You do not have to worry about driver software if you buy laptops or branded desktops.
These devices come equipped with the necessary and additional drivers. However, the second you step into the DIY PC building, you have to start caring about drivers, updates, and compatibility. Even though a computer may have to deal with multiple driver software, the CPU drivers are probably the most important.
For the most part, you can keep your worries aside if you choose a motherboard 100% compatible with the CPU. In this case, the BIOS software will have everything you need to boot up the PC.
Then, your Windows OS would install the necessary pieces of CPU drivers, leaving the rest to you. However, if you want to get the best CPU experience, you may need more than this essential driver software.
We are not trying to scare you here. For one, dealing with CPU drivers is not a Herculean task, either. Even then, you should understand how drivers work and how you can use drivers and driver updates to keep your PC in the best condition possible.
In the following guide, we have explained everything you must know about drivers, especially CPU drivers.
What Are Drivers?
Driver software, commonly known as drivers, is system-level software that allows the Operating System and apps to communicate with hardware components.
In simpler words, driver software makes it possible for PC software to control different parts. You can think of them as translators since they convert an idea or a command from one language to another.
In this case, the OS and apps talk one language, and hardware parts speak another. The driver software will act as the translator between these parties, enabling seamless interaction when a PC is running. If you didn’t know, almost anything connected to your computer needs driver software.
We are talking about keyboards, mice, speakers, headphones, etc. However, because Microsoft Windows or Linux comes equipped with the drivers for these generic devices, you do not have to worry about driver software.
However, some products may require specific driver software. For instance, we can consider GPUs and CPUs. Both types of processors are made for optimal performance.
In addition, they may allow customers to make changes or control the speed. In these cases, the generic driver from the OS or the motherboard does not do the job. Instead, customers will have to install custom CPU drivers and GPU drivers. We will talk about this part in detail later.
What Happens When You Connect a New Device to A Computer?
As we mentioned, a new piece of hardware cannot talk to the system software without a driver. The cases of exception lie with generic components like keyboards and mice.
These are designed to work in the plug-and-play mode, which does not require third-party drivers. For instance, you can connect any professional mouse from Logitech and start using it on your Windows PC.
However, if you want to access the customizable features of the mouse, you will have to install the dedicated driver software from Logitech.
Similarly, a device would not work correctly when you connect it for the first time. What happens next will depend on the preferences set by the manufacturer. As you may know, Microsoft Windows has a feature to find the correct drivers from online sources and install them on your computer.
If this process happens, you will be able to start using the device in a few seconds. For instance, when you connect an external webcam, Windows will find the right piece of driver software and get things ready for use.
In other cases, you will have to download the driver software manually from the developer sources. In some cases, the manufacturer may provide the driver software along with the product.
Anyway, you will have to install the software to leverage the best use of the hardware components. The case of CPU drivers is not on either extreme, though.
We already told you that motherboards are shipped with essential drivers to keep your CPU working. But it is not enough to control the different aspects of the components. For instance, your CPU may have options for integrated graphics.
So, if you want to use these graphics resources, you should have the drivers installed on your PC. Similarly, if you are going to unlock or overclock the performance of the CPU, you need access to the dedicated driver software.
You can download this driver software from the official sources of the developer.
Choosing the Driver
Unfortunately, in most cases, users do not have an option to choose the driver software. Of course, you can select a suitable version of your motherboard, chipset, OS, etc. Apart from these inherent varieties, driver software is available universally.
When it comes to CPU drivers, though, you seem to have a choice. And it is between having the minimum set of driver software and the complete set of drivers. Let us explain:
Suppose you bought a super-powerful AMD Ryzen chip for your DIY PC. Given that you have chosen one of the compatible keyboards, you can set up the PC and install your desired OS.
However, at this point, the CPU will be running at the default speed only. You cannot leverage the additional performance or the integrated graphical options. It is what things look like when you choose to install minimal drivers.
In the second scenario, though, you may want to leverage every possible customization from the Ryzen chip. In this case, you have to install the dedicated CPU drivers from AMD.
This software will create an interface through which you can control different aspects of the CPU. For instance, you can enable overclocking or set up other features.
So, you have these two options in general. Nevertheless, people who spend hundreds of dollars on a super-efficient unlocked CPU will almost always go for the second method.
Can You Install the Wrong Driver?
We do not understand why you want this, but the answer is Yes. You can attempt to install the wrong CPU driver on your computer.
For instance, you can download the driver software for another CPU instead of your model. You can even run the software on your OS. You could even see some installing windows. However, it is where things stop.
In the second stage of the installation, your OS will fail to detect the hardware specified on the driver code. So, you would get an error saying that the driver software cannot be installed. You would keep seeing this error unless and until you try again with the recommended driver software.
Because the CPU contains a lot of information to identify its specifications, the driver-installation process would not go through. In the end, you will have a couple of error dialogs on the screen.
In the case of other components, though, you may be able to finish the installation process. For example, people have ended up installing the wrong driver software for some gaming accessories.
However, they will not be able to use the connected device at a minimal or total capacity. So, again, you will have to download the correct driver from the source and install it on the PC.
In short, you can install the wrong driver, but it will be a waste of time. Also, did we say that even a single line of incorrect code in the driver software can lead to system crashes?
Well, there have been hundreds of cases when the manufacturer had to release a driver software patch to avoid these crashes. In worse cases, many had to redo their system setup from scratch.
So, even if you feel like messing with the wrong drivers, you must not do that.
How to Update Drivers?
Now, suppose that you have successfully installed the correct driver software on your computer. It means you can start using the connected devices with ease.
However, to keep this seamless communication going on, it is necessary to update driver software. In most cases, you do not have to worry about updating the core CPU drivers. However, driver updates are required when it comes to dedicated CPU drivers.
If you are using Windows, you can follow the steps given below to update your CPU drivers. Based on the CPU you are using, these drivers may contain interface updates, adoption of new technologies, etc.
In many cases, though, driver software updates are designed for bug fixes and performance improvements. In either case, the steps are simple.
You have to choose Properties from the right-click menu of Computer
From there, you can lead to the Device Manager section of Settings
On this page, you can find all the devices connected to the computer
You have to find the subcategory named ‘Processors’ from the list of items
Now, you will be able to find the processor in use
Right-click on the entry and select the option to ‘Update Driver Software.’
In this case, we are using the built-in driver update option from Windows. Because the Windows OS has a clear idea of the CPU you are using, it will check whether a driver software update is available.
If a suitable update is available, Windows will download the update files and install everything. You may have to reboot your PC once the driver update is complete.
Please keep in mind that the update would take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Make sure that you do not interrupt the process by any chance.
Despite the failsafe mechanisms with driver updates, an interruption might lead to system reset or data loss. We believe you do not want to take that risk. If you update the dedicated CPU drivers, an interrupted update may cause the software interface not to work.
Does this not sound simple?
Why Is Regular Update Important?
Are you still wondering why you have to update CPU drivers regularly?
Here are some of the many available reasons:
Driver updates contain essential bug fixes and security improvements. As you may know, security issues with CPUs and GPUs may lead to hacking attacks and other security problems. Regular updates from the manufacturer will solve these problems in a jiffy. Therefore, if you want to keep your PC on the edge of security, you should enable regular updates.
These updates also come with significant improvements. Suppose we are talking about powerful CPUs here. In this case, the updated driver software will give you access to features that you never had access to before. If you do not want to miss these features, you should keep the CPU driver up to date, no matter what. For instance, the CPU manufacturer may roll out an update to make your CPU model more power-efficient.
As we mentioned earlier, these seemingly routine CPU driver updates can be beneficial in more than one way. For example, in some cases, you may get more controls for overclocking the processor. In another case, the User Interface for the controls will be improved.
There are many other reasons, but these are enough to convince most people. In the worst case, you have an option to downgrade driver software as simple as you upgraded it in the first place. So, if you ask us, you do not have anything to lose when you update the driver software.
You should also keep in mind that you can enjoy better support from the hardware manufacturers when running the latest version of their driver software. As you can guess, the maker might have released a solution for the problem through an update. So, you can significantly cut down the problem-solving process.
We believe our comprehensive guide provided you an advanced understanding of driver software and CPU drivers. They may seem simple, but they can make a real difference in terms of performance and power
So, it makes sense to keep your CPU driver up to date, while it is entirely up to you to use all the unlocking, overclocking, or customizing options from the manufacturer. In general driver software, you cannot skip them because some devices may stop working.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.