Everything You Need To Know About Driver Updates

Driver updates aren’t just for tech-savvy computer users. In this easy-to-follow guide, we’ll show you why you should know more about them and how to update drivers.
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If you get a notification to update drivers, don’t ignore it. Drivers help your operating system communicate better with hardware components. They’re so critical that some devices won’t work without them, and others won’t function properly if they’re not updated. You often need to install drivers when you connect new hardware devices.

You should update drivers to improve performance and prevent system crashes and hardware malfunctions. Keeping your device secure is another reason to update drivers while using the best antivirus software for your machine. Keep reading to learn more about these crucial computer components and how to keep them updated.

In this article
What are device drivers?
Signs of outdated drivers
How to update drivers on Mac and PC
How to set up automatic driver updates
Risks of not updating device drivers
FAQs
Bottom line

What are device drivers?

Device drivers are pieces of software that help your computer’s hardware function. They’re like connections between hardware and software, helping the two communicate.

Some common computer drivers are graphics drivers, audio drivers, and modem drivers. These can also be divided into generic and specific drivers. Generic drivers are part of the computer’s operating system and are used for basic tasks like keyboard and mouse control. Specific device drivers may be included with hardware like printers, video cards, and graphics cards. They can influence image quality, allow router connection, and ensure sound production for your speakers.

When you update drivers, you reinforce the connection between software and hardware. This ensures that all connected peripherals and internal hardware perform optimally.

Why are driver updates necessary?

Driver updates are necessary to improve device functionality, boost security, and extend the life of your computer. Updating drivers may increase new software compatibility and help keep your device from being vulnerable to malware threats.

Outdated software is prone to security vulnerabilities. Hackers will have an easier time slipping malware into your device without detection. Has your computer been slow? Updating drivers can increase performance for recently installed hardware. It’s also good maintenance to automatically install updates because outdated drivers burn more energy and won’t last as long.

Some macOS driver updates get installed when you update your Mac software. Third-party devices may require installation from the manufacturer’s website. Windows is set by default to automatically look for driver updates and install them.

Signs of outdated drivers

If you aren’t sure if you have outdated drivers, some signs will let you know. If you experience these, you may want to check for any devices with a yellow exclamation mark in your Device Manager if using Windows. You can right-click on those to update them. For macOS, you can check the System Information for needed updates.

Here are some signs you may have outdated drivers:

  • Slow performance: Outdated drivers may cause connectivity issues.
  • System crashes: Frequent system crashes may mean your drivers are no longer communicating properly.
  • Hardware malfunctions: Drivers that are not updated can cause device failure and hardware function problems.
  • Programs freeze: Certain drivers may need updates to run properly. Third-party software code could change, making the old drivers outdated.
  • Malware issues: Outdated drivers can be vulnerable to malicious code. If your machine has a virus, you may also have outdated drivers that need to be updated.
  • Blue screen of death: The blue screen of death appears when your PC experiences a system failure. It’s not always as bad as it seems, as it could mean a driver is outdated.

How to update drivers on Mac and PC

The process for updating drivers on a Mac is different from updating them on a PC. You also want to back up your device before you perform any updates. Many manufacturers will have drivers on their official websites for peripheral devices, such as printers, mice, and keyboards. Depending on the operating system, there are a few ways to update your device drivers.

Updating drivers on a Mac

Drivers will be updated when you install the latest software updates on your Mac.

  1. Go to the Apple menu and choose System Settings.
  2. Click General, then click Software Update.
  3. You can also update from the App Store by going to the Apple menu.
  4. Choose the App Store, and any needed updates will be displayed.

You can see recently installed drivers in the Finder search bar. To find a specific driver, such as the printer name, type in the device's name.

Update drivers on a PC

Windows Update will quickly download and install new drivers. Some may require a reboot after the update process.

  1. Go to your Settings.
  2. Click Update & Security.
  3. Select Windows Update.
  4. Click the Check for updates button, then click View optional updates.
  5. Choose the Driver updates tab and select the drivers to update.
  6. Click the Download and install button.

You can also check the Device Manager for needed driver updates.

  1. Right-click on the Start menu button. Click on Device Manager.
  2. Choose the device to update.
  3. Select Update driver. Click Search automatically for drivers.

You can view the most recent driver updates in your Settings app. Select Windows Update for a history of the latest drivers installed.

How to set up automatic driver updates

There are a variety of ways to set up automatic driver updates.

To have Windows check for the latest drivers, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Device and Printers in the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the name of your device and click Device installation settings.
  3. Select Yes, do this automatically. Click Save changes.

To have your Mac set up for automatic updates, follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Settings, then click General.
  2. Click Software Update.
  3. Turn on Check for updates. To have them automatically download without asking, turn on “Download new updates when available.”

Some third-party driver updater tools may also be used. We have some recommendations from antivirus products that have these services.

  • Avast Driver Updater: Works to scan and update PC drivers.
  • AVG: Updates old PC drivers without manually checking them one at a time.
  • Norton Driver Updater: Contains a database of over 50 million malware-free device drivers.

Risks of not updating device drivers

When you postpone updating device drivers, you risk leaving your device vulnerable to computer hackers. It’s easier to download malware on a device with outdated drivers because they may not have the patches that fix any missing security links. Although it may be tempting to put them off, you should update your device drivers when you get the notification that one is available.

You may experience unpleasant, frequent system crashes. These can be caused by outdated driver software not communicating properly with the hardware, which prevents it from functioning.

When you get a new hardware device, such as wireless earbuds, you’ll need to update the Bluetooth drivers. Without them, your earbuds may not work at all. Regular updates will increase the longevity of your device. Developers release frequent updates that improve the drivers and prevent them from using too much processing power. That alone can extend the life of your computer.

Top antivirus protection recommendations

Along with regular driver updates, you want the best antivirus protection to keep your device secure. If you’re looking for an affordable solution with robust coverage, we have some recommended antivirus products that may fit your needs.

  • AVG is good for optimal security and has plenty of features. Some of the options include a phishing site blocker and ad tracking. AVG has a highly rated free antivirus, but the premium plans include even more top-notch features.

    Get AVG | Read AVG Review

    Trusted Protection by 435 Million Users Worldwide
    4.8
    Editorial Rating
    Learn More
    On AVG's website
    All-In-One
    AVG
    • Award-winning antivirus, malware, and ransomware protection for up to 10 devices
    • Includes webcam protection, safe browsing and email, automatic updates, and 24/7 protection
    • Suite of protection benefits including a secure VPN, anti-tracking capabilities, safeguards against phishing sites, and more
    • Various scanning options may be confusing to some people

  • TotalAV features zero-day scans, a password manager, and an ad blocker. It’s compatible with Windows and Mac. TotalAV's top benefits are its ease of use and high level of protection at a budget price.

    Get TotalAV | Read TotalAV Review

    No Fuss, Real-Time Online and Mobile Protection
    4.8
    Editorial Rating
    Learn More
    On TotalAV's website
    Antivirus Software
    TotalAV
    First year discount on paid plans
    • Real-time protection from viruses, malware, and online threats
    • Blocks tracking cookies and ads, proactively monitors for data breaches, and option to schedule smart scans
    • 100% compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS operating systems on up to 3 devices
    • Lacks firewall protection

  • Bitdefender covers up to 10 devices and includes credit monitoring and identity theft protection. It’s better for Windows and Android users who want premium antivirus features. The free plan is only compatible with Windows.

    Get Bitdefender | Read Bitdefender Review

    4.8
    Editorial Rating
    Learn More
    On Bitdefender's website
    Antivirus Software
    Bitdefender
    • Antivirus software offering reliable security
    • Simple yet powerful interface tools
    • Perfect protection score in third-party tests
    • Premium features incur additional subscription fees

FAQs


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What is a driver update, and do I need it?

A driver update is a recent change to the software that improves communication between your operating system and hardware. You need it, as it will enable your system to work better and may prevent computer crashes and malware threats.


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Should you automatically update drivers?

If you want to save time, you should automatically update drivers. However, if you prefer to be more granular and go through each device or possible update available, you can manually download driver updates.


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How do I update all my drivers?

You can update all your drivers by setting your system to automatically check for them. You can also use Windows's Device Manager to search for anything with a yellow exclamation mark beside it.


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How do you update your drivers on Windows 11?

You can use the Device Manager to right-click on the drivers you’d like to update. You can select Search automatically for updated driver software.


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How do I update my graphics driver?

You can also use the Device Manager to update your graphics driver. It will be located under Properties of Display adapters.


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Is there a completely free driver updater?

Although there may be free driver updaters, it is best to use the device manufacturer’s website or a reputable third-party updater tool, such as AVG or Norton Updater, when possible.

Bottom line

Updating drivers is crucial for the best device performance and security. It only takes a few minutes to check for updates or to set up automatic updates. Drivers help your computer function optimally, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure they’re not outdated.

Additionally, using the best antivirus software helps keep your machine secure from cyber criminals. An antivirus helps block malware and adware that can invade your PC or Mac. Combining a solid antivirus with updated drivers can help keep your device in pristine working order, increasing its longevity and functionality.

No Fuss, Real-Time Online and Mobile Protection
4.8
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On TotalAV's website
Antivirus Software
TotalAV
First year discount on paid plans
  • Real-time protection from viruses, malware, and online threats
  • Blocks tracking cookies and ads, proactively monitors for data breaches, and option to schedule smart scans
  • 100% compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS operating systems on up to 3 devices
  • Lacks firewall protection

Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer specializing in technology, with three years of experience. With a B.S. in Computer Science and a background as a technical analyst and security specialist, she covers a range of topics like data security and parental control software.