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by Ray DeCosta

Q. What are drivers?

A. Drivers can be most easily described as being small programs which allow your hardware (printer, video card, scanner, etc.) to interact with a computer through your Operating System (OS). For most people, their OS will be either Windows XP or Vista.

In the case of printers, for example, there are probably thousands of different ones available with new models are coming out all the time. Each one of these printers has different features and hardware of its own. It would be unrealistic to expect that your OS could possibly anticipate the different uses to which new programs and printers might be put in the future.

As a result, the printer manufacturer will create a driver which carries the instructions to enable your printer to communicate with the programs installed on your computer. At some point, the driver which originally came with your printer will likely need to be upgraded as new features are added, bugs are fixed and new uses are developed. Typically, to upgrade a driver, you must download the newer version from the manufacturer and then install it on your computer.

But you must first read and follow the accompanying directions closely. For instance, you may be told to leave the printer turned off until the installation program asks you to turn it on. If you fail to follow those directions exactly, the printer may not be recognized and as a result you will fail to properly install the new driver.

Published: Courier 4/19/09 - Page 5C