What are System Drivers?

July 24th, 2009

System drivers are used by devices and functions that are integral parts of your PC. They include drivers for the CD and DVD drives that are fitted in your computer, the various ports (such as USB and Firewire) into which devices can be connected and the motherboard itself, which is at the heart of your computer’s operation.

If your PC is on a network with other computers, it may be an ethernet-based local area network that has drivers to control it. System drivers are also available for firmware, which is a type of software that is always available when its associated hardware is switched on. It is generally used to control that hardware and, while it is not actually a driver, it is updated and used in the same way as a driver. System drivers are the means by which the operating system communicates with the different type of system devices.

Why We Need System Drivers?

Each PC will have several system devices inbuilt. There are several different types of device and each type may be produced by different manufacturers and come in several formats. A typical example is a DVD drive that may read and write disks in different formats (DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM), at varying speeds, with different capacities and in single or dual-layer form. There’s also the added complication of something called LightScribe that etches a label onto the upper surface of the disk as part of the writing process.
The vast range of devices and formats makes it impossible for the PC’s operating system to communicate directly with every device. There are simply too many variations to make this practical. The solution to this problem is to have system drivers that act as intermediaries between the operating system and each device. Every driver is specially developed for its device and has versions for each operating system.

The availability of a system driver means that the operating system can issue a generic or high level command to a system device without bothering about the actual characteristics of the device. The system driver will convert the command into low level commands that the device understands. When the device acts on the command and sends a response, it will similarly convert this for the operating system. In effect, it’s as through the system driver is acting as a translator for two people who speak different languages.

Why You Need to Update System Drivers?

Since the various system devices are integral to the PC, it follows that they need to work properly for the machine to operate efficiently. Outdated, corrupt or incorrectly installed system drivers can prevent this and can cause problems. For example, if an ethernet driver is faulty, network connections may become unreliable.
In order to avoid problems, you should update your system drivers regularly. To do this, access the Device Manager. This will be available from the Control Panel. The Device Manager will list the types of device in the right pane and you need to select the various system devices. If you’re unsure which you need to select, there’s no harm in updating everything since having up-to-date drivers is no bad thing.

Right click each device, select Properties and select the Driver tab, then click the Update Driver button to download drivers and install the latest version on your PC. When you complete the process for all drivers, restart your computer.

Entry Filed under: Device Drivers

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