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Does Updating Drivers Increase Computer Performance?

If your computer seems to be dragging or running slower than it used to, it might be time to update the drivers. Out-of-date drivers can impact overall computer performance, making this an important part of your overall computer maintenance.

Most computer users don’t think to update or manage drivers until something goes wrong with their computer. While this strategy can work for certain types of drivers, other types of updates – such as drivers for video cards – contain performance updates with new versions, making driver updates a key variable in terms of performance.

If you’ve never thought about driver updates in the past, managing drivers can help keep your computer functioning at its highest potential.

Understanding Computer Drivers

To figure out if a driver can help your computer performance, it’s important to first understand what a driver is and does.

Drivers are software that help computers and peripherals or hardware communicate effectively. Drivers tell different devices what computer type you have, the operating system, and are packed with tiny settings that ensure everything works together as intended.

Driver updates can contain information that helps devices communicate better after a software or operating system update, contain security tweaks, eliminate problems or bugs within the software, and include performance enhancements.

Computer drivers might install automatically when you plug in a new device, such as a printer or mouse, or require manual installation to function correctly.

For some users, installing drivers might happen so quickly that you don’t even pay attention to it. For more high-performance computing users, drivers are an essential element that can keep the entire computer system functioning smoothly and as fast as possible.

Different Types of Drivers

Generally, drivers for home computers fall in one of two categories: Hardware device drivers or drivers for peripheral devices.

Hardware device drivers include graphics or video cards, sounds cards, network cards, and other expansion cards or discs. Drivers can make hardware easier to install and ensures compatibility across devices. Some hardware device driver updates – particularly those associated with high-end graphics cards used in gaming computers – are updated periodically specifically to improve performance.

Drivers for peripheral devices power smaller computer devices such as cameras, external drives, printers, microphones, music players, and more. This type of driver ensures that data moves smoothly between the computer and peripheral device so that the two function in tandem.

Most users don’t think about or make changes to peripheral drivers unless they have a need to, such as a malfunction or recommended update from the manufacturer.

When Should You Update Drivers?

Because there are two primary types of drivers, there are two answers to the question of when to update them.

First, hardware drivers typically need to be updated in order to keep your computer performing at an optimum level. Video drivers, specifically, are updated often and have a significant impact on computer performance. If you are using your machine to play games, this is an important consideration.

You should update hardware such as video drivers as new software is released to keep everything working as it should.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Drivers for all other computer and device connections aren’t as big of a concern. Most users don’t update these drivers until there is a valid problem, and that’s OK. While driver updates for security are always necessary, software to peripheral device drivers has much less of an impact on overall performance.

While driver updates often include security, performance, and software stability tweaks, they can also introduce potential instabilities as well.

Where to Find Drivers

Finding drivers can be one of the trickiest parts of computer maintenance because there are so many different places to find drivers. Not all of them offer the same thing or are reputable.

When you are looking for a driver update or download, make sure to get it from a source that you trust. Free drivers from random places on the web can include stuff you don’t want, such as bundled software or even malware. Stick with a manufacturer or reputable third-party vendor for all driver updates.

The primary sources to find driver updates include:

  • The device or hardware manufacturer’s website. Most of these companies have a driver download section where you can find drivers to match your computer parts, operating system, and software.
  • Windows for PC systems. While both PC and Mac systems use drivers, Windows uses more drivers, which is why Windows keeps a collection of generic drivers available for download for users.
  • The CD, DVD, or flash drive that came with your device. Just put the disc back in the computer to relaunch and reload drivers.
  • Third-party tools or vendors that provide driver updates.

Consider Automatic Updates

Using a tool that checks for out-of-date drivers and then finds and installs the latest versions for you can take a lot of the legwork out of this chore.

Driver Support does just that and once you fully register the service, it does everything automatically, so you don’t have to worry about finding or installing drivers to keep your computer and devices running smoothly.

How to Update Your Drivers

If computer performance has been an issue, you can check to see if different drivers are up-to-date and working. We’ll walk through it here with a driver for a printer, but you can follow the same steps for any driver on your computer.

Verify the driver in the device manager of your computer. From the Windows menu, search Device Manager. A list of all the devices associated with your computer will show up.

Click on any of the devices to expand the list. Right-click a device or driver name to see if the driver needs an update. If it does, “Update Driver” will appear as an option. Click this to update that specific driver.

You can repeat these steps with any devices or drivers in the list.

You can also manually download and install a driver from the manufacturer. Go to the manufacturer website and download the driver that works with your operating system and device. Double-click the driver installation icon to install it on your computer. Typically, new driver installations will override old versions of the same software.

Updating Drivers Can Improve Performance

To bring it all back to the primary question: Will out of date drivers affect performance?

Of course, they can. Any software connecting your computer to devices that are connected to it can impact how well your system operates.

Some drivers, such as video card drivers or graphics card drivers, can impact performance more than others. These hardware drivers are often elements that many people don’t feel comfortable adjusting or making changes to even though they can greatly impact computer performance.

If all of this seems like more than you can handle, opt for automatic updates. Using a tool such as Driver Support to handle driver updates can keep your computer performing at top levels and you won’t have to locate or install drivers. Updates happen as they are released by device-makers so your computer will always be secure, up-to-date, and have the potential to perform at its best.

If you aren’t ready to tackle driver updates yourself, automatic updates from Driver Support take all the work out of it.