Thursday, April 2, 2009

WINXP - Keeping Hardware Drivers Up-to-Date

This post is about ways to keep your PC's hardware drivers updated. Sometimes it is not easy. First, some definitions.

  • Firmware are NOT Drivers. They are code on ICs on your hardware.

    The over-riding rule in Firmware, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is especially true of the BIOS Firmware on your motherboard.

    There is NO "rollback" when updating Firmware.

    You update Firmware ONLY is something does not work, and you get the update from the manufacturer of the hardware, NOT a 3rd party.


  • Drivers are files that are part of your OS (WinXP) and allow you OS to "talk to" the hardware.

    WinXP has a rollback feature for drivers.

    It is relatively easy to upgrade or downgrade drivers.

There exists easy driver updates, especially if the manufacturer provides an WEB base utility like nVidia does.

But not all manufacturers have easy driver updates. You have to go to their Support and see if they have a driver-download page. Even then, there is a very, very confusing issue with knowing if you need an updated driver.

It has to do with the version stated for the driver files. Here's an example that happened to me recently, there was a driver update VIA Rhine Ethernet v1.14, no problem, my DRIVER was v2.25, no need to update. WRONG!

The v1.14 is the version of the driver update FILE, not the version of the driver. The driver inside the FILE was VIA Rhine Fast Ethernet v3.35

What you can do is use a driver WEB site. Here are 2 that I use.
  • DriverAgent

  • This site has a tool that will scan your system and show you what drivers you have AND if there are updated versions. Note, it will show ALL drivers in WinXP, therefore you should only consider updating the ones you actually use.

  • DriverGuide

  • This is a good site for finding older drivers for hardware no longer supported. You have to know what version of the hardware is AND what version of the driver you have (if you have it).

    They also have their own Driver Scan tool.

  • Uniblue DriverScanner (update 7/20/2009)

  • Just discovered this one. Has a very good GUI, free to download and run a Scan, but you have to Register (aka pay $29.95 to download driver updates).
    Also includes a Driver Backup which you should do BEFORE updating your drivers.

    Found 2 outdated drivers on my home system, one of witch improved my gaming after installing. Less, much less, lockups that required manual Restart.

No comments: