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Driver Installation
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Motherboard Chipset Driver Installation
Motherboard Chipset Driver Installation

Your motherboard contains a CPU, some RAM, and expansion slots. But it also contains some chips which make all of those parts work together. The most important of these chips are called the motherboard chipset. The chipset has a driver which can affect the speed and stability of many of the devices built into your motherboard. It is fairly common for computers to be running with old chipset drivers or to use the basic default drivers built into Windows. If you're having any kind of stability problems with your motherboard then it's a good idea to install the latest chipset drivers. AGP slots are especially susceptible to flakiness caused by old chipset drivers. Even if you don't have an AGP motherboard, it's a good idea to be sure that your chipset drivers are updated to the latest version.

The chipset is usually made up of two chips: the northbridge, and the southbridge. The northbridge is the main chip and the southbridge is a support chip. Sometimes there's just one chip in which case it's still called a chipset. Most of the time, people just refer to the chipset as a group and don't worry about the individual chips. Most chipset drivers come as a single package which contains the various drivers for each chip. You just install the chipset driver and it takes care of setting up drivers for each of the chips. But sometimes you have to load one driver for the northbridge and a separate one for the southbridge. When people refer to the name of the chipset, it's actually the name of the northbridge (the main chip). Most programs and websites use the term "chipset" but some use northbridge.

To install your chipset drivers, the first thing you have to do is figure out which chipset is used by your motherboard. CPU-Z is a free program which can identify the chipset on almost all PC motherboards. CPU-Z comes in a compressed zip file so you'll need to unzip it. In the rare cases where CPU-Z doesn't work you can try Sandra Lite.

Execute CPU-Z and then select the "Mainboard" tab. CPU-Z uses the term chipset rather than northbridge. In this case the chipset is an Intel i875P. The southbridge is an Intel 82801EB which is also known as the ICH5. Sometimes people shorten the chipset names. For example, the Intel i875P may also be referred to as an Intel 875 or Intel 875P. So when you look for the matching name on a website you may have to be shorten the official name a little. Usually the websites give a list of all chipset names so it's obvious which one you have to pick. Common manufacturers of motherboard chipsets include Intel, VIA, NVIDIA, SiS, and AMD.

Once you have the name of your chipset, you have to find the right driver. The best drivers you can get are the "latest and greatest" drivers which can be downloaded from the website of the manufacturer of your chipset. Those drivers are often more recent than the drivers you can download from the maker of your computer or motherboard. The process of installation is usually quite simple. You just download a file, unzip it if it's a .ZIP file, and then run it. For most chipset drivers, you do not need to uninstall your old chipset drivers before installing the new ones. The cases where you need to uninstall first are noted in the table below. Be sure to read any instructions on the download web page or in a readme file in case its steps are different than the ones listed below.

If you're installing a new operating system from scratch then Windows will use default chipset drivers to get your system running. Those default drivers have limited functionality. Generally, the first thing to do once Windows is up and running is to install the chipset drivers. It's best to install chipset drivers before anything else because some of your motherboard devices won't appear until after the chipset drivers are installed. In most cases things will still work if you install chipset drivers later, but generally speaking, it's best if they go first.

If you're updating an AGP driver then it may be referred to by many different names. It may be called the AGP driver, AGP miniport, or GART driver.

Keep in mind that most driver updates work perfectly but sometimes things can go wrong. You should only be doing this if you currently have problems. If you want to play it safe, then you should make a system restore point (as explained here) before fiddling with your drivers. Then if something goes wrong, you can roll Windows back to the state it was in before you got into trouble. To install most drivers, you must have administrator rights