Drivers are the small but vital pieces of software that allow your hardware – such as video cards, CDROM drives, network cards and printers – to properly communicate with your operating system and work in harmony. For such a tiny component of the entire computer system, they can be a large problem. Drivers can become corrupted, out-of-date, overwritten or accidentally deleted, leaving you with a malfunctioning or downright unusable piece of equipment. You could download the driver from the manufacturer to get your system back on its feet, but what if you have an older piece of hardware? What happens if the manufacturer is no longer in business and you need drivers?
Drivers bundled with Windows
You may get lucky. Windows ships with many drivers. For a full list, you can browse Microsoft’s support site or just try to reinstall your hardware. The Add Hardware Wizard lets you browse through products, manufacturers, and model numbers to find the correct driver. The wizard will list every driver that comes with Windows. Clicking the model number will install the driver. Alternately, you can run Windows Update, which may also find hardware drivers.
There are many driver sites online. There are many web sites like System Optimizer Pro that offer drivers for a fee. They work in different ways. You can pay for memberships to these sites, pay for packets of drivers on a per-driver basis, or pay to download driver-scanning software that will recommend drivers. For a free option, softpedia.com has a multitude of free drivers. It takes some time to browse the site, and less-savvy users may accidentally click the occasional advertisement disguised as a download link, but it’s a cost-effective way for users with know-how to find drivers.
Building and supporting hardware has become a major pastime and the Internet is full of sites dedicated to hobbyists. These experts like to share tips for where to get great new hardware and how to tweak old equipment to get the most out of it. Hardware forums like hardwareheaven.com have sections dedicated to driver support. You can sign up for a forum, get in the conversation with like-minded enthusiasts, and find out about your driver and then some! Someone may have the driver you need, or can at least point you in the right direction. Also, there are online communities dedicated to specific hardware, like video cards (guru3d.com) or audio hardware. These ultra enthusiasts can address any issue with the particular hardware that is their area of interest.
There’s no reason to scrap old hardware if you desperately need a driver and the manufacturer is no longer around. If your computer can’t find the driver on its own, the Internet is great place to look for free and paid driver sites and for bustling online communities who can help.