Identifying Hardware Driver Issues
Nearly everyone who has used a computer in their lives has at one time or another encountered a problem, making it difficult, frustrating, or even impossible for them to complete the task they set out to accomplish. Identifying the symptoms or character of a given problem is the easy part; much more difficult is the process of determining its source. Problems with a computer's performance can be caused by quite a large variety of factors, ranging from improperly configured settings in a program to computer virus infection, and yes, even driver related factors.
There are a number of different ways to determine if the issue being experienced is a result of drivers, whether they be malformed, missing, incomplete, or incompatible with the hardware they have been assigned to. If the user who has encountered the problem is lucky enough, they will be presented with an error message upon its manifestation that will tell them, explicitly or suggestively, that its cause is in fact driver related. It may say something about the drivers no longer being supported, for example, or it may be a more generic message that can be searched for on the internet, leading to an explanation of the cause.
Paying attention to the time at which the error occurs and under what circumstances is very important; when and where it happens can be clues to its source. If it happens after the installation of brand new hardware, the user can be assured that either the hardware is defective or the drivers have been improperly implemented in some way. While rare, upgrading drivers for a piece of hardware can also cause problems if the release has not been properly tested. The user may have had no problems previously but chooses to install revised drivers posted on the manufacturer's website and subsequently experiences problems with the device to which those drivers are applied. It would be extremely coincidental for the related hardware to physically fail at such a time, so it is safe to say that drivers are likely the culprit. Returning to the drivers which previously worked will prove whether or not this is the case definitively.
The most common time that driver related problems present themselves is immediately after the installation of a new or upgraded operating system. Take for example the circumstance of a user upgrading from Windows XP to the newer Windows Vista platform; differences between the two environments may be so substantial that drivers which had worked flawlessly before may cause trouble after the switch due to compatibility issues. If this occurs, check to ensure that there are not different driver releases for the new platform by consulting the product manufacturer's official website. If there are varying builds for the two platforms, they will be clearly labeled. The official website of the operating system in use will have an explicit compatibility list which may also serve as an aid.
Even if there is no clear evidence to suggest that the cause of the computer problem which has presented itself is caused by a driver related issue, exploring that possibility may still be a worthwhile endeavor. Since it takes little time and no money to ensure that your drivers are up to date, it is a wise exercise in computer maintenance to consult the appropriate website and check to make sure that the latest driver revisions have been installed. When a driver is posted, there is usually a release date accompanying its description; this can help you see at a glance if they are new enough to warrant installation. If you have any reason at all to suspect that drivers may be a source of your woes, it couldn't hurt to simply get the latest release of every driver for each component of your system. If they are responsible, after taking this action the problem will almost certainly be solved. However, if the issue persists you can be relatively certain that drivers were not the problem by process of elimination and move on to the next step in troubleshooting.
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