What is a driver?

A driver is software that allows your computer to communicate with hardware or devices. Without drivers, the hardware you connect to your computer—for example, a video card or a printer—won't work properly. In most cases, drivers come with Windows or you can find them by going to Windows Update in Control Panel and checking for updates. If Windows doesn't have the driver you need, go to the Windows 7 Compatibility Center website, which lists thousands of devices, and has direct links to driver downloads. Also, you can often find drivers on the disc that came with the hardware or device you want to use, or on the manufacturer's website.

Automatically get recommended drivers and updates for your hardware

Even if you have Windows Update set to automatically download and install all important and recommended updates, you still might not be getting all of the updated drivers available for your devices. For instance, optional updates might include updated drivers that become available for hardware or devices you've already installed. Windows doesn't automatically download and install optional updates, but you will be notified when optional updates are available.

To get all the available updates for your devices, periodically check Windows Update for all available updates, including optional updates. You can review the available updates and then select them from the list of updates that Windows finds for your computer. Here's how to do this:

  1. Open Windows Update by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Update, and then, in the list of results, click Windows Update.

  2. In the left pane, click Check for updates, and then wait while Windows looks for the latest updates for your computer.

  3. If there are any available updates, click the link in the box under Windows Update to see more information about each update. Each type of update might include drivers.

  4. On the Select the updates you want to install page, look for updates for your hardware devices, select the check box for each driver that you want to install, and then click OK. There might not be any driver updates available.

  5. On the Windows Update page, click Install updates. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.


    • Windows Update tells you if an update is important, recommended, or optional. For more information, see Understanding Windows automatic updating.

    • Some updates require you to restart your computer.

    • Windows Update will tell you if the updates were successfully installed.