13 Free Driver Updater Tools for Windows
If you look at old screenshots of Windows NT 3.1, a groundbreaking operating system released by tech giant Microsoft in 1993, you will realize that it looks radically different when compared to Windows 10; however, certain elements have stayed the same. The hide, maximize and minimize commands, for example, can still be found on the upper right corner of each screen, and you can still fire up the calculator accessory by typing “calc” into a command line or search bar.
While technology has made everyday operations smoother, device drivers can make or break it. The dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is one aspect of Windows that can still be found in 2019. It happens when drivers are not updated to the latest stable build, and can bring your operations to a grinding halt.
How Drivers Affect Your Computer
Running into a BSoD is always a frustrating Windows experience. Even though Microsoft engineers have gone to great lengths to minimize BSOD situations as much as possible, hardware conflicts and outdated drivers can still bring them about. When it comes to smooth functionality of any operating system, keeping drivers up-to-date is a must, and this hardly limited to Windows; the same can be said about macOS and Linux.
In essence, drivers are executable pieces of software that interact with hardware devices, although there are also virtual device drivers to consider, and they are not necessarily related to hardware. In other words, drivers are interfaces between devices and the operating system.
When drivers are initially coded, tested and released, they follow certain expectations with regard to the state of hardware devices, operating systems and the apps they may interact with; should there be any change to these components, the drivers may not function as expected, and they may even create conflicts as well as critical errors such as the ones that bring up the Windows BSoD. Let’s say a desktop computer running Windows 10 has not been updated for a while and you want to synchronize audio files on your new Android smartphone with your music library when you connect the device, there is a chance that:
- You may not be able to synchronize.
- Files may become corrupted upon transfer.
- A conflict may freeze your computer.
Updating drivers on a regular basis is one of the best strategies you can implement to keep your Windows-based tech, such as your desktop, laptop or tablet, running smoothly. Many drivers will update whenever Microsoft releases major packages such as the Windows 10 October Update of 2018, which was significantly delayed for various reasons, but these patches may not include all the virtual and hardware devices you use. Musicians, video editors, and PC gaming enthusiasts often complain that Microsoft forgets about them when new updates are rolled out, and they are not the only users affected; you may have a mobile phone or smart home automation device with drivers that are not included on Windows updates.
With all the above in mind, here are 13 free tools you can use to update the drivers in your Windows devices:
#1. Intel Driver and Support Assistant
Since there is a good chance that your computer has “Intel Inside,” it makes sense to download and install this system driver update utility. The simple interface and confirmation dialog before updating select drivers make this app very easy to use. If your system is powered microprocessors other than Intel, this app may not detect all drivers.
#2. AMD Driver Autodetect
As previously explained, the Intel Driver Update Utility may fail to detect drivers utilized by competitors, and this is when AMD Driver Autodetect comes in handy. PC gaming enthusiasts whose rigs are powered by AMD products such as the blazing-fast Radeon line of graphics cards should give this utility a try. Keep in mind that you can have more than one driver update utility installed in your system.
#3. WinZip Driver Updater
This tool is developed by a very respected name among Windows users. WinZip is a brand that users from the Windows 9x era will certainly remember, and the company also makes some pretty nifty tools such as this one, which scans your entire computer looking for installed drivers before updating them. An important feature of this app is the option to create backups before the updating process; this will come in handy for business users who need to protect crucial data in case of accidental data corruption.
#4. Snail Driver
As of 2019, not all business users have updated to Windows 10, and the main reason for not having done so yet is related to compatibility specific enterprise software packages. If this is your case, Snail Driver is a good option for updating drivers in your legacy systems. Although this is a free utility, it will nag you to install other apps as part of a bundle, but you can always opt out.
#5. Driver Talent
The interface of this app follows the Windows Metro visual style, and this makes it very easy on the eyes. The driver update process does not support bulk functionality, which means you will have to confirm each driver. Similar to Driver Booster, this app will try to talk you into installing other apps for evaluation purposes, but it is not mandatory to do so.
No installation is required for this app because it is delivered on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis; all you need is an internet connection and a reasonably modern web browser. Although the driver detection process is automatic, the actual updating is manual and one at a time. Microsoft purists can choose to only search for drivers that have passed Windows Hardware Quality Labs testing, but they can also choose to install beta drivers.
#7. Dell Update Application
If your system is a Dell computer, this utility is highly recommended, and the first stage may already be installed. Search for the Dell Support Center app from within your Windows installation and choose the option to scan and update your machine automatically; otherwise, you can visit Dell.com and click or tap on the Support link to install System Detect followed by the Dell Update Application. Not all drivers may be detected.
#8. Device Doctor
This portable app can be installed on a USB drive and taken on the go; it packs an updated bevy of the most commonly used drivers in case you need to use it without an active internet connection. The user-friendly interface is very easy to understand, and the scan function is pretty fast, but you will have to endure looking at ads during the update process. There is one problem with Device Doctor, and it is related to the number of drivers you can update: just one per day.
#9. DriverPack Solution
This app offers more than just driver updates; it is also a tool that can be used to detect certain issues within your Windows system, which explains why the download and installation process is longer than the rest of the solutions listed herein. The methodical functionality of this app involves a deep scan and preparing the system prior to updating drivers; do not be surprised if you are asked to restart Windows before the actual update process. DriverPack offers its own database, which means that the driver detection process is actually quite fast.
#10. IObit Booster
The impressive driver database maintained by the developers of IObit Booster contains more than 2.5 million files, including old drivers that may work with legacy devices. Let’s say you have an older Canon EOS Rebel digital camera that would be a shame to stop using just because it dates back to the Windows Vista era; with IOBit Booster, you may be able to find a driver workaround to prolong the life of your DSLR device. The modern and attractive interface makes this app very easy to use, and there are plenty of useful informational prompts to follow.
#11. Free Driver Scout
With this driver update solution, you can set up a recurring scan on a daily, weekly or monthly basis with the additional option of performing automatic updates. An advantage of Free Driver Scout is that it will work on Windows versions as early as Vista. It should be noted that this app comes bundled with a browser add-on that may be flagged as spyware by major antivirus software.
No internet connection is necessary for the driver detection process of this app, which can be installed on a USB drive as part of a portable diagnostics tool. When you are ready to update your drivers, you will need to connect to the internet and run a web browser to complete the process. The interface is very simple and user-friendly, but you will have to go to the vendor’s website and register a free user account.
#13. Snappy Driver Installer
This driver update solution is not only portable but also completely free; it may not have too many bells and whistles, but it does not try to sneak advertisements or browser add-ons. Bulk updating is available, but the scan process has be to manually initiated. As its name suggests, this app is very responsive, but the interface looks like it was designed for a Linux distribution and does not offer the option to schedule automatic scans.
Drivers keep your system operating smoothly, so always make sure they are up to date.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about the latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters