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Device Drivers Explained
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About Device Drivers
A device driver is a computer program that controls a particular hardware device connected to your computer. The device can be inside the computer, such as a hard drive, or externally connected to it, such as a digital camera. Device drivers convert general input/output instructions into the specific electrical impulses that are needed to operate a particular device.
Drivers are hardware dependant and operating system specific. Practically every hardware component your computer uses has its own device driver, including your keyboard, mouse, video card, sound card, CD/DVD driver, printer, and so on. If a particular peripheral is designed to run on more than one operating system, such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, it will need a different driver for each system. In Windows, drivers typically have a .sys or a .dll extension.
The flow of communication in your computer goes like this: application software communicates with the operating system, the operating system calls the driver, and the driver controls the device. For example, when you click the print icon in your word processing program, your word processor issues a request to your operating system to print a document. Your operating system decides which device should execute this command and calls the appropriate driver. The operating system then sends general instructions to the driver which the driver converts into the specific, detailed instructions that your particular printer will understand.
Drivers are normally written by hardware manufacturers. They are specific to the make and model of the device. Manufacturers often update their drivers to fix bugs, enhance functionality, or take advantage of upgraded functionality in new releases of software. Drivers usually run with high privileges. Unstable drivers can therefore wreak havoc with a computer system. For these reasons, itís a good idea to run the most current version of a driver for your particular device.
If you installed a new hardware device to your computer and itís not operating properly, thereís a good chance that you have a buggy or outdated driver. You can usually download the latest version of a device driver from the manufacturerís web site. This can sometimes be a tedious and time-consuming process. Some web sites can help you simplify this process by letting you run driver agents that will scan your computer and prompt you to update your system with more current drivers.
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Update outdated device drivers