This is an older video of mine I first recorded back in 2008 which explains the often-misunderstood computer term “driver” or “device driver” in non-technical language. While I’m at it, I also make sure you understand the related terms “software” and “hardware.”
I recently was sent an email by a new student named Marcos who had seen this video and had a follow-up question I wanted to answer. Marcos wrote:
“Now that you’ve cleared up what drivers are — (thanks!) why do I need to update them?
I received an offer to scan the drivers for free followed by an offer to update them for only $29.99 which sounds somewhat affordable especially if I don’t do it and somehow mess up my computer.
So now that I know what they are (“interpreters”), should I pay for the service or how bad is it if I don’t and can I not update them myself? You probably have a similar question answered somewhere online, but I’m just getting started referencing your great resource.“
Great questions, Marcos. First, why do you need to update them?
This is pretty simple — as I explain in the video, drivers are like interpreters that interpret foreign languages, with the computer and each device like a mouse, or printer, etc. speaking a different language. With language, it changes over time with new words being introduced and old ones fading out of usage.
Since things change very rapidly with computers, the “language” the devices speak also change and this causes you to need to update the drivers periodically.
In real terms, this is usually caused either because of a new version of Windows or OS X (the operating system) comes out that works differently, so you need new drivers to talk to old devices, or other times it may actually be to fix a mistake made with an old driver or to introduce new functions. You can think of this as being like the older “bilingual dictionary” had a mistranslation, or they have to add some new words to the dictionary.
As for should you pay to update your drivers? I’d say no.
There are some legitimate services that provide driver updates, but there are many scams that claim to do this too. Microsoft or Apple never charge money for drivers, neither do Epson or HP or the manufacturer of your printer or other device.
Driver updates provided by Microsoft for Windows, or by Apple for OS X should show up automatically for you, and this is often true for printers and other devices as well. But I usually would suggest you don’t worry about it – like the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Hope that makes sense, and helps.