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Device Doctor is a Completely Free Driver Update Scanner

Installing the latest device drivers is an essential task for keeping your system running at peak performance, but almost all of the driver update solutions out there aren’t actually free. Thankfully, Device Doctor is absolutely, completely free to use.

UPDATE:

We have had a few readers point out that the software is no longer totally free, and tries to get you to install some junkware as well. We will have to remove our recommendation.

Device Doctor comes in two flavors—the regular installable version, and a portable executable that you can throw on a flash drive and use anywhere. Let’s dive right in…

Using Device Doctor

This is one piece of software that couldn’t be simpler—there’s just one screen, and after clicking the Begin Scan button you should see a list of drivers that need updating. You can then click the Download update on each one to actually grab that driver.

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On the download page, you’re prompted to download the driver installer and install it manually. It’s not as slick and automated as solutions from other vendors (like Driver Scanner from Uniblue, a sponsor of How-To Geek), but that’s actually one of the things we like about Device Doctor—it puts you in control of your drivers. Did we mention free?

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Because there are just so many devices and drivers out there for PCs, you might find that Device Doctor points you to the wrong driver, or an outdated version—and if that happens you should make sure to report an incorrect driver with the link on the driver download page:

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Since Device Doctor is still a very young software, feedback from users is very helpful, and over time the kinks will be worked out.

STOP! Before You Install Drivers!

You should always take a time-out before you install a new driver and create a System Restore point, which will enable you to quickly roll back in the case of a failure. We simply cannot state this more strongly! Here’s some walk-through articles explaining how to do so:

Now that you’ve done that, we can proceed.

Actually Installing the Drivers

For the actual driver installation, in some cases Device Doctor sent us to a nice, easily installable executable—just run through the wizard and you’re done…

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In other cases, however, the driver was a zip file that needs to be installed manually.

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We’ve already covered how to install or update a driver in Part 4 of our series about how to build a new computer, but it’s a topic we should probably cover in greater depth down the line.

To install new drivers manually, just right-click the device in Device Manager, choose “Update Driver Software” from the menu, and then pick the “Browse my computer for driver software” on the first wizard page.

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The rest is pretty self-explanatory—browse to the folder you extracted the drivers, and run through the rest of the wizard.

So, How Well Does It Work?

In our testing, Device Doctor worked really well for our Windows XP test system—it found 9 drivers that needed updating, and we verified that they were indeed the correct drivers. The actual scan takes only a couple of seconds, and since you don’t even need to install the portable version, it’s not going to clutter up your system with extra nonsense.

For our Windows 7 x64 test systems, it didn’t fare quite as well, with a couple of drivers that were not correct, like this PS/2 keyboard driver, which is obviously for XP:

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Since this software is still essentially in “beta”, we can forgive a few mistakes here or there, but we hope the driver checking process becomes a lot more accurate in future versions. Drivers are an essential part of Windows, and you don’t want to go with the wrong ones.

The Device Doctor people assure me that they are adding thousands of new Windows 7 drivers each week, so the problem should work itself out.

What Drivers Should I Update?

This brings up a good point—you don’t need to worry about updating every single driver on your system all the time, like that PS/2 keyboard driver we just mentioned. Here’s the drivers that we do recommend keeping updated:

  • Network Card Drivers – Especially as time goes on, wireless network card drivers need to be updated for better support and reliability.
  • Video Card Drivers – Every gamer knows that having updated video card drivers can be the difference between 100 and 500 nerd points. Also, better drivers make your system faster.
  • Chipset Drivers – You’ll be surprised how much difference the proper SATA drivers make on system performance, or the latest motherboard drivers make when dealing with system sleep issues. Personally I grab these from the manufacturer site.
  • Sound Cards – Keep them updated!

How to Check the Version of Your Installed Drivers

Updating your system drivers is all fine and good, but how do you know what version of the driver you already have installed? If you don’t want to install any more software, you can open up Device Manager, find the device in the list, and choose Properties from the right-click menu.

We’ve already explained how you can view the installed list of drivers the easy way, but it’s good to know the manual method as well.

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You’ll note that on the context menu you can choose to “Update Driver Software”, which will pull down the latest Microsoft-certified drivers from Windows Update. Unfortunately, Windows Update is often way behind when it comes to driver updates, and doesn’t always carry the manufacturer drivers that sometimes add extra functionality.

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On the Driver tab you’ll see the driver maker, date, and version. What you should keep in mind is that Microsoft makes their own drivers for some popular devices, but you can switch to the manufacturer driver instead, which usually is updated more frequently. This means that the current driver version won’t always have the same version numbering sequence as the manufacturer driver.

More About Device Doctor

We spoke to the guys that actually make Device Doctor, and they assured us that Device Doctor is completely free, and will continue to always be completely free. In order to pay the bills (we’re talking about a lot of bandwidth required to run their service), they have advertisements on the driver download page, but they also accept donations.

They welcome your feedback—it’s only with feedback that they can make the software better and provide a great, free service to everybody. You can report incorrect drivers on the download page, or leave suggestions on their forum—the more that everybody reports mistakes, the more accurate the detection will be in the future.

Download Device Doctor from devicedoctor.com

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/24/09

Comments (30)

  1. Artem Russakovskii

    When I tried Lenovo, it had its own driver updater which was great as it told you about what you were missing or what was out of date, and I’m frankly shocked Dell doesn’t have such a utility yet.

    So, any idea if Device Doctor works well on specific laptop brands, such as Dell?

  2. Asif

    It’s great to see somebody trying to create a freeware driver updater. Good for them!

    I’d like to see an option to view all of the drivers on a single download page. Would help, especially for systems with a lot of drivers to update.

  3. Sean

    How does this compare to the commercial alternatives? I’ve used DriverScanner before and it was automated but didn’t show a lot of information about the drivers.

    What would be really great is to show the version number of the driver that is installed, and the version number of the new driver, as well as the manufacturer of the driver. Right now it isn’t quite helpful enough for a power user.

  4. Perry

    Does it detect missing drivers and provide you downloads for them? Or does it just update drivers.

  5. Jon

    Perry brings up a good question, it would be really useful if it detects those unknown devices. I always have problems figuring out what they really are.

  6. Collin

    That is a good question – Device Doctor does detect unknown devices as well.

  7. Anton

    Just tried it on freshly installed Win7 on pc with old hardware.
    Found 0 drivers =\

  8. Bobblight

    Wonder how this is compared with Driver-Max?

    Later on tonight or tomorrow I’ll try to compare the two.

  9. Gord

    Driver max only lets you download one driver per day I think, prolly because of bandwidth costs

  10. Jim

    It reported two up to date drivers as old and offered me “updates” that were months older than the ones I was using.

    I’ll keep it installed for a while and see if it improves though, something like this would be very useful if they work the bugs out.

  11. Alek Davis

    Does not seem to work from behind the firewall, which is kinda lame.

  12. Bobblight

    @Gord – It lets you download 2 per day

    I didn’t have any outdated drivers but device doctor lacks features, driver-max offers more details, as to what driver is installed, version/current version available. Also has options to backup./restore drivers etc, I just used the free version looks like I will be sticking with it.

  13. Mahdi Yusuf

    This was a great post, I had a computer with some serious sound card issues and installed Device Driver and the recommeded driver worked!

    Amazing application.

  14. Dr. Khan

    Drivermax is good

  15. David Seymour

    DriverMax does have some issues with registering new users right now, however. They state that they are working on the problem, but, it may take hours or even days to start the (free) account with them. So if you want a tool to use right away you may want to look elsewhere.

  16. Mike J

    I dunno if it’s my FW or what, but this app didnt work at all for me.I got a list of things that needed updating but clicking on the “Install” button gave me a brief blink & that is all. Tried both versions.
    Running XP SP3.

  17. Dean Mitchell

    I had tried an app like this in the past with terrible results but because of the recommendation I decided to give this a try. I scanned my laptop and got the report that my Logitech mouse needed a driver update. I downloaded and installed the driver, and midway through the installation I received the message that the installation had detected a newer version already installed. I aborted the installation and immediately uninstalled this app. It confirmed my earlier experience that these apps cannot keep up with what is being developed.

  18. devicepatient

    Gives older drivers than current ones.
    Gave Lenovo driver for my Microsoft keyboard.
    Still, idea of the software is good… but it couldnt find the proper driver.
    It itself needs some updates.

  19. gunther

    I’ve got a Lexmark 6200 printer. 2-3 years old.
    Just updated my computer to Windows 7.
    Printer doesn’t work any more.
    Is there a free update available?

  20. Partyurlaub

    thats a great article. i often got problems with old drivers. now maybe this will help to solve them

  21. faith

    well, Avira detected a serious virus on my ATI download from Device Doctor … Mr. Webmaster, please check and update your site security!

  22. Fran

    I am having problems with this. First it does not like my proxy servers. Then it tells me that sm40dvdram.exe is not win32 application…Can you assit me here.

    Thanks so much

  23. Thomas

    Just ran a scan on my Win 7…found 2 updates but when I tried to download the new driver I was forced to download Driver Genius, a $30 program. I never could get to the FREE screens you describe!

  24. Sherry

    I had to pay also. It even said it would be 9.95 and then charged 39.95 to my card. Not happy about that.

  25. Harvey

    I tried to register with Device Doctor, but after sending my email address seven times and receiving no access code, I gave up. I really would like to use the site, my username and password were accepted, but I cannot activate my account since the administrator won’t send an email access code. Anyone have the same experience? If so, how did you finally register? Thanks, Harvey

  26. MARSHADCH

    thank you very much for free downloding. driver scanner. thanks

  27. Toria

    Is driver max free?? I am having no sound issues plz! Sum1 help!

  28. Jesse

    Wow virus issue’s, nothings actually free (of course) so thanks for the posts guys ill save my time and money!

  29. jorge

    the blue ray in my computer dont read the disc

  30. RoHa

    It downloaded a bunch of zip files, but I had no idea where to install them. I need and automatic installer instead of crawling around the whole system trying to fix each little bit at a time.

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