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Bentley Home PC Support - Articles - Who's the driver?

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Who's the driver?

In computing terms a driver is a little bit of code which sits between the hardware of your computer and the operating system (ie. Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, etc). The operating system says to the driver, "do this" and the driver talks to the hardware and says "do this" and the hardware does that. Simple, right? But easy to get wrong. There's a million buggy drivers out there, for the same reason that there are bugs in programs; computers are predictable but humans are fallible.

So, every so often you'll see a program come along and say it can help optimise your computer by keeping your drivers updated; that is to say, it'll check the internet to see if there are newer versions of the drivers you have, and if there are, install them. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that most of these programs are scams, designed to take your credit card or login details, let's focus on the bigger picture. A newer driver isn't necessary a better driver, just like a newer operating system isn't necessarily a better one; the best driver or operating system is the one that's had the most testing.

With Windows, you don't need a driver updater because Windows does that for you. And it'll only roll out new drivers for hardware when its gone through their extensive testing process. Most hardware manufacturers don't have access to the resources Microsoft have, so generally the drivers they put out don't have the same level of testing. And hence the newer drivers are often the ones with the most bugs. So basically what I'm saying here is that you should just let Windows do the updating and leave it at that, with some small caveats for items such as 3D graphics cards.

The fact that some bigger firms like Avast offer programs which do driver updates for you, should leave you sceptical about those firms. If a service isn't needed, and is likely to cause issues, why would you pay money for it? The only good driver utility Iíve used is called Snappy Driver Installer, and I only use it for installing drivers on fresh installs of Windows. Why? Well it saves you going to the manufacturer websites and doing a bunch of downloading (Snappy creates a local repository of drivers on your hard drive/flash drive).

But theres no cost to Snappy. It's operated by volunteers, and though you can donate if you want, it's a not-for-profit institution. If some software is charging you to update drivers, it's a scam, pure and simple. If you're at the point where you're scrolling through the internet, looking for solutions to your problem, and you're tempted to click on a link to some magical piece of software which promises to fix that problem? Call a professional instead. Those things cause more harm than they fix.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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