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Many hardware add-ons come with installation CDs. Some need the additional software, some actually do not. The trick is guessing what's really needed.

I recently purchased a refurbished Samsung monitor. it came without a manual, which I in turn downloaded, but read that I also need a CD to complete installation? I have it up and running on my PC, so do I in fact need the CD?

This is one of those things that, in all honesty, frustrates me from time to time. Many hardware vendors have taken to including CDs with their equipment that is supposedly required prior to attaching the hardware.

The problem is that sometimes it's not.

And sometimes it is.

So how's the average user supposed to know the difference?

Why would they say it's required when it's not really? I can think of a few reasons:

"I'd just plug it in and use it."
  • To install additional utilities and software you don't really need, but that the manufacturer gets paid for. Demo software and toolbars often fall into this category.

  • To offer software that, while not required, takes advantage of your new hardware in ways that you may, or may not, already be able to do with your existing software.

  • To install software that indeed is not actually required, but directly interacts with your new hardware, perhaps making it somewhat easier to configure and use.

  • To install software or drivers that are, in fact, required to operate the device to it's full potential.

Now, in your case, I've never run into a case where a display device, a monitor, required any additional software to be used. I'd just plug it in and use it. When it comes to displays, the devices that often do require additional software and drivers are the video cards that the monitor might be attached to. But rarely does the monitor itself even have software of its own, much less require it.

My particular pet peeve is routers. They'll often come with dire warnings covering the network connections that you must install the software first.

No, you don't. At least not in any case I've ever seen.

Personally, I rip off those warnings, file the CD somewhere and install my router without any additional software. And it just works.

So, again, why the CD? And why the dire warnings?

I obviously can't speak for all router manufacturers, but my hope is simply this: it's a customer service / customer experience thing. Routers are somewhat magical devices to most folks, and including software that can walk you through the setup, and perhaps even diagnose issues, could be a valuable addition. It probably cuts down on customer support calls as it helps more people install the device more successfully.

But required? Not likely.

So how do you know?

Sadly, in many cases you don't, in which case following the manufacturer's instructions remains the best course of action.

But when it comes to monitors: I'd just plug it in and use it.

Article C3700 - April 5, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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11 Comments
Al Simons
April 5, 2009 11:31 AM

The one case I've seen for installing software for a monitor fell into your second case, using it in new ways. This monitor could be rotated from the traditional landscape orientation into portrait orientation. The monitor-supplied software received a signal from the monitor indicating the current orientation, and told Windows about the new geometry/orientation.

Charles
April 6, 2009 10:36 AM

Some monitor installation disks contain only the user manual in either the pdf or html form. Doesn't hurt to peek at the disk to see what's there.

Dave R
April 7, 2009 8:34 AM

I NEVER (almost) install the cd. If I need the device drivers, I'll download them. Invariably, the driver version available on-line is a number of revisions later than the one on CD.

Robert
April 7, 2009 8:42 AM

Another reason to install is sometimes the monitor has its own color tables or other features (which you mentioned). Thus installing will make it somewhat better than the defaul Windows monitor.

Dennis Jackson
April 7, 2009 9:22 AM

Although I generally agree that monitors don't require driver installation from CD's, Samsung (the particular manufacturer mentioned in the article) did send a driver CD with their early flat-screen monitors! While the Samsung would function (and be identified) as a standard plug-and-play monitor by the Windows OS without installing the driver from CD, after CD-based driver installation the monitor would correctly be identified by its model number in Device Manager. I suspect that the CD installation had something to do with resolution modes and color table settings not generally available through Windows. In any case, for the Samsung monitor that I owned, updates to the driver on CD even came through Windows update on occasion!

MmeMoxie Watson
April 7, 2009 9:41 AM

The CDs that came with my LCD monitors were the Vista drivers only. I don't use Vista, so I didn't worry about it. I can see where the older, refurbished LCD monitors may need a CD for the proper drivers. Not much different than using an older graphics card or sound card.

One point to make, in my experience older cards frequently need the 'older' drivers to work properly. The newest and latest drivers do not necessarily work on older components. This can really be a problem when trying to 'repair' an older PC. Many will say, just get a new PC, but, for those who can't afford it and their PC just needs to be tweaked or cleaned out with minor corrections, getting the drivers and everything else, up to snuff, is the best way to go.

Manet
April 7, 2009 3:39 PM

Regardless which computer hardware I buy. I find CDs that come with the package are useless 99% of the times. I just hope on to the vendor's website and get the latest version.

Mark
April 7, 2009 6:32 PM

It's not always necessary, but I usually use the CD anyway for newer drivers than XPs, or features supported by the monitor.

Ravi Agrawal
April 7, 2009 11:17 PM

I have often faced this issue & it turned out that the VGA display drivers used by the Operating System were the default ones which are not good at all. Well that was the time of Windows 98 & Windows XP before SP2 was introduced. Quite often, the VGA port is part of the motherboard, & the motherboard Drivers CD includes Graphics Drivers.

Ravi.

Todd Dichson
October 15, 2010 10:32 AM

I just use the CD's as frisbees, fly pretty far too!

patty
April 12, 2011 11:16 PM

Glad to read these comments; I was worried that after plugging in a new HP monitor, nothing prompted me to install the included CD software. You're right - it worked fine without.

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