A driver, or device driver, is a software program that enables a specific hardware device to work with a computer’s operating system. Drivers may be required for internal components, such as video cards and optical media drives, as well as external peripherals, such as printers and monitors.
Most modern hardware is “plug and play,” meaning the devices will work without requiring driver installation. However, even if a hardware device is recognized by the operating system, installing the correct drivers may provide additional options and functionality for the device. For example, most mice work automatically when they are connected to a PC. However, installing the appropriate mouse driver may allow you to customize the function of each button and adjust the mouse sensitivity. Some keyboard drivers allow you to assign functions to specific keys, such as controlling the volume or opening specific applications.
There are several different ways to install drivers. For some devices, such as printers, the operating system may automatically find and install the correct drivers when the device is connected. In other cases, drivers can be installed from a CD or DVD provided with the hardware. If no disc is available, you can typically download the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website from either the “Support” or “Downloads” section. Most downloadable drivers include an installer that automatically installs the necessary files when you open the downloaded file.