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In my humble and cautious opinion, there are two things that you should never put automated software in control of when you’re using a Windows system: your drivers and your registry. Now, there are a whole slew of solutions for you if you’d like to go down that route, but if you’re an experienced user then I’d simply not recommend it. It can lead to system instability and some major problems. I’ve experienced it firsthand and it’s not fun.
Hunting for device drivers isn’t such a task anymore, anyway. Most of your Windows drivers will never need to be touched right out of the box. Your video card is in its own sacred territory though. Video card drivers are updated more frequently than, for example, your network card’s drivers. Updating your video card drivers can show a huge performance boost across your system, as well. Keeping these drivers up to date is quite essential if you’re a gamer.
If you’re buying a new Windows PC today, your graphics card will manufactured by one of two companies: NVIDIA or AMD . Having such a limited choice really lends toward making updating the drivers a very painless experience. So painless that both websites happen to have automated resources that will (probably) allow you to make updating your video card drivers as simple as a few clicks.
Finding Your Video Card Card Model
Step one is actually figuring out what we’re looking for. Let’s start by going to your Control Panel and then to Device Manager.
From there, you’d going to want to click on the Display adapters header to expand the tree.
From here, it should be easy to see what your video card is. As you can see, I have the ATI Radeon HD 3200, ATI being owned by AMD.
Let’s just call this next step a shortcut. Right click on the name of your video card and click Update Driver Software…. It should bring up the following.
The first option, displayed there, is what you want to click to automatically search online for driver updates. If it finds updated, awesome. Go ahead and follow through to install them. If not, you’ll get the following message.
However, in respect to that note about not trusting automated software earlier, we aren’t going to listen to Windows. Windows could be wrong. So, now that we’ve figured out what kind of video card you have, let’s proceed on our quest.
NVIDIAers can simply click this link: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/index.aspx?lang=en-us
You’ll then see the following near the bottom.
Option 2 is what you’ll want to go for here. I’d recommend using Internet Explorer while running this automated check because it tends to handle ActiveX and browser plugins a little better than most browsers (surprisingly). It may prompt you to install an ActiveX control or bring up a software installation prompt. Go through with it. It’s safe. Afterwards, you’ll either be presented with a screen telling you that you need updated drivers or that your drivers are up to date, or that the automated check failed.
If the automated check failed, I strongly recommend you go back and wade through Option 1, manually selecting your card to update.
If you’re using an AMD/ATI GPU, you want to go here: http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx
From there, you want to try to Automatically Detect and Install (to the right side). Again, be on Internet Explorer while you do this. Feel safe to install and run any prompts that come up during the process because browser plugins are required to know what card you’re using. If it is successful, you’ll be told your card is up to date or that it needs updated, otherwise it’ll tell you that the scan could not be completed.
In the event that the scan fails, go back and follow their five-step process to pinpoint your exact video card drivers. This is the safest way to go about the update.
One thing I’ll never recommend is that you go about using automated software like SlimDrivers or Driver Magician. Even in the best of faith, these programs don’t know your system as well as you do. In worse cases, these programs are filled with spyware and adware that can really damage your system.
I’d like to recommend that you not just Google updates for your drivers either. Get them directly from the manufacturer as I’ve laid out for you. It’s not smart to trust updates from that-one-official-driver-site.com, you know?
Good luck in refreshing the visuals of your system and if you encounter any issues, shoot me a comment here.