What are Video Drivers?

October 20th, 2009

video driversEvery PC has several devices that need to be controlled by the operating system. These devices may actually be fitted in the machine (such as hard disk drives) while others are connected externally (such as printers). Each of these devices has an associated device driver or PC driver that translates operating system commands into a format that a device understands and similarly will interpret device responses into a form suitable for the operating system.

One of the most important devices connected to your PC is the monitor screen since it is your main interface with the computer and allows you to see what is happening. This device is controlled by a special kind of device driver, known as a video driver.

Why We Need Video Drivers

Display monitors come in numerous sizes, types and formats, with the old CRT monitors now largely replaced by LCD and TFT screens and these being available in standard or wide screen format. Although many motherboards have onboard video, most monitors are connected to a video card (sometimes known as a display adaptor or graphics card), which uses a particular connection type. Older connection types, such as PCI and ISA are being phased out and replaced by Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), PCI Express (PCIe) and, more recently, Digital Visual Interface (DVI).

The computer’s operating system needs to communicate with the display, sending details of the data to be displayed, including its resolution and colour. However, given that there are reputed to be over 10,000 video cards available and that these may have different connection types and monitors, dealing with the varying requirements of each one might seem an impossible task.

The answer to this problem is to provide a video driver for every video card, with versions for each operating system. These drivers can take the generic information that the operating system issues to the video card and convert it into a form that the card understands. This takes into account the particular characteristics of the video card and means that the operating system does not have to know them.

Why You Need to Update Video Drivers?

Video cards are high performance devices and so it is vital that their associated video drivers are kept up-to-date. Failure to do this can result in problems that include videos not running smoothly or having the sound not synchronized with the picture. Displayed images may seem to have the wrong color or be of poor quality and may appear slowly or not at all.

The result of this may be not only a display that gives you eye strain and headache even though it has the correct refresh rate, but overall slow performance and frustration as well. A way to avoid these problems is generally to ensure you are using the correct video driver and that it is updated regularly.

To update your video driver, access Device Manager. Depending on the operating system you use, this may be available from the Control Panel or by right-clicking My Computer then choosing Manage.

Device Manager will list the types of device in the right pane and you need to select Monitors, right click the appropriate one and select Properties. Then click the Driver tab to see details of the installed device driver and click the Update Driver button to download drivers and install the latest version on your PC. When you complete the process, you may be prompted to restart your computer. Choose to do this only when you have completed the process for all video drivers.

Entry Filed under: Video Drivers

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