A few minutes now will pay off later

It happens to all of us. Our computers start bogging down and we don’t know why. We call tech support, if we have that option, and the first thing they do is check to see if our drivers are current. And voila! It turns out it’s been months or even years since the last system driver refresh.

Drivers are patches of software code that enable your PC to recognize and interact with various pieces of hardware, such as network adapters, graphics cards and hard drives, as well as peripheral devices, such as printers, mice, keyboards and monitors.

Most small and midsized business (SMB) users just need their PCs to work when and how they expect them to. In fact, most workaday types are more focused on important tasks than on trying to figure out why their system is lagging or their documents won’t print, and typically don’t have time to spend thinking about them. This is when you would love to call tech support, but as a small business owner, you may not have that luxury. So what do you do?

The most surefire way to troubleshoot and stay abreast of your system drivers’ status is to employ the utilities built into Windows for this very purpose. Windows 10, for instance, does a very good job of keeping drivers up to date by automatically detecting and installing drivers built into the operating system or via Windows Update and Device Manager. You also can go to device manufacturer sites to download drivers you may need and add them manually.

Drivers stop functioning for all manner of reasons — from things like system upgrades or system failures, or the driver was never installed correctly to begin with. Windows Update is one of the surest ways to keep drivers up to date because the drivers that come through this channel are supplied to Microsoft from system makers and they have been tested and certified by Microsoft.

Windows Update is simple to use. To start, click on Settings, click on Update & Security, click on Windows Update and then click Check for Updates. If new drivers are available, they will download and install automatically (as long as you’ve set your system to update automatically).

To update drivers for peripherals and devices, you can use the Device Manager. To do so: open Start, search for the Device Manager and click on it, double-click on the type of device you’re looking for and then right-click on the device. The driver should download. Depending on what version of Windows you are running, the driver downloads if you opt to download the driver once you right click on the device.

Meanwhile, if you cannot find a driver through Windows Update or the Device Manager, you will need to go to the website of the company that manufactured the device and search for, download, and install it manually on your system.

While these are perhaps the most straightforward approaches to keeping your drivers updated, there are other ways, such as using third-party tools, that help to automate the process of making sure all your drivers are up to date. However, most IT pros will tell you it’s best not to try to “fix” anything if it isn’t broken. They’ll also advise you not to pay any money for these utilities, as there are lots of free tools available.

Among the free tools (or tools that have free versions) are: DriverMax, Snappy Driver Installer, and Driver Booster to name a few. However, if you’re willing to spend a a little, you might consider the TweakBit Driver Updater for $29.95, Avast Driver Updater for $39.99 or even the Pro version of DriverMax for around $20 depending on discounts.

The paid versions offer a bit more functionality and freedom, but they all will help you to ensure your system and device drivers are working properly and up to date. For free, or for less than $50 a year, you can get peace of mind that your systems are running well. That’s tough to beat.

Without an IT department, SMB owners require that peace of mind that all systems will continue running like clockwork. The last thing you need is your network printer to stop working on a day you are hard-pressed to deliver a proposal or your monitor to go on the fritz when you have an important videoconference scheduled. Like oil in your car engine or air in your tires, you’ve got to keep your systems well-maintained and ready to go.

*used with permission from HP Tech Takes