What Is A Device Driver ?
by Karl Davis
A device driver is a program that controls a particular type of device that is attached to your computer.
There are device drivers for printers, displays, CD-ROM readers, diskettedrives, and so on. When you buy an operating system, many device drivers are built into the product.
However, if you later buy a new type of device that the operating system didn't anticipate, you'll have to install the new device driver. A device driver essentially converts the more general input/output instructions of the operating system to messages that the device type can understand.
Some Windows programs are virtual device drivers. These programs interface with the Windows Virtual Machine Manager. There is a virtual device driver for each main hardware device in the system including the hard disk drive controller, keyboard, and serial and parallel ports. They're used to maintain the status of a hardware device that has changeable settings. Virtual device drivers handle software interrupts from the system rather than hardware interrupts.
In Windows operating systems, a device driver file usually has a file name suffix of DLL or EXE. A virtual device driver usually has the suffix of VXD. It is important to have the most up-to-date drivers for your hardware as manufacturers often update them to improve the efficiency of your hardware.
I recently upgraded my graphics card drivers and installed the latest (not beta) version of direct x. Playing games is now smoother and games are less likely to crash. Unfortunately, due to the vast competition amongst manufacturers, companies often cease to exist and it may no longer be possible to obtain new and updated drivers for your hardware.
Using another driver not designed originally for your hardware is sometimes possible through emulation, as in the case of a lot of printers, or with graphic and soundcards, it is sometimes possible to use drivers for other hardware as they often have the same chipset common to other cards.
Most new operating systems like Windows 98 SE have a range of device drivers already supported and they offer a variety of generic drivers that will often allow hardware to work efficiently.
However the manufacturer may have written improved code for them to work better with new and existing operating systems. Tip: Only use *beta* and generic drivers as a last resort as they can cause your system to become unstable.
Manufacturers often produce an updated flash bios for a variety of hardware such as Modems, CDRW and Motherboards. Often this can be very useful and can have a dramatic effect in the way your hardware works. However, if this is not done correctly it can render hardware to the dustbin. You should only undertake this if a feature or upgrade is necessary, and you have the budget to replace the component.
A Positive Flash Story
"I decided to upgrade my motherboard bios because it allowed for a larger cpu and bigger harddrive support. Prior to the flash upgrade my motherboard allowed for a maximum cpu of Pentium 2 550 mhz. After the flash upgrade I can now use a Pentium 3 800 mhz with the same motherboard."
This was a positive experience.
A Negative Flash Story
"I decided to upgrade my motherboard bios because it would allow me to boot my system directly from the cd rom. Unfortunately during the flashing of the motherboard bios, which I believe was the right one, I suffered an electrical surge in the power and when I re-booted my system the motherboard was dead"
This was a negative experience and a costly one.
Another Negative Flash Story
With thanks as this was Posted by Janner in Tiscali vBulletin forums -19th April 2002.
A friend decided to flash upgrade his modem which was working perfectly well, to the V90 standard. It ended up not working!! So he had to send it back to the manufacturer to have a new bios chip fitted. It came back installed with the lastest V90 standard, and of course a bill for the work. And yes, it wasn't any faster than before. So, it ended up a waste of his time, and money.
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