operating systems

The software drivers that accompany the purchase of most every external hardware device, such as a printer, are just small and simple programs that are designed to make communication possible between a software application running on a computer and the external device. In a sense, they are like a bridge between the applications and the device that allows for integration of the hardware with the program.

When a computer software program calls for a certain function of the device, this invokes a specific routine in the driver which then issues the proper command to the device. The device then sends the requested data back to the driver, which in turn communicates that back to the application.

The device drivers are also capable of invoking some software routines in the software program that submitted the original request to the device. Due to this back and forth communication, it is extremely important that the driver software be updated to the most current version available. At the same time, it is important that the main applications are also “aware” of the driver programs so they also are able to correctly interact.

Some of the common device drivers that you probably have on your computer are the small programs that came with your printer, your digital camera, your cell phone, any Bluetooth device that you have and hard drives that are removable. Without the right device driver you will find it virtually impossible for any of these external tools hardware devices to be recognized by the operating system, let alone function correctly.

When people have problems with printers, scanners, USB drives and other devices, one of the most common problems is with the drivers. Because these small programs function as a go-between and interact with both operating systems and other computer software programs, they have a tendency to be become corrupt.

When a device driver becomes corrupt, the item of hardware that they “drive” can start to behave erratically or stop responding completely. One very common problem that happens is when a printer driver gets corrupted. If your printer suddenly starts producing pages that are not formatted the way they appear on the screen, or print out nothing but sheets full of code, then the problem is most likely a bad software driver.

The good news is that it is very easy to replace a device driver that has gone bad. Most of the time on a PC running Microsoft Windows, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista, you can reinstall the driver from the CD-ROM that came with your device, as it will simply over-ride the defunct version. However, before installing Mac drivers, it is recommended to completely remove all associated files from your computer before re-installing the newer version. If it has been awhile since you bought the device, then the best thing to do is go to the website of the manufacturer and search for the most recent version of the driver.

In many cases this is the easiest and fastest way to fix a problem with an external hardware device, although it is often an overlooked solution. Sometimes, when installing a new version of device drivers, users also find improved performance as a surprise bonus. Because of this, it is helpful to establish a routine of checking with the manufacturer regularly for updates.

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