Paul Watson, PC Technician
Manufacturers Don’t Always Come Through
Hardware manufacturers are ultimately responsible for providing hardware drivers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get much satisfaction from them. Manufacturers are notorious for dropping support for old (and not-so-old) devices, simply by not issuing new drivers for their existing hardware.
It’s frustrating for the user, but this is the manufacturers’ way of prodding users to buy newer hardware, even when the old hardware is working just fine. Windows 7 users may find themselves in a particular bind. They’ve upgraded their OS based on the positive reports from other users, only to discover that their hardware has been deemed “obsolete” by the manufacturer. Likewise, a manufacturer may never have issued a Vista driver based on the users’ “strong preferences for Windows XP.” The unavailability of a Vista driver might just be the best predictor of whether or not your device ends up on the long, slippery slope to oblivion. If a manufacturer hasn’t made a Vista driver, there’s a great chance that you won’t be seeing a Windows 7 driver, either.
You may still be able to find Windows drivers that will talk to your hardware, but the real value of having the right driver is that all of the device’s “built-in functions” will work. Without the correct driver, the device may have limited operating capabilities, or may not work at all.
If you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 and you can’t find a driver for your device inside the OS, the first place to check is with the device manufacturer. Some manufacturers have already identified the devices they support (or plan to support), so verify that your device is on the supported list.
If your device isn’t on the supported list for Windows 7, check the vendor’s site to see if they’ve issued a device driver for Vista. The Vista OS is remarkably compatible with Windows 7 in many areas, including hardware drivers. A Vista driver may work just fine with your Window 7 installation. Failing that, there is a possibility that a Windows XP driver will work. (You’ll need to watch out for 32-bit v 64-bit versions.) The XP driver is far less likely to be a perfect fit, though.
You can always do what I do, which is rely on Driver Detective to locate, download, install and manage drivers. It saves me a great deal of time, which makes Driver Detective worth its weight in gold.
Photo Credit: John Trainor, via Flickr