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My Computer Needs a Driver?

A TechLore "Ask the Experts" Question...

Question:

Question: I recently got a new web-cam and digital camera from Philips. I need help! It will not let me install them, saying I have no "drives". What does that mean?

-submitted by helpmeplz

Answer:

I can't imagine a computer not allowing you to install your new web-cam or digital camera due to a lack of "drives". Most likely, that was a small typo, and the message you're really getting states that you have no "drivers" for your new hardware. So, what the heck is a driver?

First, a computer driver is not some middle-aged man that totes your computer around town in a limousine, so you don't have to worry about the price of gas to get your computer talking to your web-cam. A driver is a specific kind of software that tells your computer how to communicate and operate the hardware connected to it. Without the proper drivers to help your computer recognize and communicate with your hardware, nothing in a computer would function.

Windows XP and Mac OSX have a mind-staggering number of drivers built in for all kinds of hardware, everything from chipsets and IDE controllers, to mice and keyboards. If Windows or Mac already has a suitable driver, it will load it by default and away you go. This is why you can plug in most kinds of USB keys and mice without having to load any kind of software. Of course, there are a lot of different kinds of hardware in this world, and Windows and Macs won't recognize it all. Older operating systems like Windows 98 have far fewer device drivers built in, and so will often need them installed before anything will work.

In some cases, the generic Windows and Mac drivers will get the basics down, but not all of the features of your device will be recognized. For example, I recently purchased a new keyboard that has tons of shortcut buttons, media playback keys, and a zoom toggle. When I first connected it to the computer, the basic functions like the letter and number keys all worked, but none of the extra buttons would do anything. When I installed the driver for the keyboard, every feature it has sprung to life.

If you purchased your web-cam and digital camera new, there should be a CD that came with each that has the appropriate drivers and software you'll need to connect the device to your PC. If you picked up the device used, you can usually get the necessary software and drivers from the website of the company that makes the device. Also, many manufacturers revise and update drivers for their products on a regular basis to improve performance or add new features. Before you install anything from the CD that came in the box, you may want to check the manufacturer's website for drivers that are newer than what was provided in the box.

It's important to point out that drivers are often product specific. You must make sure that the drivers you install are intended for the device you own. Some companies, like nVIDIA, make unified driver packages that work with almost all of their products. In other cases, there will be a specific driver for a single product. Knowing the exact model number of your device will be crucial when looking to download the appropriate drivers from the manufacturer.

If you're located in the US, you can download the drivers for your Philips products from their products support area.

Matt Whitlock - Editor, TechLore.com

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