How to Install Drivers in Windows XP

By Andrew Aarons

Windows XP marked a turning point in ease of driver installation.
i Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Windows XP dominated the personal computer market for almost a decade. But on July 11, 2011, Microsoft announced that it would cease support for XP in April 2014. XP's longevity stems from its usability: this operating system was the first to do pretty much everything for you. The plug-and-play functionality of Windows Vista and 7 started with XP, which supports most hardware and makes configuring drivers easy.

Step 1

Turn your XP-based computer on and wait for Windows to load fully. Attach the device you wish to install, turn the device on and wait a few seconds. Windows XP automatically detects new hardware and searches its device libraries, stored on the computer, for a matching driver. A window appears in the bottom right-hand corner of Windows, beside the clock, that says “Found new hardware…” If Windows doesn’t have the driver for the device, it tells you so.

Step 2

Check for missing drivers in Device Manager to see if any of your drivers are missing or malfunctioning, or if you need to install new ones. Hold down the "Windows" key on your keyboard and press “Pause” to launch System Properties, then click “Device Manager.” All of the hardware for your system is listed here. Devices with a yellow exclamation point beside them are not working correctly and need a new driver. Right-click on devices and choose “Properties” to see more details, then click “Driver” for all of your driver-related options. Click “Check for update” to have Windows search online for a new driver, or “Update driver” to point Windows at a new driver that you've already downloaded or that you have on a disc.

Step 3

Use the driver disc that shipped with your device if Windows can’t automatically detect the driver. Insert the CD-ROM and follow the instructions that shipped with the device. The process for this is always different and depends on what kind of device you are installing. Cameras have specific software that you don’t necessarily need to use to transfer photos, for example, whereas printers have software that includes drivers that you absolutely need to be able to print.