How to install and update a computer driver

How a driver is saved and packaged determines how it is installed. Below is information about each of the methods developers use to distribute their drivers as well as how to install them in Microsoft Windows. Additionally, there are some general insights to help prevent frustrations during the process.

Drivers from a CD or DVD
Installing drivers from USB drive or floppy
Downloading and installing driver

Installing driver from executable
Using the "have disk" option to install drivers
Install a driver using a .inf

Drivers from a CD or DVD

Dell drivers and utilities CDAlmost all computer and hardware manufacturers include a group of drivers for different hardware devices and often for each of the supported versions of Windows. For example, the driver CD you receive with your printer likely contains the drivers for dozens of different printers and not just the printer you purchased. When installing the drivers, make sure you are installing the drivers for your printer and not another printer model. Also, make sure you are installing it for the version of Windows you are running on your computer.

Below is an example of how a file structure may look on your disc.

CD Example:

-PrinterA100
--Win9x
--Win2k
--WinXP
-PrinterA200
--Win9x
--Win2k
--WinXP
-PrinterB100
--Win9x
--Win2k
--WinXP

For example, if you had a PrinterA200 and were using Windows XP you would find your drivers in the PrinterA200\WinXP folder. Once the location of the drivers is found, you must determine how the drivers are packaged. If the folder contains executable files or a setup file you can install the driver using an executable. If the directory contains .inf files, you can install the driver using an inf or use the "have disk" option during the install.

Tip: If you have a CD with drivers, but the computer has no disc drive, or it is not working you can also download the drivers or copy the drivers from the CD to a USB flash drive from another computer.

Installing drivers from USB drive or floppy

After the drivers are copied to a USB flash drive, floppy or another drive they can also be installed from that drive. Once the drive is connected to the computer, open Windows Explorer and then the drive letter for the computer drive. For example, if you have a USB drive that is assigned the E: drive when connected, you would open the E: drive.

Once the drivers are found on the drive, you must determine how the drivers are packaged. If the directory contains executable files or a setup file you can install the driver using an executable. If the directory contains .inf files, you can install the driver using an inf or use the "have disk" option during the install. If the drivers are compressed into a .zip file, you need to uncompress the file.

Downloading drivers

DownloadTip: If you have not yet downloaded the drivers you can find drivers for your computer through the computer or device manufacturer. Links to all computer companies websites can be found on our computer drivers page.

Tip: If you are downloading drivers to install on another device, you can copy or extract the driver files to a USB flash drive and connect the USB drive to the other computer.

After the drivers have been downloaded, you must determine how the drivers are packaged. If the directory contains executable files or a setup file you can install the driver using an executable. If the directory contains .inf files, you can install the driver using an inf or use the "have disk" option during the install. If the drivers are compressed into a .zip file, you need to uncompress the file.

Tip: When extracting the drivers, make sure to remember where you place the folder containing the drivers since you need to point to this folder as part of the driver installation process. We recommend extracting the driver files to a folder on the Windows Desktop, as it is an easy place to remember and locate and can be easily removed after driver installation is complete.

Executable

Executable fileMany computer and hardware manufacturers today are pre-packaging their drivers into executable files or have the drivers installed through the setup file. Double-clicking the executable or setup file should install the drivers to the computer for you.

Note: The executable may be packaged in a compressed file, which means before looking for the setup file, you need to uncompress the downloaded file. If after uncompressing the file, it still does not contain an executable file, setup file, or does not install your hardware device, continue with the below recommendations.

Finally, if you are successful with installing your drivers and the computer asks to reboot the computer make sure to reboot the computer after the driver has been installed.

Using the "have disk" option

A computer or hardware manufacturer may place the drivers on a CD, diskette, or folder on the hard drive for Windows to find and use during its hardware detection. Below are steps on how to install drivers for a new device and upgrade a device's driver for this setup.

Installing a new device
Upgrading drivers for pre-existing device

Installing a new device

  1. Open Windows Device Manager.
  2. In the Device Manager, make sure the device you are attempting to install is not already listed from past install attempts. If the device is found, highlight and remove it from Device Manager to prevent any conflicts during the install.
  3. Once Device Manager looks okay, reboot the computer.
  4. As the computer is rebooting, an Install new hardware wizard should appear if Windows detects the new hardware. Using this wizard, you should be able to point Windows to the folder containing your drivers located on the CD, diskette, USB Flash drive, or the folder containing the files you downloaded.

If Windows does not detect any new hardware, open the Control Panel and double-click the Add hardware icon to run the hardware detection wizard. During the steps, you have the option to tell Windows you have a disk containing the drivers for your new hardware device. Point Windows to the folder containing the drivers for your device.

Note: The "Add hardware" icon is only available in Windows XP and prior versions of Windows.

Once drivers have been installed, reboot the computer.

Upgrading drivers for pre-existing device

  1. Open Windows Device Manager.
  2. In the Device Manager, locate the device you want to update.
  3. Right-click the device and click Properties.
  4. In the Properties window, click the Driver tab.
  5. Click the Update Driver button.
  6. In the Hardware Update Wizard, point Windows to the location of the updated driver files on your hard drive.

Once drivers have been installed, reboot the computer.

Install through the .inf file

Finally, if the above recommendations do not work, the installation instructions for drivers and hardware devices are always contained in an .inf file that is located in the driver files.

Locate the .inf file for your version of Windows. Right-click that file and choose the option for install. Note Make sure you are installing the correct .inf file and not an .inf file for another device or for a different version of Windows.

Once you have right-clicked and installed the driver, reboot the computer.

One of the above three recommendations should have installed or updated the drivers successfully onto the computer. If you are still having difficulties getting the device to install, it is possible you are not encountering a hardware issue and not an issue with the drivers. Refer to the troubleshooting steps for your hardware device for additional help and information.