Know your hardware!

...and drivers it needs to work properly.

There are many devices inside your computer. Some of them are optional, and some are mandatory. Some can run without drivers at all, some require specific drivers. To help you in this world of hardware machinery, we've assembled this list of most common hardware types and their driver habits.

  • MOTHERBOARD! We typed it in uppercase because it is a very important part of the computer. It's the main part of it, actually. If Windows unites all software programs and makes them running, motherboard does the same for hardware. Motherboard is base of the computer, all other devices are placed on it and/or connected to it. First thing to do after installing Windows, you should install motherboard drivers (they are also often called chipset drivers). Only then you can install drivers for other devices. Be sure to check motherboard maker's site frequently in lookout for newer driver versions – or use some software that will do this for you.
  • Hard drive. Where all information is stored. Windows is usually loaded from hard drive, and here reside your documents and photos. Most hard drives are standardized, so usually Windows finds their drivers automatically. In rare occasions, drivers are needed to access extra functionality like RAID and advanced data encryption.
  • RAM. Perhaps the most 'driverless' part of computer's interior. RAM memory cards are used to store temporary data in-between writes to hard drive. For example, this webpage is stored in RAM, unless you save it to the file. RAM memory is so standardized that there's no need of specific drivers whatsoever.
  • Optical drives. No special drivers are needed to operate most of DVD, HD DVD, and blue ray drives. If you want to use optical drive often and for large amounts of work (making professional photo/video DVD-s, copying disks and burning disk images), you may want to use third-party software like Nero Burning ROM, as Windows functionality is noticeably limited.
  • Sound card. Most modern sound cards can work even without drivers, Windows recognizes them automatically. If you use only two speakers for occasional music listening, you'll be fine without bothering about sound drivers. But you need them for all other purposes: to configure surround speaker system, use karaoke and other advanced features. Sound drivers are essential for voice calls over Skype.
  • Video card. Like sound cards, most of video cards are recognized automatically but you will never get proper picture quality without original drivers. Standard Windows 7 interface is dull and boring, and you need 3D acceleration for Windows Aero to run smoothly. So it is strongly recommended to install video card drivers. If you play games, you'll need to update them frequently for optimum performance.