New subscriber Byron had a very basic question, and it’s one we all need to understand:
What is a driver and what does it do?
I wrote back to Byron to tell him to explain the issue.
First, just because someone develops a piece of hardware to go in a PC, that doesn’t necessarily make it work. Just because the PC’s hardware recognizes the hardware is connected, that doesn’t mean that Windows knows what to do with it…
That’s right. The PC provides the basic connection possibilities, whether its a USB connection, a slot on the motherboard for a card, or a connection via a cable (such as a hard drive).
With the exception of knowing how to read a certain, small portion of hard drives, floppy drives, CDROM and DVD drives, and flash drives in order to start the boot process of the computer, the computer’s built-in hardware does not know what to do with the attached hardware.
A driver is the missing link. Back in the DOS days, we had to have programs that knew how to talk to each piece of hardware. With Windows, we took a major step forward — drivers are written for Windows to talk to the hardware.
Now, programs communicate with Windows, and Windows communicates with the hardware, using drivers.
A driver is a software program, typically written by a hardware manufacturer, that allows the operating system to "talk" to the piece of hardware.
For example, a video driver is developed by the video chip manufacturer and supplied to the manufacturer of video cards based on that chip.
The user installs the video driver onto their computer, where it links into Windows so that Windows knows how to talk to the video card.
Of course, this whole concept means that any time we get a new type of hardware, if it doesn’t work with an existing driver in Windows, we need to get a new driver. Also, when there’s a new version of Windows, getting a driver for your older hardware can sometimes be a problem.