How to Find a Bad Device Driver

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A device driver is software that Windows uses to communicate with hardware or other devices installed on your computer. The driver acts as a translator between Windows and the device. If the driver becomes corrupt or an update renders it out of date, the driver no longer functions and Windows loses the ability to communicate with that device. This makes Windows cranky and an error message will be displayed. To find the device driver with which Windows has stopped communicating, look in the "Device Manager."

Windows Vista

  • Click "Start" on the taskbar on the bottom of your desktop.

  • Click "Control Panel."

  • Double-click "Device Manager."

  • Locate the hardware heading under which your problem device would fall. For example, if you are having problems with your sounds, locate "Sound, video and game controllers." Click the "+" next to the heading to expand the list of devices.

  • Locate the device in the list with a "!" on the icon in front of its name. Right-click on the device name, then select "Properties" out of the menu. Click the "Driver" tab. Note the driver provider, the driver date and the driver version.

Windows XP

  • Click "Start" on the taskbar on the bottom of your desktop.

  • Click "Control Panel."

  • Double-click "Administrative Tools."

  • Double-click "Computer Management."

  • Click "Device Manager."

  • Locate the hardware heading under which your problem device would fall. For example, if you are having problems with your sounds, locate "Sound, video and game controllers." Click the "+" next to the heading to expand the list of devices.

  • Locate the device in the list with a "!" on the icon in front of its name. Right-click on the device name, then select "Properties" out of the menu. Click the "Driver" tab. Note the driver provider, the driver date and the driver version.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once the bad driver is located and identified, you can go to the manufacturer's website to download a new driver or you can attempt to rollback the driver to a previous version if it was a driver update that caused the problem.
  • Set a Restore Point before updating drivers or installing new hardware which require you to install drivers.

References

  • "Windows Help and Support;" Get Help With Device Manager Errors; Microsoft Corporation; 2009
  • "Windows Help and Support;" Open Device Manager; Microsoft Corporation; 2009
  • "Windows Help and Support;" What is a Driver?;" Microsoft Corporation; 2009
  • Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images
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