Device drivers allow your computer to communicate with and operate attached hardware including video cards, keyboards, printers, external hard drives, and more.

Most of the time, driver updates will be done by Windows 10 automatically by checking for and installing new versions. Or, you can check—via the Device Manager—individual hardware drivers to see if updates are available. However, this will not take care of every eventuality, and periodically you will need to manually download and install driver updates on your own.

Document Your Drivers

It’s a good idea to document all the drivers on your system. To do this, follow these steps:

  1.       Access the Run menu by simultaneously pressing the Windows and R keys.
  2.       Type cmd, and press Enter.
  3.       Once the Command Prompt appears, type driverquery > driver.txt and press Enter.

This will export a text file named “driver” to your user folder. When opening it, you’ll see four columns of information:

  •         Module Name
  •         Display Name       
  •         Driver Type  
  •         Link Date

Note: The Link Date is when the driver was published, which could be well before your computer was manufactured, much less bought by you. Additional information for individual drivers such as manufacturer, driver provider, driver version, and digital signer may be found by using the Device Manager.

Downloading Drivers

When downloading a driver manually, go to the manufacturer’s website. Then, check out the support and/or download pages or do a search to see what is available. Make sure to only download drivers for your particular computer and hardware device.

These downloads typically come in one of two ways: a single executable file or a zip file. After you download an executable file, all you should have to do is double click it to install your driver. However, with a zip file you will have to uncompress the file first.

In Windows, right click the file to access a menu with the options to either “Extract” or “Extract all” the files in the folder. Once you do this, a wizard should walk you through the rest of the extraction/installation process. Or, if not, you may have to look in the uncompressed folder for the executable install file to run. If you’re still having problems, find the .inf file for your version of Windows that’s with the driver files. Right click the file and choose “Install.”

Avoid Third-Party Applications

One thing to keep an eye out for is (typically free) third-party applications offering to scan and update your computer’s drivers. This software will likely install unwanted adware as well as using outdated drivers and potentially corrupted files. All the benefits from updating a driver can be undone by your system’s performance slowing to a crawl thanks to unwanted items being installed.

In the end, the majority of driver updates will be done by Windows Update. (And most drivers are not updated that often anyway.) If you do have to download and install a driver manually, always download directly from the hardware manufacturer’s website to get the newest (and uncorrupted) version.