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Driver Installation
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Display Card Driver Installation

A display driver is software which allows other programs to access and use a display adapter. People often use the term "display adapter" in situations where you are referring either to a separate video card or integrated graphics built into your motherboard. Installing the driver uses the same procedure whether you have a video card or integrated graphics. You must have a display driver installed in order for your display adapter to do anything other than the most basic operations. Most operating systems have a default display driver with limited functionality which will work for most display adapters. In order to use the more advanced features like three dimensional graphics, a full display driver designed for that specific display adapter must be installed. From time to time, the manufacturers come out with new display drivers which fix bugs and improve performance. It's a good idea to get the latest display drivers and install them. In most cases, you do not get your display drivers from the company which manufactured the display adapter. You get your display drivers from the manufacturer of the GPU. Currently that's usually ATI or NVIDIA. The drivers are usually available on the GPU manufacturer's web site. If you just bought a video card and are installing its display drivers, it's usually best not to use the drivers which came on the driver CD. Those drivers are almost always out of date by the time you get the video card. You should download the latest drivers from the GPU manufacturer's web site.

Laptop display drivers are a bit different than those used by desktops. Laptop display drivers are customized by the manufacturer of the laptop for that specific model. You are supposed to get those display drivers only from the manufacturer of the laptop. The problem with those drivers is that they often are out of date. And the truth is that the laptop manufacturers usually don't actually customize the drivers. If you have an ATI or NVIDIA GPU in your laptop, then you can try the Omega drivers. They don't always work but they are usually more recent drivers than the ones available from the laptop makers so they are worth a try.

For older display adapters, the latest display drivers are not always the best. Once the GPU maker moves on to the next generation GPU, they reduce the amount of time they put into the drivers for their previous generation GPU and put most of their effort into the new generation. Generations change usually about once a year. Unfortunately, they sometimes bring out drivers which improve things for their newer GPU models but cause problems for their older ones. If you have an older card and have problems which are not fixed by the latest drivers, you can sometimes fix the problems by rolling back to older drivers. Most of the GPU manufacturers maintain driver archives which allow you to try out older drivers.

Installing display drivers is usually fairly painless, but on occasion things go wrong. Before starting the process of updating a display driver, it's a good idea to create a restore point as described here. That way, if something goes wrong you can undo the changes you just made. You should always have administrator privileges before installing drivers (instructions here).

Identify Your Hardware

If you currently have display drivers installed, then you can determine what kind of display adapter you have by looking in the "Display Properties" window. Open the "Control Panel" and double-click "Display" to bring up the "Display Properties" window, and then select the "Settings" tab.