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by Ray DeCosta

Q. Should I update my drivers whenever new ones come out?

A. Drivers are small software programs that enable your computer to communicate with your devices.

Some devices such as printers, monitors and scanners are very complicated. When you buy a printer, for instance, it will come with a driver that tells the printer what to do when your computer sends it a document. The letter "A" in your document needs to be translated into something that your printer can understand so that it will fire the right ink jets at just the right times to place that "A" on your paper.

As time goes on, the manufacturer develops corrections which either add more features to your printer or fixes mistakes in the original driver. The driver can then be updated to reflect these changes.

However, not all changes are good or even worthwhile. Occasionally, the installation of a new driver will create more problems than it solves. A good rule of thumb would be to update a driver only if your existing one isn't working properly.

Updating a driver just because a new one is available is not always the best policy. Usually the manufacturer will have sections on its website called "Release Notes" or "Change History." You should review these to see what problems the new driver is supposed to fix. If one of your problems is listed, then updating should be considered.

Otherwise, "If it works, leave it alone!"

Published: Courier 8/2/09 - Page 5C