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Archive for August, 2013

Does Windows 8 Eliminate Hardware Drivers?

Does Windows 8 Eliminate Hardware Drivers?

Some people who are considering an upgrade to Windows 8 have heard that the new version of the OS eliminates the need for Windows hardware drivers. Sadly, that’s not true, but Microsoft has made some noticeable changes when it comes to hardware device drivers.

Windows 8 still uses device drivers

The bottom line is that Windows 8 still uses device drivers. Given what a device driver does, it’s hard to imagine being able to get away from device drivers altogether – at least in the near future. A device driver is a piece of hardware that sits between the computer and devices attached to it. The device driver tells the computer how to access the peripheral hardware properly.

In an older computing setup, devices are physically attached to the computer. Printers, external storage devices, USB devices, monitors and network cables all make a physical connection to the computer. When considering mobile devices, though, this physical connection isn’t necessarily part of the picture. At the same time, mobile devices still connect to networks and use “virtually connected” resources like printers and other networked hardware devices.

The mobile computer or device still needs to know how to interact with the network, the network printer, network data storage, servers on the network and other devices. Some mobile devices also use “near field communications” capabilities to set up “ad hoc” networks among themselves. These “instant networks” are not meant to last for a long period of time, but can facilitate the transfer of data from one device to another.

So, with machine-to-machine communication possibilities and the growing popularity of mobile devices, the prospect of downloading hardware drivers can be a bummer indeed. With Windows 8, Microsoft has attempted to standardize the way mobile devices talk to printers, networks and other common devices to eliminate the need to go looking for specific device drivers.

Has it worked? For some devices, the approach not only works, but saves both time and headaches. It’s not 100% foolproof and it hasn’t eliminated the need for hardware drivers in the Windows 8 environment, but it does represent a new approach to some of the most common and basic connectivity issues for mobile devices.

Regardless of what version of Windows you run, I recommend that you download and use Driver Detective to manage your Windows hardware device drivers. Driver Detective has been downloaded and used more than a million times to manage Windows driver updates and driver software replacements. Download a copy today and leave driver software management to Driver Detective.

Photo Credit: Filip Skakun, via Flickr

Has My Windows Hardware Driver Gone Bad?

Has My Windows Hardware Driver Gone Bad?

When a device that attaches to your computer stops working correctly, you may either notice the problem immediately, or you might spend a lot of time struggling with the computer before you figure out what’s wrong. Windows device driver problems can crop up without much warning. During one session, everything works fine. The next time you boot up your computer, something no longer works.

Troubleshooting a Windows device driver

Troubleshooting a Windows device driver can be a time-consuming task, but once you’ve located the problem, the solution is fairly simple and straightforward – just reload the driver. Microsoft has tried to make the process of finding, loading and unloading drivers easier over the years, and their efforts have paid off in large measure.

Not every manufacturer provides driver updates to Microsoft, which means that Microsoft isn’t the authoritative source on Windows device drivers. Some manufacturers want you to return to their support site to download drivers and driver updates. That’s all fine, as long as the drivers are available. But how do you know when you need to replace a malfunctioning driver or install a driver update?

A malfunctioning driver is relatively easy to spot, if you know what you’re looking for. A Windows device driver is a little piece of software that tells the Windows OS how to interface with a piece of hardware that is installed in or attached to the computer. Generally speaking, if the device doesn’t appear in the Device Manager, or appears in the Device Manager but isn’t accessible, doesn’t work, or has only limited functions, unloading the old driver and installing a fresh copy isn’t a bad idea.

Software can become corrupted over time and for many different reasons. If the Device Manager doesn’t list the suspect device driver as being loaded at all, you can simply download and install a new copy of the device driver from the manufacturer’s support site.

Occasionally, you’ll get an informational message saying that a new device has been attached to the computer and Windows is trying to find or install the proper drivers for it. This is another indication that the device driver has gone south. If Windows attempts to load a bad copy of the driver and fails, it should pop up an error message saying that it was unable to find or load the proper device driver.

If Windows can load the driver but the driver doesn’t work, you may have to unload the driver manually before installing a fresh copy of the device. Some techs argue that this isn’t strictly necessary, because installing a new driver will overwrite the old one, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and unload and delete a driver that I know is junk.

In the long run, I think the best approach is to use a driver management software package like Driver Detective. Driver Detective can not only download and install the correct drivers for your system, it can also track driver updates, so you never have to miss a driver update again. Driver Detective will also keep a fresh copy of the current device drivers your system needs, so you don’t actually have to go out looking for a clean copy of your current driver. It can also help you revert to an older driver if you don’t like the results of a driver update.

Download your copy of Driver Detective today and free yourself from the hassle of troubleshooting and repairing corrupted Windows hardware driver software!

Photo Credit: Harsh Agrawal, via Flickr

Can I Reload a Windows Driver That Came With My System?

Can I Reload a Windows Driver That Came With My System?

Maintaining Windows drivers can be a bit of a pain, and sifting through the manufacturer’s support site for a device driver can lead to all kinds of fun. (Not really.) So the question inevitably arises, “Can I just reload a device driver that came with my Windows OS?”

Windows driver updates are what you really want

I can’t say that I highly recommend this approach, but technically, yes it would get a device driver back onto your system. I don’t recommend the approach for several key reasons.

First, the drivers that come bundled with the OS probably aren’t the most up-to-date drivers for your device. In the world of Windows driver maintenance, you really want the most updated driver you can find. Why? Well, your system changes over time. Unless you’ve completely reloaded your Windows OS, to the point that it looks exactly like it did when you first pulled your computer out of the box, your Windows OS has been changed. Some of those changes will impact your device drivers, and you may not get the experience you were hoping for with a patched OS and an unpatched device driver. Your best bet is always to use the most up-to-date driver for any hardware you have installed in or attached to your computer.

Second, the Windows OS driver load may not actually have the driver your system requires. It’s not unusual for hardware manufacturers to make multiple versions of a device driver. Each version may be intended for use with a different hardware configuration, and the manufacturer may not make all versions of the device driver available for distribution with the Windows OS. This is especially true of laptop computers, where different hardware components may be installed in a single laptop model. It’s always best to go with what you have – and that means knowing what’s inside your computer.

Third, downloading Windows drivers from the manufacturer’s site ensures that you have a “clean” copy of the driver. It doesn’t happen often, and it hasn’t happened in awhile, but corrupted drivers have been known to sneak their way into Windows distributions. Go straight to the source for Windows driver updates whenever you need to replace a driver.

You could also bypass the Windows hardware driver hunt by using a driver management software package like Driver Detective. Driver Detective is one of the best known, most trusted driver management software utilities available today. Regardless of what version of Windows you roll with, Driver Detective will keep your Windows hardware drivers up-to-date and looking good!

Photo Credit: thskyt, via Flickr