If the drivers are up to date, the computer or notebook will run smoothly. If a certain driver is missing or outdated, performance drops. Worse still: It comes to disturbances such as picture errors with old graphic card drivers. However, it’s not always easy to find suitable versions. Because older devices in particular cause trouble under new operating systems such as Windows 10. For example, sound and video cards can be completely missing or printers can only be addressed via their basic functions.
Moreover, you often don’t know right away which driver versions are installed at all. In this guide you will find tips on when an update is really worthwhile, what helpers there are and how you can use current drivers to provide your hardware with new functions or even tune it.
When current drivers pay off
Not all components of your PC need the same amount of new drivers. Because the update is often only worthwhile for performance-oriented hardware and devices that should be up to date in terms of security. The device category determines how urgent the regular driver maintenance is.
Graphics cards, WLAN routers and multifunction devices should always be up-to-date. For graphics cards, driver updates release performance in current games and bring new setting options. WLAN routers keep you up to date with firmware updates from the manufacturer, not Windows. Then you can be sure that current security holes have been plugged. Changing the operating system also often requires a driver update for your multifunction device. Because it guarantees that all functions – printing, scanning and copying – will continue to function smoothly.
If you notice a drop in performance on the hard disk, SSD or the internal drive, an update of the firmware can restore full power. If this does not produce the desired effect, it is advisable not to check the PC component itself, but to update the driver for the controller chip to the latest version.
Update on error message
Components such as mice, game controllers, network modules or sound and TV cards do not actually require updates or can manage with regular Windows updates in order to function error-free throughout the life of a PC. In the event that you receive an error message, however, you need to intervene in a targeted manner.
Driver update via Windows
Windows 10 takes a lot of the work out of setting up a new system by automatically detecting the built-in and connected hardware and then searching the Internet for suitable drivers, downloading and installing them. Normally, you can be sure that the operating system is really getting the correct drivers. If, however, you notice that the system behaves strangely, crashes with bluescreens or freezes your desktop, you will have to check for yourself whether Windows has actually installed the correct drivers.
The older Windows operating systems 7 and 8 also contain a large number of standard drivers. But since many manufacturers are reducing the driver supply for these Windows oldies, you will have more and more problems finding drivers for current components in the future.
Microsoft has already discontinued support for Windows XP. Mainstream support for Windows 7 also expired in January 2015. Security updates will be available until 2020, but these updates do not include signed drivers. You can still get updates from the manufacturer. The manufacturer is also the first address when it comes to firmware updates for WLAN routers.
Driver update via tools from the manufacturer
If you want an overview of whether driver updates are available for the components, peripherals and input devices of your computer, use the update tools that many PC and notebook manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, HP or Lenovo offer for their devices. They scan the machine and offer updates that include drivers, installed programs, and bios. You simply install the updates with a click of the mouse. For HP, for example, start the system scan in the Support Assistant. After a few minutes you will receive an overview of the available updates.
If you want to automate the process, select “Install important and recommended updates automatically” in the drop-down menu under “Settings” in the start menu of the tool. Some manufacturers do not offer tools on the computer, but link to their website. Example Dell: Here you start the app “Dell Update”. If you want to see a list of individual driver updates, right-click on “Dell Online Support”. Then go to the support page that is tailored to your system. Here you can see under “Driver & Downloads” which updates you can download.
Bios guide: Bios update in steps – safe and fast
Driver update via third-party tools
If the computer or notebook comes from a manufacturer that does not offer a support tool for searching for driver updates, such as Medion, third-party programs will help. As a rule, the tools are free of charge. The little helpers on your PC’s driver status work in a similar way. They first create a status of the installed driver versions. In a list or summary you can see which components you should check for newer drivers.
The clever free tool Driver Booster 3 for Steam, for example, checks all hardware components installed in your PC and reveals whether the corresponding drivers are still up-to-date via its online database. The desired driver updates can then be downloaded and installed at the click of a mouse: In advance, the tool also creates a backup of the current system status. If something goes wrong during the driver installation, the last working system state can be restored.
After installation, search for new drivers for your system by clicking on the “Search for driver updates now” button. After a successful search, the program will switch to the second tab “Driver updates” and list the available updates at the top, while below you will find the devices that are up to date and for which there is no update. After clicking on the document icon next to the “Update” button, the tool will list which driver version and date the corresponding component is currently using. In addition, it displays the current update including the date below it. Driver Max explicitly points out that the manufacturers have digitally signed all drivers recommended in the program and that they have also been scanned for viruses by the developer.