
Be sure to head to the comments section afterwards to let us know what methods you use to update your outdated drivers.
Check Your Drivers
While you’ll have drivers installed on your system, you may not know precisely what they are or what version you’re using. It’s easy to find this information out. Press Windows key + R to launch the Run menu, type cmd, then hit Return to load up Command Prompt. Type driverquery and hit Return to get a list of every driver installed on your system and when that driver was published.
You can also type driverquery > driver.txt to export all that information into a handy text file. The file will save into wherever your command prompt path is set to. So in my example above, that’d be C:\Users\Joe.
It’s very important to bear in mind that the date given is not when you last updated the driver, it’s the date the driver you’re using was published. As such, although a driver might have a Link Date of some years back, it isn’t necessarily true that it needs updating.
Using Device Manager
You can also check out all of your devices and view their relevant drivers by using the Device Manager. Perform a system search for it, select the result and you’ll see a list detailing your disk drives, display adapters, processors and more. You can expand each of these using the arrows to see what relevant devices you have in those categories.
Right-click a device, select Properties and then switch to the Driver tab on the window that opens. Here you’ll be able to view, amongst other information, the date the driver was published and its version number.
If you want to see if there’s a driver update available then click Update Driver… from this window. You can either search automatically or browse your computer – the latter option we’ll get to later, so click Search automatically for updated driver software.
Windows will search its online database to see if there’s a newer driver available than the one you’ve already got installed. While this isn’t guaranteed to find the most recent for every device, it’s usually pretty accurate. If there is an updated driver then you can follow the wizard through to install it.
By default, Windows is set to automatically update your drivers. Perform a system search for device installation settings and select the relevant result. This will open a window that will let you set your preferences when it comes to automatic driver updates.
If you don’t want automatic updates provided through Windows Update, you can select No, let me choose what to do in order to get specific. If you prefer, you can set it so that your drivers are never updated automatically. If you’ve had problems with the newest drivers being unstable then you’ll likely want to select this option, or if you’re of the belief that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but it’s advisable by Microsoft to stick to automatic updates.
You can also go direct to the manufacturer of your device and update your drivers through them. If you want to download drivers manually then it’s highly advisable to go straight to the source because you’ll ensure the download is up-to-date and safe.
You can use the information provided through the driverquery command or Device Manager to find out what drivers you have and who manufactures them. Head to their website and look for their driver section (it might be under a Support heading). Some providers, like AMD and NVIDIA, will have tools that can scan your system and detect what driver you need if you’re unsure.
Once downloaded, most of the drivers will have executables that can be opened and they’ll update what’s necessary. If not, head back to the Device Manager, right-click the device, select Update Driver Software… and then click Browse my computer for driver software and point the wizard to the location of your downloaded file.
If you bought the physical computer component itself then you may find that it came with a CD that includes drivers. Be slightly wary of these because unless they connect to the Internet then there’s a possibility they’ll be outdated. The same applies to CDs that come with pre-built machines.
There’s a lot of third-party software out there that will claim to scan your system and update all the drivers in one go. Frankly, I’d avoid them and just use the methods above. I’ve yet to find any I’d consider truly reputable and that won’t bundle adware alongside, install outdated drivers, or get them from dubious sources.
Besides, your drivers shouldn’t need updating that often anyway. The small amount of time it takes to perform the above methods are much more preferable than risking a third-party tool that could potentially muck your system up.
You may find that all your drivers are already up-to-date if you’ve never fiddled with your system settings, thanks to Windows Update. And if everything is working well then you might be better off not updating them at all.
Remember, always download your drivers from reputable sources (direct from the manufacturer if possible) and don’t install any which aren’t suited for your system’s devices.
What methods do you use to update your drivers? How often do you have to update them?