It isn’t easy to single out the precise definition of a driver for a computer. However, this article will focus on explaining what a computer driver is and how it functions.

Also known as the hardware driver or device driver, a driver is normally a group of files that allows various hardware devices to pass messages to the computer’s OS. Without drivers, your PC won’t be able to receive and send data effectively to the hardware devices, including the printer and more.

Besides, a computer driver can be perceived as a program that controls a particular device. All the computer devices, including the disk drive, keyboard, printer, and more, must have a driver program for them to function as expected. Note that various drivers such as keyboard drivers come with the OS. For other devices whose drivers aren’t pre-installed on the operating system, you will need to load a new driver whenever you connect a specific device to your PC.

When it comes to DOS systems, drivers are files that feature a .SYS extension. For a computer that uses Windows, drivers normally have the .DRV extension.

Purpose of Drivers in a Computer

The primary purpose of drivers in computers is to offer abstraction serving as a translator between the operating system or the applications and the hardware device. The driver developers or programmers can write or create a high-end software code independently of what particular hardware the end-user uses.

For instance, a high-level application that interacts with a serial port might be designed to play two roles: send data and receive data. In a lower level, a driver designed to play these roles would communicate to the specific serial port controller that has been installed on your PC. Note that the command required to control FTDI serial converters are different from the commands that control 16550 UART serial ports. However, each hardware-specific driver will abstract the information into a similar (or the same) program interface.

Writing a driver requires an in-depth understanding of how the software and hardware function in a particular platform. This is because drivers need low-level access to hardware roles to operate and can cause issues in the operating system if they are not operating effectively. This will require you to install DriverAssist to help you spot the driver issue. This program will scan all your drivers, review them, identify the specific driver problem, and fix it.

Kernel Mode vs. User Mode

Computer device drivers, specifically when it comes to modern Windows platforms, can run on ether user mode or the kernel mode. The primary reason you should run your computer drivers in the user mode is enhanced stability because a poorly created user mode can’t crash the computer system by overwriting the PC’s kernel memory.

Note that user/kernel mode transitions normally impose a significant performance overhead. This prohibits user-mode drivers because they have low latency and high throughput conditions.

Understanding what a driver is in relation to computers is an important step in ensuring that your computer drivers are operating well.