Demo: Find drivers for your hardware

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Watch this demo to learn how to set up Windows to automatically find and install missing or updated software drivers for your hardware.

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Few things in life are more aggravating than when I buy a new video card, scanner, or other piece of hardware, plug it into my computer, and…nothing. The device doesn’t work, no drivers are installed—nothing!

Hi. I’m John Swenson, a writer on the Windows team here at Microsoft. Today I’m going to show you how to update drivers to make your hardware work better. Windows Vista is designed to take the aggravation out of installing new hardware. It includes a feature called Windows Update for keeping your computer up to date. If you set Windows Update to install updates automatically and remember to check occasionally for optional updates, your hardware should work fine. Let me show you how to do this. I’ll plug a device into my computer and let Windows find and install the correct driver.

Don’t be confused by all this talk of drivers, by the way. A driver is just a small software program that allows a piece of hardware—like a mouse or a video card—to work with a computer. I’ve installed a lot of hardware using Windows Update. It usually detects all my hardware and downloads any drivers those devices need. Automatic hardware installation works great when a driver is available, but that’s not always the case.

Windows has to work with thousands of hardware products from hundreds of companies. Most companies have updated their drivers to work with Windows Vista, but not all hardware works smoothly with Windows. If you have some hardware that doesn’t work properly, it may be due to missing or outdated drivers.

Here’s how to set up Windows so it always looks for the newest and best drivers for your hardware. First, you’ll need to turn on automatic updating. Your PC might already be set to download updates automatically, but you should check. Start by opening Windows Update. Even if Windows Update is set to check for updates automatically, you can check for updates anytime yourself by clicking Check for updates. Let’s click Change settings. Make sure you have Install updates automatically checked, if it’s not already. Also make sure the box under Recommended updates is checked. If this isn’t checked, Windows won't install all the updated drivers it can find for your computer. Now let’s see if Windows Update has found any drivers for my PC.

Windows Update shows that Windows is up to date, but that it has some optional updates. See where it says Available: 2 optional updates? I’ll click the link next to that and see what it found. Windows Update tells me it has an optional software update for Windows Vista, and an optional driver update for the video card in my PC. Even though most driver updates are listed as optional, I always install them to make sure my PC is using the most up-to-date drivers. I’ll check the box for this driver and then click Install. Ordinarily, I’d install all the updates, but right now, I’ll just install the device driver.

That’s it! Now I have an updated video card driver that I didn’t have to find or install myself. Windows Update did all the work. There may be times when Windows can’t find a driver for one of your devices, and you have to check for one with the manufacturer. If that happens, you may need to install a driver manually. To learn how to do this, you can read about it in Windows Vista Help.