How-To Geek

Never Download a Driver-Updating Utility; They’re Worse Than Useless

do-i-need-a-driver-updating-utility

Never download a driver-updating utility. Like PC-cleaning programs, they try to charge you money for a service you don’t need. They do this by scaring you with threats of blue screens and system problems.

Even if a driver-updating tool worked perfectly and the company behind it didn’t seem unbelievably sleazy, they wouldn’t be worth your time — much less your money. Stay away.

DriverUpdate.net Examined

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We’ve seen advertisements for a “Driver Update Utility” from driverupdate.net all over the place recently. This is usually a bad sign — we also see ads for PC cleaners, registry cleaners, game boosters, and all sorts of other utilities that don’t actually do anything besides try to make money from you and install garbage onto your PC.

We installed this software so you don’t have to — really, don’t try this at home. We started with DriverUpdate. it will scan your computer for drivers for free, and then you can pay $30 to receive free automatic driver updates for a year. That’s what it promises, anyway.

The program starts out claiming to be by a “Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.” This doesn’t actually mean Microsoft has placed their stamp of approval on this utility. It then attempts to install other junk software you won’t want.

driverupdate-microsoft-gold-certified-partner

After installation, DriverUpdate ran a scan and informed us that our computer had 14 out-of-date drivers, many of which are considered “ancient.” This is on a fresh Windows 8.1 system — installed just a few months ago — with the latest drivers available from the manufacturer’s website at the time. There’s no possible way we have “ancient” drivers from 2006 installed.

driverupdate

If you try to update your drivers, you’re told that the installed drivers “can cause problems, system slowdowns and bluescreen errors.” This is technically true, but very unlikely. It’s also technically true that updated drivers could cause problems, system slowdowns, and blue-screen errors by introducing new bugs. It’s a wash.

The tool wants you to pay $30 a year to “Fix current device driver problems,” “Benefit from new driver features,” and “Prevent future system problems.” It’s very unlikely any driver will offer new features, and it’s very unlikely your current drivers could cause “future system problems.”

This is all designed to convince you to pay that $30 — and that “Microsoft Gold Certified Partner” logo there is designed to make the program seem more legitimate than it actually is.

driverupdate-scare-screen

Tech Support Scams and Crashes

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Some reviews on Download.com allege that if you actually pay $30, you’ll receive a phone call from customer service informing you that they found problems on your computer during the driver update scan. For just a few hundred more dollars, you can have them fixed! It’s basically just the Windows tech support phone call scam, but they’re only going after people who have already proven they’ll spend money for questionable software. Other users report the company charged them more than $30 after they attempted to buy a subscription, tacking on “add-ons” that raised the price.

Other people report crashes and blue-screens after installing updated drivers from this application — not a huge surprise. The reviewer below recommends “trying another one,” but you don’t need any driver-updating utility. Stay away from them all.

driverupdate.net-reviews-on-download.com

Driver Support and Other Tools

We’ve seen other driver updaters behave poorly, too. We saw one driver utility detect a virtual machine as a Dell PC. We’ve seen driver-updating tools pop up with suggestions to install drivers for printers that were never connected to the PC.

Here’s another driver-updating utility in action. It’s named “Driver Support” and uses the same business model, charging $30 a year for driver updates. It’s even more ridiculous — it says our computer’s “Driver Health Is Low!”. To fix this, we need to update our “HID-compliant mouse” driver. This is a standard type of hardware — you should never need to update this basic mouse driver; it’s included in Windows.

driver-support-utility

You Don’t Need to Update Your Drivers, Anyway

Here’s the thing — you don’t actually need to regularly update your drivers. If you play PC games, you do need to update your NVIDIA or AMD graphics drivers regularly — but that’s it. And both NVIDIA and AMD include automatic driver-updating tools along with the graphics drivers to make this easy.

Driver updates occasionally arrive via Windows Update, so a serious problem will be fixed just by installing your normal updates. Windows also automatically downloads the necessary drivers when you connect new hardware. Hardware driver-updating utilities would be a waste of time even if they worked properly.

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This software feels familiar. Like PC cleaners, Mac cleaners, registry cleaners, system optimization utilities, and all the other sketchy PC maintenance software you see advertised all over the web, it’s all about scaring you. Once you’re scared, you’ll pay up for their useless service.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/20/14

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