What is a Driver?

2 minute read

People frequently throw the word “driver” around and half of us don’t actually know what it means. A driver in this sense is not your chauffeur nor your limousine driver, but for all but a few of us they’re definitely more important.

A driver is essentially some code that provides the ability for programs and operating systems like Windows to talk to the physical hardware and devices. Simply connecting boards together with components stuck on isn’t enough – there is no way for programs to “see”, talk to or use them. The driver provides the logical link between software and hardware.

Many things use drivers: printers, graphics cards and USB drives are probably the ones you see most frequently. Each and every component in your computer will have one or more drivers. One thing is for sure – technology wouldn’t work the way we know it without them.

How can I get myself some of these drivers?

All hardware manufactures provide drivers for their computers, components and devices. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM for short) such as Dell, HP, Toshiba, Acer publish a version of the driver that’s compatible with your device on the corresponding website. Drivers for individual parts and components can be obtained from the manufacturer of that part or component’s website (i.e. Atheros, Intel, Broadcom).

Driver Issues

Drivers are great – or at least they are when they decide to work. Many issues can present themselves when messing with drivers. The operating system (IE. Windows) can often believe a device or component is something or maybe by someone it isn’t. This will cause all sorts of issues and likely not functional at all. It’s worth watching out for this with printers especially as they regularly appear as a different model. Another perhaps less common issue is caused how the driver itself is coded, occasionally there can be bugs or incompatibilities preventing it from working.

As with everything else, if you don’t know what you’re doing – consult a professional. It’s all too easy to overwrite a driver with the wrong one and cause a wide variety of issues. I have had people bring devices to me with no display because of the drivers. All sorts of strange and difficult to fix issues can occur. I’m not trying to scare anyone; if you’re careful and not unlucky you will be fine.