What Is a Computer Driver?

by Jerel Jacobs

All computer components interact with each other and the CPU by using drivers. Drivers are called such because they literally "drive" or control the interactions between computer hardware, peripherals and the operating system.

Description

A computer driver is a set of instructions that allows a computer to interface with another piece of hardware or software. Sometimes, drivers are referred to as firmware.

Benefits

Drivers can be used to enable special hardware or software features. They can also be updated to correct problems or enhance functionality.

Hardware Drivers

Hardware drivers are typically included on the installation CD. The drivers that come with printers, external disk drives and modems are all types of hardware drivers.

Expert Insight

Most drivers interface with hardware through the operating system. However, lower level drivers such as those found in the system BIOS are designed to work independent of the operating system (OS) and, in the case of the BIOS, starts before the OS is even loaded.

Prevention/Solution

Update your drivers often. When diagnosing hardware problems, outdated drivers are often the source of the issue.

Warning

Installing incorrect or outdated drivers can cause a component to fail or to function in unexpected ways. Drivers can be model or even serial number specific. Always double check before installing.