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