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Chapter 4. Microsoft Windows and Hardware > Updating a Device Driver

Updating a Device Driver

You’ve plugged in a new piece of hardware. You’ve installed the correct driver. It’s working just fine. You’re done, right? Yes, indeed—until the manufacturer of your hardware releases a new version of the driver for that device. Then you have to decide whether to upgrade to the newer driver or to stick with the one you have working now. But just because you can update a driver doesn’t mean you should. If the device in question is working just fine, read the manufacturer’s description of what the new driver does and decide for yourself whether you really need the update.


Before you make any changes to your system configuration, use the System Restore feature to create a restore point first (as described in the section “Set Up System Restore Checkpoints,” on page 98). If the new driver doesn’t work properly or causes any problems, you can roll back to your previous configuration by using System Restore to undo the changes.

If you’re lucky, the notice that an updated driver is available shows up when you check Windows Update. In that case, you can download the new driver the same way you would get a patch for Windows, and it installs itself. If the hardware manufacturer chooses not to release the new driver through Windows Update, you might need to install it yourself. To accomplish this task, Windows provides a wizard that is similar to the Found New Hardware Wizard. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Download the new driver files from the manufacturer’s Web site and save them to a convenient place, such as the desktop or the My Documents folder. If necessary, unzip the files into their own folder.

  2. Click Start, right-click the My Computer icon and choose Properties. In the System Properties dialog box, click the Hardware tab and then click Device Manager.

  3. In the Device Manager window, click the plus sign to the left of the category that contains the device whose driver you want to update and then right-click the name of the device and choose Update Driver.

  4. In the Hardware Update Wizard, choose Install From A List Or Specific Location (Advanced), as shown in Figure 4-5. Click Next to continue.

    Figure 4-5. If you’ve downloaded a new driver for your device, choose the Advanced option at the bottom of this dialog box.

  5. Select Don’t Search. I Will Choose The Driver to Install. Click Next to continue.

  6. If the correct driver is not in the list of compatible drivers, as shown in Figure 4-6, click Have Disk and then click Browse to select the location where you saved the downloaded files in step 1. Click OK to close the Install From Disk dialog box and then click Next to continue.

    The list of compatible drivers includes important details about whether the driver you’re about to install is signed. Note the green check mark to the left of the driver name and the wording at the bottom of the dialog box; these highlights let you see at a glance whether the driver is safe to install.

    Figure 4-6. Always look for the green check mark, which indicates that the driver you’re about to install is digitally signed by Microsoft.

    See Also

    For a refresher course on how Windows Update can help you keep your copy of Windows XP safe and up-to-date, see the section “Get the Latest Windows Updates,” on page 18. To learn the ins and outs of working with compressed files, see the section “Zipping and Unzipping Files,” on page 245.

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