What Are Computer Drivers?
Tech Talker explains what drivers are, what they do, and how to troubleshoot and backup your computer drivers.
Page 1 of 2
I received an email from a listener named Andy with the following question:
“Hey Tech Talker, I just moved a DVD player from my old computer to my new computer. I hooked up all the wires just like the old one, but when I turned my computer on, I don’t see the DVD drive pop up! What’s going on?”
The problem here is related to computer drivers. In this week’s episode I’ll be going over just what computer drivers are, what they do, and how you can save yourself a ton of time and trouble by not having to mess with them!
Sponsor:This episode is sponsored by Shutterstock.com. With over 20 million high-quality stock photos, illustrations, vectors and video clips, Shutterstock helps you take your creative projects to the next level. For 30% off your new account, go to Shutterstock.com and use offer code techtalker5
What Is a Driver?
When I talk about drivers, I don’t mean the ones you see on the road every day. A device driver is a program on your computer that controls a piece of hardware that is attached to your computer. Almost everything in your computer requires a device driver in order to function correctly.
Not having a driver, or the correct driver, for a piece of hardware makes it pretty much useless to the rest of your system. This would be like sitting a child in a car and telling them to drive! They would have absolutely no idea what to do without some instruction. This is exactly what device drivers do for computers; they give the computer a set of instructions on how to use a device.
Let’s take a look back at Andy’s question: Why would the DVD drive not work in the new computer? Well the most likely scenario is that the new computer just doesn’t have the right driver to operate the DVD drive. Oftentimes you can just use the disk that came with your hardware in order to install the hardware on a new system.
See also: How to Back Up Your DVDs
However, it isn’t always that simple. A lot of people have problems finding drivers when upgrading to a new operating system. For instance, many people have had problems when upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 because some of their drivers weren’t compatible with the new operating system. This is especially difficult if you are using a much older piece of hardware that may not be supported.
This can be very frustrating and it’s something I’ve dealt with many times.
A quick side note: Apple products have far fewer driver problems then Windows and Linux machines. This is because with Apple products, all of the devices are made by Apple for Apple products. This is not the case with Windows where a computer might have a Microsoft operating system but might be made by HP.
When you consider that different devices are made by different manufacturers, you can see how some can fall through the cracks. For example, I had a great little piece of hardware that converted VHS tapes to computer files. When I upgraded from XP to Windows Vista I was very upset to find out that the manufacturer of that device had gone out of business and therefore had not made an updated driver that would allow the device to work with Windows Vista. It’s a real shame.
How to Back Up Your Drivers
All right so now you know what a driver is, what is does, and how not having the correct one can drive you crazy.
My goal is for you to learn from my mistakes, which means always keep a backup of your drivers. You’ve often heard me say that you should back up your hard drive. However, most people only make a backup of their pictures, videos, and music, and never think about their device drivers.
See also: How to Back Up Your Computer
After quite a bit of searching I’ve found a free program that has no ads or extra stuff on it that will make an easy backup of your drivers and will allow you to move them from one computer to another, or even to a USB drive, if you are upgrading your computer.
This program is called Double Driver.
This program can view, back up, restore, and save drivers on your computer. Unfortunately, Double Driver really doesn’t help you if you don’t have a driver at all. Luckily, newer Windows operating systems (7 & 8) are really good at locating missing drivers for you over the internet and installing them automatically. However, they’re still not perfect and you may have to do some sleuthing on your own.