Finding Device Drivers

Device Driver Installation Guide

Windows in notorious for needing Device drivers for each and every piece of hardware a system has. Sometime it can use generic drivers but to get the most out of your hardware you need the driver that were written by the hardware manufacturer.

If you are lucky you know the model number of the device you need a driver for and you know the manufacturer. If this is the can you can usually go to the manufacturer’s website and find the drivers in the support section. A good example would be an HP Printer. HP printers always have their model number printed on the outside and HP’s website is pretty easy to navigate. Just go to HP.com and click on the “Software and Driver Downloads” link near the bottom left, than enter your model number (let’s say you have a deskjet 932c. A list of search results will come up, click on Deskject 932c, select your operating system and then click the file you want to download. In this case we will probably want the full feature driver. That’s all you have to do, installation should be as simple as running the executable.

Unfortunately, things aren’t always that easy. Sometimes you’re not sure what the model number is, or who the manufacturer is. If this is the case I have some tips that will help you find the right driver.

Finding the manufacturer

In a perfect world this will always be printed clearly on the piece of hardware. But we don’t live in a perfect world, Adam sinned and now manufacturers don’t want to claim their hardware. For addon cards such as a PCI modem or a PCI ethernet card, it is usually possible to look at the main chip on the card to determine the manufacturer. Sometimes the chip doesn’t tell you the manufacturer but it tells you what chipset the card uses. This can actually be more useful. For instance there are many manufacturers of video cards that use the Nvidia chipset but you can download a driver that will work with all those video cards. Let’s look at a few examples. I have a sound card that has one large chip on it. The first line has the line ENSONIQ. It is pretty obvious that this is the manufacture because it has the little tm symbol by the word. In this the model number is directly below it, ES1370. Let’s look at another example, I have a network card that has one main chip on it. The chip has a sticker covering it, fortunately it is pretty easy to peel off. Under the sticker I see a logo that means nothing to me and several lines of what looks like random alphanumeric characters. The first line is RTL8029AS. If you googled this number you would quickly discover that it is the name of a chipset made by Realtek, specifically RTL8029, Finding the drivers would be easy once you know this.

Searching the Internet for your driver

Ok, so hopefully you’ve determined your manufacturer by now, now you need to find the driver on the Internet. The best place to find the driver is your manufacture’s website. Type the manufacture’s name into google and you’ll be able to find them pretty quick. But what if the manufacturer is out of business, or they don’t support the hardware anymore? There is hope. If you go to Driverguide.com you can find almost any driver for every device ever made. Free registration is required but it is well worth the 2 minutes that it takes. I have used driverguide for finding tons of different drivers, it is an invaluable resource. In addition to drivers it has a comprehensive list of manufacturers and their websites!

Installing the driver

Most drivers come in zip format so you will need a program such as Winzip to open them, unless you have windows xp which has built in support for reading zip files. (Although it is really slow.) Once you get the file extracted from the zip file (I usually put them in C:\drivers) look for an exe file like setup.exe or install.exe. If it has one run it. Most newer driver come with an auto installation program like this that installs the driver for. If it doesn’t or if it fails to automatically install we’ll have to do it manually. Go to the control panel and click on the “System” icon. Click on the Hardware tab than click Device Manager. You should see a yellow exclamation mark by the device that needs a driver. Double click the device then click reinstall driver. A wizard will start up. Select specify location then enter C:\driver (or where your driver is located) the wizard should find the driver and install the necessary files. If it doesn’t you’ve probably downloaded the wrong driver.

More help on finding the model number

If the device is integrated in the motherboard it is a bit more challenging. Most motherboard have a model listed on them and you can sometimes go to the motherboard manufacturer’s website to download the driver. Motherboards need many different drivers. Most require a sound card driver, a video card driver, and maybe a VGA driver and IDE driver. You’re computer will work fine with out any of these driver but if you want sound you will need to find the sound card driver. That can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website or Driverguide. If your motherboard does not have it’s manufacturer printed on it, it may be possible to determine the manufacturer by looking at the post screen when your computer boots up.

Still can’t find the model?

You probably should be using Linux anyway, but if you want to find out your model number you can boot off of a Linux boot disk such as Damn Small Linux open a terminal and type “lspci” (or lsusb if you have a usb device). You will receive output like the following:

0000:00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
0000:00:00.1 System peripheral: Intel Corporation 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
0000:00:00.3 System peripheral: Intel Corporation 82852/82855 GM/GME/PM/GMV Processor to I/O Controller (rev 02)
0000:00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 02)
0000:00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation 82852/855GM Integrated Graphics Device (rev 02)
0000:00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 01)
0000:00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-M) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev 81)
0000:00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801DBM (ICH4-M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801DBM (ICH4-M) IDE Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.5 Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 01)
0000:00:1f.6 Modem: Intel Corporation 82801DB/DBL/DBM (ICH4/ICH4-L/ICH4-M) AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 01)
0000:02:01.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4401 100Base-T (rev 01)
0000:02:02.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4309 802.11a/b/g (rev 03)
0000:02:04.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI1510 PC card Cardbus Controller

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know but lets say for example I wanted to know the model of the network card on my motherboard I can look at this list and see that it is a Broadcom BCM4401. I hope you have found this Windows Driver installation Guide helpful. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any positive or negative feedback.

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