A complete tutorial on updating drivers in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP
You might need to Update Drivers in Windows when a new piece of hardware you’ve installed doesn’t work automatically or maybe after upgrading to a new version of Windows. Updating drivers is also a great troubleshooting step when the device is having some kind of problem or is generating an error, like a Device Manager error code.
Device drivers are software that tells your computer’s operating system how to talk to its hardware. Without device drivers, your Windows PC or laptop won’t work. Keeping drivers up-to-date is essential for peak PC performance. We show you how to Update Drivers in Windows 7 and 10 — either manually or by using our automatic Driver Updater.
A driver update isn’t always a fix-it task, either. An updated driver might enable new features for the hardware, something we see on a regular basis with popular video cards and sound cards.
It usually takes around 15 minutes to update a driver in Windows, even less time if the driver is self-installable or you get it via Windows Update (more on all of that below).
Updating drivers yourself isn’t difficult, but there are programs that will more or less do it for you.
These steps can be used to Update Drivers in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP:
How to Update Drivers in Windows
Optional Walkthrough: If you’d like to follow the process below, but with more details and screenshots for each step, use our Step by Step Guide to Updating Drivers in Windows; Update Drivers in Windows instead.
Locate, download, and extract the latest drivers for the hardware. You should always check with the hardware manufacturer first when looking for an updated driver. When downloaded direct from the hardware maker, you’ll know the driver is both valid and the most recent for the hardware.
Many drivers are integrated with software that automatically installs them, making the below instructions unnecessary. If there’s no indication of that on the driver download page, a good bet that you’ll need to manually install a driver is if it comes in the ZIP format. Drivers obtained via Windows Update are automatically installed.
Open Device Manager. There are several ways to get to Device Manager in Windows but doing so from the Control Panel (the method outlined in the link) is pretty simple.
- With Device Manager open, select the > or [+] icon (depending on your version of Windows) to open the category that you think contains the device you want to update the drivers for.
Once you’ve found the device you’re updating drivers for, the next step depends on your version of Windows:
- Windows 10 & 8: Right-click or press-and-hold on the hardware’s name or icon and choose Update Driver (W10) or Update Driver Software (W8).
- Windows 7 & Vista: Right-click on the hardware’s name or icon, choose Properties, then the Driver tab, followed by the Update Drive button.
The Update Drivers or Update Driver Software wizard will begin, which we’ll completely step through to finish the driver update for this piece of hardware.
See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you’re not sure which you’re running.
- Windows XP Only: Right-click on the hardware item, choose Properties, the Driver tab, and then the Update Drive button. From the Hardware Update Wizard, choose No, not this time to the Windows Update question, followed by Next >. From the search and installation options screen, choose Don’t search I will choose the driver to install option, again followed by Next >. Skip to Step 7 below.
5. To the How do you want to search for drivers? question, or in some versions of Windows, How do you want to search for driver software?, choose Browse my computer for driver software.
6. On the next window, select Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer (Windows 10) or Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer, located near the bottom of the window.
7. Select Have Disk, located on the bottom-right, under the text box.
8. On the Install From Disk window that appears, choose Browse on the bottom-right corner of the window.
9. On the Locate File window you see now, work your way to the folder that you created as part of the driver download and extraction in Step 1.
There may be several nested folders within the folder you extracted. Ideally, there will be one labeled with your version of Windows (like Windows 10, or Windows 7, etc.); Update Drivers in Windows but if not, try to make an educated guess based on what you’re updating the drivers for, as to which folder might contain the driver files.
10. Select any INF file in the file list and then choose Open. INF files are the only files that Device Manager accepts for driver setup information and so are the only types of files you’ll be shown.
- Find several INF files in one folder? Don’t worry about this. The driver update wizard loads information from all the INF files in the folder you’re in automatically, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose.
- Find many folders with INF files? Try an INF file from each folder until you find the correct one.
- Didn’t find an INF file in the folder you chose? Look through other folders, if there are any, until you find one with an INF file.
- Didn’t find any INF files? If you haven’t found an INF file in any folder included in the extracted driver download, it’s possible that the download was corrupted. Try downloading and extracting the driver package again.
11. Choose OK back on the Install From Disk window.
12. Select the newly added hardware in the text box and then hit Next.
If you get a warning after pressing Next, see Step 13 below. If you don’t see an error or other message, move on to Step 14.
13. There are a number of common warnings and other messages that you might get at this point in the driver update process, several of which are paraphrased and listed here along with advice on what to do:
- Windows cannot verify that the driver is compatible: If you’re sure this driver is the right one, select Yes to continue installing it. Choose No if you think you might have the driver for the wrong model or something like that, in which case you should look for other INF files or maybe an entirely different driver download. Checking the Show compatible hardware box, if available, located on the window from Step 12, can help prevent this.
- Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software: Choose Yes to continue installing this driver only if you received it directly from the manufacturer or from their installation disc. Choose No if you downloaded the driver elsewhere and didn’t exhaust your search for a manufacturer-provided one.
- This driver hasn’t been signed: Similarly to the publisher verification problem above, choose Yes only when you’re confident about the driver’s source.
- Windows requires a digitally signed driver: In 64-bit versions of Windows, you won’t even see the above two messages because Windows won’t let you install a driver that has a digital signature issue. If you see this message, end the driver update process and locate the correct driver from the hardware maker’s website.
14. While on the Installing driver software screen, which should only last a few to several seconds, Windows will use the instructions included in the INF file from Step 10 to install the updated drivers for your hardware.
Depending on the drivers you happen to be installing, you may be required to enter additional information or make certain choices during this process, but this isn’t very common.
15. Once the driver update process is complete, you should see a Windows has successfully updated your driver software window.
Select Close. You can now also close Device Manager.
16. Restart your computer, even if you’re not prompted to do so. Windows doesn’t always force you to restart after updating a driver but it’s a good idea. Update Drivers in Windows; Driver updates involve changes to the Windows Registry and other important parts of Windows, so restarting is a good way to make sure that this update hasn’t negatively impacted some other part of Windows. If you do find that the driver update caused some kind of problem, just roll back the driver to the previous version and then try updating it again.
Why do I have outdated drivers on my Windows computer?
Just as with any piece of software, drivers become outdated over time. Their makers release newer versions that fix bugs or add new features.
There are multiple reasons for outdated drivers on your PC; Update Drivers in Windows. Among them:
- Windows itself doesn’t provide updates to all drivers. Hardware makers have to go through a rigorous acceptance process before Microsoft includes the driver in Windows Update. As a result, it could take months for a driver to arrive on your device — and by the time it does, the manufacturer has released newer versions.
- Your PC or component came with old drivers, with no updater is in place. For example, my Surface Book that includes a graphics chip dating from 2017 runs on drivers from mid-2017. The version number is 220.127.116.1142, when in fact the latest drivers (as of February 2019) have the version number 18.104.22.16866.
When should I update a driver?
Because drivers run crucial parts of a computer, any failure makes the system unstable. As a result, drivers often are the culprit for when lots of things go wrong. Check for new drivers if; Update Drivers in Windows:
- You experience problems you can’t explain otherwise. Among them might be stuttering audio or no sound, Wi-Fi and connection issues, games not running or running extremely slowly, and random system crashes.
- Devices won’t work at all. For example, when your USB ports don’t work, you need to update your USB drivers.
- When you see an exclamation mark in your Device Manager. This means that Windows knows something is wrong. To look in Windows 7 and 10: Hold the WIN-KEY + R, type in devmgmt.msc, hit Enter to open Device Manager, and look for entries with an exclamation mark like this one:
This shows that there’s something wrong with the device. You should probably update it or install the proper drivers.
- To boost PC performance. Some drivers; Update Drivers in Windows, especially chipset and graphics drivers, may make your computer run faster. However, you should probably look for ways to improve your PC’s performance through other means or by using a product like Avast Cleanup.