How do I update my computer drivers

Driver always up-to-date: Tips for searching and installing

Ines Walke-Chomjakov, Benjamin Schischka, Friedrich Stiemer, Panagiotis Kolokythas

Current drivers keep the PC fit and powerful. We reveal where you can find it and how the installation is stress-free.

EnlargeWith update managers you can keep track of your software and drivers.
© Photo: © Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com

If the drivers are up to date, the computer or notebook runs smoothly. If a certain driver is missing or out of date, performance will decrease. Worse still: there are malfunctions such as image errors with old graphics card drivers. However, it is not always easy to find suitable versions. Because older devices in particular cause problems under new operating systems such as Windows 10. For example, sound and video cards can be completely absent or printers can only be addressed via their basic functions. In addition, you often do not know straight away which driver versions are installed at all. In this guide you will find tips on when an update is really worthwhile, which helpers are available and how you can provide your hardware with new functions or even tune it with the latest drivers.

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Reading tip: Pros and Cons - How useful are driver updates?

When current drivers are worthwhile

Not all components of your PC require new drivers to the same extent. 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 urgently regular driver maintenance is canceled.

Indispensable: Graphics cards, WLAN routers and multifunctional devices should always be up to date. With 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 from Windows. Then you can be sure that the latest security gaps have been fixed. Changing the operating system often requires a driver update for your multifunction device. Because it guarantees that all functions - printing, scanning and copying - will continue to function smoothly.

Sensible: If you notice a drop in performance on the hard drive, SSD or internal drive, an update of the firmware can restore full power. If this does not have the desired effect, it is advisable not to check the PC components themselves, but to update the driver for the controller chip.

Update on error message: Components such as mice, game controllers, network modules or sound and TV cards do not actually need any updates or can get by with regular Windows updates in order to function flawlessly for the life of the PC. However, in the event that you receive an error message, you should take targeted action.

EnlargeHP's Support Assistant summarizes the existing driver updates after the scan.

Driver update via Windows

When setting up a new system, Windows 10 relieves you of a lot of work by automatically recognizing the built-in and connected hardware and then searching the Internet for the appropriate drivers, downloading and installing them. Usually you can be sure that the operating system is actually getting the correct drivers. However, if you notice that the system subsequently behaves strangely, crashes with blue screens or the desktop freezes, you will have to double-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 in the future to find drivers for current components. Because Microsoft has already stopped support for Windows XP. Mainstream support for Windows 7 also expired in January 2015. Security updates will be available through 2020, but those updates do not include signed drivers. You can still get updates from the manufacturer. The manufacturer is also the first port of call when it comes to firmware updates for wireless routers.

Relevant:Solve driver problems in Windows 10 - here's how

Driver update via tools from the manufacturer

If you want to get an overview of whether there are driver updates 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 for their devices. They scan the computer and offer updates that include drivers, installed programs and the bios. You simply install the updates with a click of the mouse. At HP, for example, you start the system scan in the "Support Assistant". After a few minutes you will receive an overview of the updates available. If you want to automate the process, select “Install important and recommended updates automatically” from the drop-down menu in the tool's start menu under “Settings”. Some manufacturers do not offer tools on the computer, but link to their website. Example Dell: Here you start the "Dell Update" app. If you want to see a list of individual driver updates, right-click on "Dell Online Support". Then you come to the support page that is tailored to your system. Here you can see under “Driver & Downloads” which updates you can download.

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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. Usually the tools are free. The little helpers for your PC's driver status work in a similar way. You first create a status of the installed driver versions. A list or summary shows you which components you should check for newer drivers.

EnlargeDriver Booser 3 for Steam is also available as a free version

The smart free tool Driver Booster 6 for Steam, for example, checks all hardware components installed in your PC and reveals via its online database whether the associated drivers are still up-to-date. The desired driver updates can then be downloaded and installed with a click of the mouse: The tool also creates a backup of the current system status beforehand. If something goes wrong with the driver installation, the last functioning system state can be restored.