When hardware installed in or attached to a computer doesn't work properly, it is often because of a driver problem.

Here are some common problems with drivers, and ways to solve them.

Illustration showing how drivers allow communication between hardware devices and the computer where they are installed
A driver is a small software program that allows a hardware device to communicate with a computer.
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I just installed a new hardware device, and it's not working correctly.

If hardware isn't working properly, you might need a new driver—whether you installed the device recently or have had it installed since you acquired your computer. Every device needs a driver that allows it to communicate with your computer. Sometimes drivers need to be updated. All your drivers must be compatible with this version of Windows.

In most cases, drivers come with Windows or can be found by going to Windows Update in Control Panel and checking for updates. If Windows doesn't have the driver you need, you can usually find it on the disc that came with the hardware or device you want to use, or on the manufacturer's website.

There are several things you can try if you have a device that is not working correctly:

  • Check if updated drivers are available through Windows Update. When you check Windows Update, click View available updates to determine if an updated driver is available for your device. For more information, see Install Windows updates.

  • Make sure that the hardware device is compatible with your computer and with your version of Windows. If the device is not compatible, you will need to find the correct driver. Check the information that came with your device. You can also search for the device on the Windows Vista Compatibility Center website. This website contains a comprehensive list of devices that have been tested to work with Windows Vista.

  • Many devices require special drivers to work properly. Be sure that you have installed any software discs that came with the device.

  • Restart the computer. Restarting might be necessary if the driver requires it or if the driver did not install correctly.

  • If the device is a universal serial bus (USB) device, disconnect it and then plug it in to a different USB port. Windows should detect the device and install the drivers, and will notify you if the device drivers did not install properly.

I just installed new drivers for my hardware from Windows Update, and want to make sure I get future updates.

It’s important to set Windows to download and install updates automatically. But even if you have Windows Update set to automatically install important updates for your computer, it still might not be set to install all the updated drivers it finds for your hardware, since not all these are classified as important. To get all driver updates, you have to turn on recommended updates, too. If you follow these steps, you might never have to check for driver updates yourself or struggle to get a device to work.

To turn on automatic updating

  1. Open Windows Update by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Update.
  2. In the left pane, click Change settings.

  3. Click Install updates automatically (recommended).

  4. Under Recommended updates, select the check box for Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates, and then click OK. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Picture of options for choosing how Windows installs updates
To make sure you get the latest drivers for your hardware, set Windows to automatically download recommended updates

My device used to work, but now it doesn't.

There are several things you can try:

  • Updated drivers might be available through Windows Update. When you check Windows Update, click View available updates to see if an updated driver is available for your device. For more information, see Install Windows updates.

  • If you can't find a new driver through Windows Update or the manufacturer's website, find the disc that came with the device and place it in the computer's CD drive. With the disc in the CD drive, update the driver for the device. See Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

I can't connect to the Internet to update my drivers.

You must be logged on as an administrator to perform these steps.

If you do not have a connection to the Internet, you might need to update your network adapter driver manually. If you have the disc that came with the device, place it in the CD drive and follow the steps to manually update the driver.

If you can't find the disc, try to connect to the Internet from another computer and download the device driver from the device manufacturer's website. Once you have the device driver files, copy them to the computer with a problem. Follow these steps to manually update the driver.

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. In Device Manager, locate the device under Network adapters, and then double-click the device name.

  3. Click the Driver tab, and then click Update Driver.

  4. In the Update Driver Software wizard, click Browse my computer for driver software.

  5. Click the Browse button and go to the location on your computer where you saved the new driver files.

  6. Click OK, and then click Next to install the driver.

I get an error message about Internet protocol (IP) bindings.

IP binding problems are typically caused by an out-of-date network adapter driver. To fix this problem, update the network adapter driver by following these steps:

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Double-click Network adapters.

  3. Right-click the network adapter name, and then click Update Driver Software.