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Drivers can make or break computing experience

So there I was with my brand new laptop. As far as I could tell, everything was working right out of the box. Then I began to transfer some of my older computer's files such as my Web browser's bookmarks, profiles, documents and other similar typ...

So there I was with my brand new laptop. As far as I could tell, everything was working right out of the box. Then I began to transfer some of my older computer's files such as my Web browser's bookmarks, profiles, documents and other similar types of data. I used one of the more popular utilities to help me speed through this rather laborious process. And after I was done, everything seemed to be working just fine, until I rebooted.

Then bad things began to happen. My Wi-Fi connection wouldn't work. I checked every option, tested every connection, nothing. Finally I looked at the Intel driver version and date. It was old. In fact, it was as old as my former laptop's driver because actually it was my former laptop's driver that I had inadvertently copied over to the newer machine. Updating the driver instantly fixed the entire problem.

So what's a driver?

A driver is a small piece of software that controls different kinds of hardware on your computer, usually referred to as a device. Every device, whether it be a printer, disk drive, keyboard or even the Wi-Fi hardware inside your laptop, must have a driver. Many drivers, such as the keyboard driver, come with the operating system. That's a good thing. You'd be hard-pressed if your computer's keyboard didn't function, so you can be fairly confident that the driver for it is already there.

For other devices, however, you may need to load a new driver when you connect the device to your computer. Windows comes with a large database of drivers for a wide variety of devices and peripherals, but even Microsoft can't be expected to have them all preloaded. That's why most any piece of hardware you plan to attach to your computer comes with a CD that contains the driver for it.

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Another good example of how a driver affects hardware is the mouse.

Connecting just about any kind of mouse to your computer will see it operate because most generic drivers will at least recognize any mouse's left and right buttons and even the scroll wheel, as just about every mouse has one. But if your mouse has other buttons that give it additional abilities, you will need the specific mouse driver from the company that made the mouse. Otherwise it will only work as a standard two-button mouse.

Other devices may not be so forgiving. A device with an older driver may work improperly, if at all. So having the proper, updated drivers for all of your devices is extremely important. But how can one keep up with the thousands of drivers and be assured that the ones you have are the latest versions?

Driver Agent is a Web site that can examine all of your computer's device drivers in just a few moments. Just log in and Driver Agent will first locate and then compare the version numbers of all your drivers to its database of well over a hundred thousand device driver updates. After the examination, Driver Agent will display a screen of the drivers it found along with a check list of which ones are current and which ones need updating.

After seeing the results, you can choose to open a Driver Agent subscription. After you're a member, you can instruct Driver Agent to automatically update any driver that needs updating, all from the Driver Agent Web site. The decision to update is based on several factors and not just the version number. Consider the driver date and even reverse compatibility before updating.

Joining Driver Agent requires a one-year subscription of $29.95. This fee entitles you to unlimited use for all of your computers. Windows only. http://www.driveragent.com/

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