All your computer hardware, from the motherboard to the webcam, needs drivers to function properly. Here’s how to download the official device drivers for your hardware, whether you’re using Windows 10 or 7.
Windows Automatically Downloads Drivers
If your PC and its connected devices are working properly, you probably don’t need to download drivers. When you install Windows on a computer or connect a peripheral to your PC, Windows automatically downloads and installs the appropriate drivers. Device manufacturers upload these official drivers to Windows Update so Windows can install them automatically. Any important updates are delivered via Windows Update, too. This is the safest way to update your drivers on Windows, because they go through fairly extensive testing by Microsoft.
Windows Update has more drivers on Windows 10, so this works better on Windows 10 systems. But even Windows 7 PCs can get many drivers through Windows Update.
In some cases, you’ll want to download the official drivers straight from the manufacturer instead of Microsoft. If you’ve just installed Windows on a PC or plugged in a peripheral and something isn’t working properly, it’s time to get the official drivers from the manufacturer’s download site. If you need a hardware utility that isn’t included in the standard Windows drivers—for example, touchpad or mouse drivers may include control panels with additional settings if you get them from the manufacturer—that’s also a good reason to get them from the manufacturer.
We also recommend you install the latest graphics drivers for your system’s NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel graphics hardware if you play PC games. The drivers available from Windows Update tend to be older, which means they won’t work as well with newer games. The Windows drivers don’t have useful tools like NVIDIA GeForce Experience and AMD ReLive that you get from the manufacturer, either. These tools allow you to optimize your games, record and stream your gameplay, take screenshots, and easily update your graphics drivers in the future.
You’ll Need the Manufacturer and Model Number of Your Device
To manually download a driver for a piece of hardware, you’ll need to know the manufacturer of the hardware, as well as its model number. This information is printed on the device’s packaging, on any receipts you have, and often even on the device itself if you look carefully. You can also download the free version of Speccy, which can show you this information about many of your devices.
If you purchased a desktop computer or laptop, you just need to know which manufacturer and model number of computer you have. For example, if you need a Wi-Fi driver for a Dell XPS 13 (2018 model), you don’t need to know what internal Wi-Fi hardware it has. You just need to head to the Dell website, look up the XPS 13 (2018 model) page, and download the Wi-Fi driver for that PC. The model name and number is often printed on a label somewhere on the PC itself, and should also be on any box or receipt you have.
Of course, if you built your own PC, you’ll need to know which internal components you used. You’ll have to get each hardware component’s drivers from that manufacturer’s website.
How to Identify a Device in Windows
You can use the Device Manager to view hardware devices connected to your PC. To open it on Windows 10, right-click the Start button, and then select the “Device Manager” option. To open it on Windows 7, press Windows+R, type “devmgmt.msc” into the box, and then press Enter.
Look through the list of devices in the Device Manager window to find the names of hardware devices connected to your PC. Those names will help you find their drivers.
If you see any “unknown devices,” those are devices that aren’t functioning properly because they don’t have any driver installed at all. You can often identify an unknown device by looking at its hardware ID.
Official Driver Download Links
We recommend you get your drivers straight from the hardware manufacturer’s official websites. Skip the scammy “driver downloader” apps you may see online. Here’s a list of the official places to get drivers:
Acer provides drivers for its Aspire, Predator, TravelMate, and other PCs, as well as various Acer-made accessories.
Alienware users can get driver software from Dell’s website, as Dell owns the Alienware brand.
AMD offers driver downloads for its Radeon GPUs as well as AMD APUs like Ryzen that include Radeon graphics. AMD’s website also hosts chipset drivers you may need for motherboards with AMD chipsets—in other words, if your system has an AMD CPU.
ASUS hosts drivers for laptop and desktop PCs like its ZenBook and Republic of Gamers (ROG) line of products, as well as other ASUS-branded gear.
Brother offers a variety of drivers for its printers, fax machines, and scanners.
Canon‘s website provides drivers for its digital cameras, printers, and scanners.
Corsair makes hardware utilities available for its gaming mice, keyboard, and headsets.
Creative provides downloads for its Sound Blaster hardware and other peripherals.
Dell makes drivers for its Inspiron, Latitude, XPS, and other PC hardware products available online, as well as drivers for any other Dell products you might have.
Epson offers downloads for its printers, scanners, projects, and other hardware devices.
HP provides drivers for its Pavilion, EliteBook, ProBook, Envy, Omen, and other PC lines, as well as HP printers and other products.
Intel offers driver downloads for everything from its Intel integrated graphics to its Wi-Fi hardware, Ethernet controllers, motherboards with Intel chipsets, and Intel solid-state drives. You may need to jump through some hoops to install the latest Intel graphics drivers if your PC manufacturer tries to stop you.
Lenovo hosts driver download for its ThinkPad, IdeaPad, Yoga, and other PCs, in addition to other Lenovo accessories.
Logitech‘s website offers downloads for its mice, keyboards, webcams, and other peripherals.
Microsoft offers driver downloads for products like Microsoft mice and keyboards. For Surface devices, Microsoft normally distributes drivers only through Windows Update. However, manual Surface driver downloads are also available if you really need them.
MSI provides downloads for its laptops, desktops, motherboards, graphics cards, gaming peripherals, and other products.
NVIDIA offers drivers for its GeForce graphics hardware as well as other NVIDIA products, like its TITAN series of GPUs.
Razer hosts software downloads for the Razer Synapse and Razer Surround utilities, which are designed for Razer’s gaming mice, keyboards, and headsets.
Realtek makes audio drivers available on its website, although you can likely get the Realtek high definition audio drivers for your PC from your PC or motherboard manufacturer, too.
Samsung‘s download center offers drivers for Windows laptops and desktops as well as every other Samsung product, including Samsung solid-state drives.
Sony still hosts driver downloads for its discontinued VAIO laptops and desktops as well as various Sony-made accessories.
SteelSeries offers the SteelSeries Engine hardware utility for its gaming headsets, mice, and keyboards.
Synaptics‘ website just advises you get Synaptics touchpad drivers from your laptop manufacturer rather than using generic drivers. Head to your laptop manufacture’s page.
Toshiba hosts driver downloads for its computers and other peripherals.
Western Digital provides firmware and utilities intended for use with Western Digital storage drives.
For other brands, just head to the manufacturer’s official website and look for a download page.
Image Source: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com.