Windows 10's original desktop background.

On Windows 10, Windows Update no longer installs every hardware driver update it has available. Instead, it offers a list of optional driver updates. You should only install these in specific situations—if in doubt, leave them alone

Only Install Them If You Have a Good Reason

We’ll explain what’s going on in more detail, but here’s the quick answer: We recommend you avoid installing these optional driver updates unless you have a good reason to do so. In other words, if your computer and all its hardware devices are working properly, you should not install any of these optional driver updates.

If there is a problem with a hardware device on your system, it’s a good idea to check for and install any available hardware driver updates. For example, if your printer isn’t working properly, you might want to look for a printer driver update here and install it, if it’s available. if your computer is experiencing sound problems, you might want to install an updated audio driver.

That’s the advice we’re giving, and it’s the same advice Microsoft gives in Windows 10’s Windows Update interface:

If you have a specific problem, one of these drivers might help. Otherwise, automatic updates will keep your drivers up to date.

What Is an Optional Driver Update?

Windows Update automatically installs many driver updates on your system. However, since early 2020, there are two types of driver updates on Windows 10: Automatic ones and optional ones.

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The decision of whether an update will install automatically or manually is left up to the hardware device manufacturer when it uploads the driver to Windows Update.

In most scenarios, the updates automatically installed by Windows Update will work well and you won’t need to bother installing other ones. (One exception is graphics drivers: If you’re a gamer, you want to regularly install graphics driver updates for improved gaming performance.)

However, in some scenarios, you may experience a problem with a particular hardware device on your system. If a hardware device isn’t working properly—for example, Wi-Fi cutting out, audio issues, or printing problems—you can sometimes install an optional driver update from Windows Update for that particular device to see if it fixes the problem.

How to Install Optional Driver Updates

To find and install optional driver updates on Windows 10, head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. (You can press Windows+i to open the Settings window.)

Click the “View Optional Updates” link. If you don’t see it, no optional updates are available. You can also click “Check for Updates” to refresh the list of available updates.

Click "View Optional Updates."

Expand the “Driver Updates” section here to view optional driver updates.

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If you don’t see the Driver Updates section, no optional driver updates are available. This screen also offers other types of optional updates, including optional quality updates, also known as C and D updates.

Expand the "Driver Updates" section.

You will see a list of available optional driver updates here. For each, you will see the hardware manufacturer name, device type, date, and version number.

Some drivers will have incorrect dates or no dates at all. For example, we saw an Intel driver update marked as released in 1970. This is the Unix epoch and appears to be a sign that Intel forgot to use a real date for the driver.

You may also see duplicate versions of a driver with several different version numbers.

Optional driver updates displayed in Windows 10's Settings app.

To install an optional driver update, just check it and then click “Download and Install” at the bottom of the list.

Tip: You shouldn’t install any of these optional driver updates unless you have a specific problem with the hardware device it’s associated with. Optional driver updates could introduce new problems. Don’t fix what isn’t broken!

Check a driver and click "Download and Install" to install it.

If you want to uninstall an optional driver update, you will need to roll back the device driver in the Windows Device Manager. You can use this function to have Windows 10 use the device’s normal, automatically installed driver if the optional driver causes problems.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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