Why Use Driver Update Software?
The top performers in our review are Smart Driver Updater, the Gold Award winner; Driver Reviver, the Silver Award winner; and Driver Easy, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
If you like watching videos on your laptop, being able to print off important documents from your desktop or doing virtually anything on a computer, then you should know that it’s important to keep your computer’s drivers up to date. Luckily, driver update software makes scanning and installing the latest drivers an easy, stress-free task. Additionally, the best driver finders can also backup and restore your drivers, and they can even automatically scan your system’s drivers to keep your computer running optimally.
What Is a Driver?
Drivers are pieces of software that control the different devices in your Windows computer. They help the computer talk to everything, including your video card, printer and the intricate components of the motherboard. Manufacturers routinely release new versions of their drivers, which fix bugs or are more compatible with newer versions of Windows. Pretty much every piece of your computer hardware has accompanying drivers that lets it work on your computer. Most people don’t know what drivers are, let alone how critical most of them are to their computers’ overall health and why it’s a must to keep them up to date.
The Importance of Keeping Drivers Updated
Without those updates, you risk suffering slowdowns, crashes and boot problems that can potentially keep you from turning your PC on. There are a few drivers that come built in on your Windows computer, but many can only be accessed or updated directly from a hardware manufacturer’s site. Often times, drivers downloaded directly from the manufacturer give you more power or features, anyway. In most cases, your computer keeps your drivers up to date automatically, but if an update does need to be performed, make sure you are careful about it.
Driver Update Software: How It Works
Despite the off-putting complexity its name implies, most driver update software is not difficult to use. All of the software in our review can be simply downloaded and set up in a matter of minutes. Once opened, some automatically start scanning your system to find drivers, specifically the ones that are out of date; other programs have large buttons on their main pages that let you manually start scans. For most computers, the scan doesn’t take long, and any program then shows you your out-of-date drivers and gives you a course of action to take. Most options in this software review can automatically download and install drivers for you, making it a relatively painless process overall. Drivers typically don’t need to be updated too often, so you can set your software to automatically scan your computer as frequently or infrequently as you want. To learn more, please read our one of the articles on driver update software.
Potential Risks with Driver Update Software
Though most driver update software is safe to download and use, doing only what it promises to do, not all of them are. Software from less-than-reputable sources may include bloatware or malware that can slow down your computer or damage it. Some may simply have pop-up ads that appear when you first turn on your computer or when you exit the software, nagging you to upgrade your product or buy others from the manufacturer. While these aren’t malevolent, they are certainly annoying. The best options simply do what they advertise they can do and don’t install extra anything.
Driver Update Software: What We Tested, What We Found
As we tested the driver update software products on our lineup, we looked mainly at how easy they were to use and how many drivers they could detect on our test computer. The majority of this kind of software is only available for Windows computers, so we tested the programs on a computer that runs Windows 7. We also looked at the resolution options each program provided for updating out-of-date drivers, especially if they showed each driver’s version information and the source of anything new it would download. The best driver updaters are also easy to use and backed with multiple support options.
Driver Diagnosis: Know the Issues
Some drivers aren’t as important as others. If you have an old printer or camera you no longer use, you probably don’t care whether its software gets updated. Other drivers, however, are vital to the smooth operation of your computer. Old graphics card drivers can cause boot issues or keep your monitor from working; old Ethernet drivers can malfunction if Windows downloads an incompatible update. Having an awareness of what kinds of drivers your computer has, as well as keeping them up-to-date, benefits you and your computer.
The best software options can identify a large number of your computer’s drivers – whether they’re up-to-date, unplugged or in need of an update – though none of the ones we tested found all of the drivers on our test computer. A program should also provide you with a list of drivers in all of those categories where applicable, as well as show you the driver provider source and all relevant details about the driver.
Resolve & Optimize: Repairs Should Be Easy and Give You Choices
The software should be easy for anyone to use and have plenty of customization options. All of the programs we tested have a more-or-less modern interfaces, with large, clearly labeled buttons. Most of the updaters can also backup and restore your existing drivers, which is handy if one of the new installs fails and you need to get rid of it. Sometimes you may not want to update all of your drivers. If this is the case, consider a program that has an exclusion option that lets you pick and choose what to update.
When you’re dealing with software that manages your computer at a system level, it’s critical that the updater be completely secure, retrieving drivers only from reputable sources. The best software sources its drivers from original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs – the very companies that made the hardware in the first place. It should also complement this feature by offering one-click updating and even scan scheduling, if needed.
Some updaters supply drivers from illegitimate sources, which poses a high risk for malware. Others bundle malware right into their installers. This malware isn’t devastating – it will never cripple your computer – but it can be extraordinarily annoying. Bundled programs can install browser toolbars, software that changes your homepage or even pop-up ads that appear any time you navigate the internet.
Help & Support: Get Answers Fast
No matter how great an updater is or how easy it might be to use, drivers are still complex and can be confusing. Eventually, you may have a question or issue that you can’t figure out by yourself. Most of the companies that offer driver update software are quite small, but they all have some form of customer support available, typically by email. Many also offer FAQs or even user forums where you can share your experiences with other users and ask questions of experts.
Unfortunately, this kind of software is scarcely available for Mac OS X and Linux users. However, most are available for and compatible with most versions of Windows. The best options are compatible on Windows 10, the latest version, whereas some are only available on Windows 7 or XP. Consider your computer’s version as you shop.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Driver Update Software: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Three driver update software programs – Smart Driver Updater, Driver Reviver and Driver Easy – stood out above the rest because of their diagnosis, resolution and optimization capacities, as well as the security and customer support they’re backed by. Smart Driver Updater rose above the pack. It found the most drivers of any software we tested, provided the most detail about each and is easy to use. Its automatic update function and modern, intuitive interface put it above the rest.
We liked Driver Reviver’s colorful, pleasant interface, as it is easy to navigate. It also found one of the highest quantities of drivers. Driver Easy rounds out our top choices because it gives lots of information about driver versions and link dates, and it even lets you uninstall old drivers.
This kind of software generally maintains a consistent price range of about $25 to $40. However, any software option on the lower end of that scale that doesn’t automatically enroll you in a recurring yearly subscription, such as Driver Magician, is a good, budget-friendly choices. To further save costs, ensure that the software you choose also includes free updates and upgrades for life.
Driver update software comes in a variety of flavors, but when it comes to picking the best, nothing beats real-world testing. While your mileage may vary – after all, every computer is different, and every set of drivers is unique – one of our top picks is sure to suit your needs. Be sure to take advantage of the free scan that every updater offers, and you’ll have your computer patched up in no time.