Driver problems… how do I know I have a driver problem?
There are several things that may indicate a driver problem. If the hardware seems to be working, but the functions aren’t quite working right, then you could well have a driver problem. If you are having unexplained system crashes when you try to use a piece of hardware, there is probably a driver fault. It’s a fairly easy thing to delete and reinstall a driver, so it’s worth a try for any of these unexplained failures.
How do I find the right driver for my hardware?
The right driver for the hardware is likely to be the one that came with it. If you have a disc from the manufacturer then use that. If not, some devices can work well with the Plug and Play driver capabilities in Windows XP and Windows NT based systems. Plug and Play means that Windows itself detects the hardware and chooses a driver from its internal library. If neither of these apply, then you need to search for the driver. You can search at the manufacturer’s website or via one of the well organized website databases like this one. To do this however you need to know the manufacturer and the model.
How do I find out the manufacturer and model details for my hardware?
If it’s a big external lump of hardware (printer, scanner, monitor) then you should be able to find the make, model and serial number written on the unit. It might be on a label at the back or written in big letters on the front. This method also works for internal things like modems and graphics cards that you fitted yourself when you still have the manual or box – look at that. For other internal components there are ways to find out without taking the cover off your PC. One way to do this is use the Windows tools that you already have. Go to ‘Start’, and under programs click ‘accessories’ then ‘system tools’ You need to select ‘system information’. This window allows you to find out all sorts of things. If you click on the ‘+’ next to components you’ll get a clickable list of all the hardware you need along with the drivers they use. Double clicking on anything, say CDROM, will bring up the manufacturer name, model and so on for your devices.
Why won’t any driver from a given manufacturer work on all their devices?
This is because the driver is the software that has the job of translating the windows instructions into things the hardware understands. For this it needs a clear understanding of the capabilities of the hardware. If you have a driver that describes a different piece of hardware, it’s not going to be able to do the translation properly. Sometimes it will work, sometime not – but the best bet is to use the right driver to get the full capabilities from the hardware.
What if I’m desperate – I’ve got an old piece of hardware and can’t find the driver anywhere. What should I do?
Sometimes you’ll inherit a very old piece of kit that works fine, or you’ll somehow delete or lose the driver for an old piece of hardware you own. If it works just fine for your purposes you understandably won’t want to just throw it out, but if it’s quite old you may have trouble finding a driver for it. Incidentally, one thing everyone should do is keep back ups of the essential drivers burned on a CD Rom. But assuming you haven’t done this you can try asking if anyone has the driver. Websites like this encourage these questions and try to track down any drivers missing from their collection, and there are various tech forums where you could try posting the message. You could also try using a driver for the nearest model you can find – it might work, but there are no guarantees!