I have reviewed before how computer repair professionals often find and update drivers automatically using Driver Packs.
Whilst that solution is perfect for busy professionals dealing with drivers on a daily basis, it may be overkill for the average home user and require a lot of unnecessary downloading just to find or update a single driver. A quicker and easier alternative might be Driver Identifier – it doesn’t offer full automation but it is free and does offer direct links to officially named driver updates direct from manufacturers rather than from their own servers.
Driver Identifier – simplifies downloading new drivers from the internet. It scans the hardware in (and connected to) your computer and uses its database from major manufacturers to display an online report.
The report indicates which of your drivers are missing or require updating and provides links to the download locations of newer versions. It supports XP, Vista and Windows 7 – both 64bit and 32bit versions.
Using Driver Identifier – you must have internet access to use the program.
- Download the program from the developer here.
- Install Driver Identifier and run it to open the main window shown below:
- Click the Scan Drivers button to start scanning your computer – can take a minute.
- Once scanned, it opens an online report of all your hardware devices with the following status and links:
Unknown devices – Download link
Known devices out of date – Update link
Known devices up to date – Good, no action required
- An example report is shown below:
- Click on Download or Update next to the one you want – this opens the Download Links online report as shown below:
- The report offers download links to drivers for your devices, often from a variety of manufacturers (because the same hardware often appears in different computers)
- Select Download/Update for the most up to date driver for your manufacturer (or a generic one if you do not know the manufacturer)
- Now click the small Download button at the bottom of the download page to download that driver and install it – you may have to try several to find one that will install correctly
Most downloads are integrated with software that can automatically install the driver for you – once downloaded you just run the installation program and it will install the driver. You may have to unzip (extract) the file first if it is a compressed zip file download.
A Note On Automated Driver Update Programs
I did look for an automated solution but didn’t find one I would be comfortable recommending. There are plenty of ‘free automatic driver update’ programs around but they often suffer from similar issues as the ‘free registry cleaners’ that infest the internet:
- Some are malicious, installing malware or unwanted toolbars and search engines – without offering an option to decline them
- Some are a bait and switch – the free version only tells you which need updating. To update them you need to buy an expensive upgrade…
- Some offer randomly named updates stored on their own servers, so there is no way of telling what you are installing – sure enough, I found viruses in several…
To make sure you have all your existing drivers available e.g. before reinstalling Windows or replacing a hard drive, backup your drivers so you can easily restore them later.
If your drivers are not causing any problems it is debatable whether you even need to update them – see Should I Update Drivers.
However, if you do need to find one for an unknown device, or can’t find an updated version, Driver Identifier is a neat solution which can help. Whilst the scan and identification is automated, the download and installation is not – so some care is needed to choose the right driver. Always create a new system restore point beforehand in case of problems.