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Device driver

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A driver is a program that lets the operating system communicate with the computer hardware.

Computer parts need a driver because they do not use standard commands. (Ex.: ATI and Nvidia graphic cards do the same jobs, but not the same way). Different operating systems also need different drivers, a driver written for Linux can not be used by Microsoft Windows (there are some exceptions to this, for example, Linux can use Windows Wi-Fi (NDIS) drivers using Ndiswrapper).

Many parts of a computer need drivers, but the most popular are:

Some other parts do not need drivers (or the driver is built-in to the operating system) because they use a kind of standard; the operating system recognizes those parts and knows how to use those parts.

(not complete list)

  • Processor
  • RAM
  • CD and DVD drive (including player and burner); however, for SCSI drives the controller card's driver may be needed as well.
  • Mouse and keyboard
  • Non-3D video cards
  • PC speaker (the speaker inside the computer case that beeps)
  • Floppy drive
  • Most hard drives
  • USB flash drives
  • Some USB webcams
  • Most USB sound cards
  • USB hubs (devices that turn one USB port into two or more)
  • and more

Compatibility Issues

Using the wrong device driver can prevent hardware from working correctly. For example, a HP printer will not work with a computer that only has a Canon driver. Keeping drivers up-to-date avoids problems when using new programs (such as Windows Vista) with the piece of hardware.