What are drivers?

A lot of new computer users may be unfamiliar with the idea of system driver software and what it does for your computer. They might not install the correct driver or fail to keep their drivers updated. So, what exactly are drivers and why do you need to keep them updated?

Drivers are software your operating system (Windows , Mac OSX or Linux OS) uses to communicate with the hardware on your computer. Hardware includes some of the most important parts in your computer like your motherboard, harddrive or your video card(GPU), but also includes peripheral devices such as keyboard and mouse.

You have probably installed drivers on your computer at some point during your life without even knowing it. Every time you plug in a new mouse or a new keyboard or even a USB Storage device, windows automatically installs the relevant drivers for those devices so that they become usable by your computer. Ever wondered why it takes so long for your computer to detect a new external storage device? It’s because Windows is installing the driver for it. Be cautioned however, Windows does not automatically install the most up to date drivers for all devices.

Why are drivers and driver updates important?

Windows will always install the most basic drivers. Even for peripheral devices, such as keyboards, newer drivers might be available that adds more functionality to your devices? Do you have volume control or playback keys on your keyboard, but they appear to be doing nothing? Most likely the reason is because you have only the basic Windows provided driver that does not allow your operating system to utilize those keys. Have you ever wanted to make your mouse pointer even faster than what the windows built in speed slider can provide? Or have you ever wanted to create unique macros for some of the buttons on your mouse (such as the forward and back keys), then perhaps a better mouse driver is for you.

Drivers don’t only provide extra functionality however, hardware manufacturers often release new driver updates as they discover better optimizations that your operating system can take advantage of. These optimizations can improve the performance of your system, they can reduce your system’s power draw and even reduce heat generated by your crucial system components. Some newer applications or software may not even function or may function improperly if you have outdated drivers with inadequate optimizations. Furthermore, hardware manufacturers might release new drivers to fix security vulnerabilities in their older drivers. For these reasons it is absolutely crucial for users to be proactive about keeping their computer’s drivers updated.

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