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You should update drivers only when you are having a problem with your computer. Driver update utilities, that update regularly, are not necessary.

Hi, Leo. While following some links I found an advertisement for driver updates. Now Microsoft has successfully upgraded my Dell Dimension 2400, running XP Home, for the better part of the decade and I assume this includes drivers but maybe not. I do recall some years ago being advised to upgrade and trying to manually upgrade a screen driver but then being scuppered by the hardware update wizard which insisted that I insert the installation CD, and then coming to the inevitable conclusion that the wizard could not find a better match. So my query is: Is it worth trying to upgrade any drivers on a PC, which is working fine, albeit a tad slow on occasions?

In this excerpt from Answercast #90 I look at driver update utilities and why they aren't such a great idea.

Upgrade drivers regularly?

The short answer is no.

I actually have an article on when and where to get hardware drivers, but the rule of thumb when it comes to drivers is:

  1. Take whatever comes with Windows Update and

  2. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Drivers can get interesting, and there are definitely times when you do want to go out and get the latest drivers, but that's normally when you are fixing a problem. It's when you are having a problem with a specific piece of hardware - or when there's a specific security update that's been diagnosed in that hardware driver - and you need to actually update outside of Microsoft's process.

Those are the times when I, absolutely, tell people to go to the manufacturer's website and get the latest drivers.

Driver update utilities

I do not tell people to go and get driver update utilities.

Most of them aren't worth it. Many of them do more harm than good - and ultimately, it's just not something you need to be doing on a regular basis. It's certainly not worth paying money for.

The drivers you need for things that are on your system will either come from Microsoft for free; they'll come from your computer manufacturer for free; or they'll come from the hardware vendor that provided the specific piece of hardware that you're looking at, again, for free.

It requires a little bit of legwork, but you're only doing it when you're actually trying to solve a problem. Since you don't have a problem, I don't think you should do anything.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Next from Answercast 90- Will deleting history free up space?

Article C6273 - January 23, 2013 « »

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.

Not what you needed?

January 25, 2013 10:26 AM

I tried a driver update utility - once - and it took me over a day to get my stuff working properly again. I updated all the drivers it said I needed to and I messed up just about everything. Then again, I has issues with a new scanner. I contacted the manufacturer and got it working within 15 minutes.

Robert A.
January 25, 2013 1:14 PM

Go to Dell at the address below. I have 3 Dell Machines and go here for any Dell updates annually. I have never had a problem downloading or installing them. You will need your "code Number" stuck near or on a Bar Code on the back of your machine.

Good Luck.

January 25, 2013 8:26 PM

I have a simple rule. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. In other words - as long as your drivers do the job, leave them alone.

January 27, 2013 3:39 PM

Robert A's link prompted me to go check my driver status.

Results show 56 driver updates available. 54 are marked "Recommended" or "Optional" but 2 are marked "Urgent." The "Urgent" ones (somewhat) concern me.

One is for my hard drive ("Serial ATA"). The other is "Video" (graphics card) and the download/update is titled "Dell-BIOS." (I have never had either a HD or video/monitor issue.)

These "urgent" updates are 2 and 3 years old respectively.

I'm guessing that since my current PC has been virtually error/problem free since new I shouldn't try to "fix" that which ain't broken. Correct assumption?

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