Device Drivers (Continued)
- Microsoft DirectX
DirectX is a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) - such as Direct3D - built into Windows which allows software developers to access complex multimedia functions with greater ease. What that means is that most games require DirectX to run in Windows as they were designed around it, and most recent games require DirectX version 8.1 or higher. Windows XP has Version 8.1 of DirectX built into it, but older versions of Windows will definitely require an update to the latest DirectX version. You can download the latest version, which is DirectX 9.0b from the Microsoft DirectX Home Page, and I highly recommend you update any version of Windows to DirectX 9.0b, if for no other reason than 9.0b fixes a security flaw in earlier versions of DirectX. If for any reason you want to uninstall DX9.0b, you can try to use this DirectX Uninstaller but note that generally speaking once you've installed a version of DirectX it is very difficult, if not impossible to "uninstall" it properly. If you're worred, make a System Restore point first before updating your DirectX version.
Often there are "beta" versions of DirectX which can be found on sites like Betas.Intercom.Net, but my recommendation is to stay away from non-official versions of DirectX, as it is such a crucial part of Windows (and extremely difficult to uninstall properly) that if anything goes wrong you may have to completely reinstall your Windows. Better safe than sorry in this case.
If you want to know which version of DirectX is currently running on your system - and in fact a whole lot more information about your system components - go to Start>Run and type "DXDiag" (without the quotes). The DirectX Diagnostic utility will open up (if it asks about checking and updating WHQL drivers, say no - see WHQL section above), and you'll see your DirectX version near the bottom of the first screen. You can use DXDiag to change some of your hardware settings and test and troubleshoot your multimedia components. Even more handy for advanced users is this small DirectX Control Panel application which allows you to change even more settings for troubleshooting purposes. Make sure that the debug level is at its lowest (slider to far left) for each device for fastest performance, and don't change anything without first noting down the original settings.
- Sound Card Drivers
Just like your video card, your sound card needs the latest drivers to ensure peak operating efficiency. The following is a list of driver download links for the major sound card manufacturers:
If your manufacturer is not above, try one of these general sound card driver sites:
There are often additional utilities and demos which you can download for your sound card which may help increase the usefulness of the card. These should also be available on your manufacturer's site, or on the installation CD provided with your sound card, so hunt around.
- Motherboard Drivers
Your motherboard is just like any other piece of hardware - it requires drivers to operate correctly. While your OS will contain drivers which support most motherboards without a problem, it's strongly advised that you update your motherboard drivers to get the best performance and to fix any known bugs and compatibility issues. Motherboard driver updates go hand-in-hand with BIOS updates.
Just like graphic cards, motherboards are based on a reference chipset which may then be altered by the final manufacturer - and often is. However it is recommended that unless you have a very unique chipset (such as so-called "hybrid" chipsets) that you use the reference drivers from the chipset designer, with links to the download sites for these drivers provided below:
General sites for downloading motherboard drivers include:
For manufacturer-specific drivers, check the links provided for motherboard manufacturers in the BIOS section above.
- Hard Drive, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM and CD-RW Drivers
For most purposes your Hard Drive, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM and CD-RW will not require a driver update as such, because the motherboard drivers (see above) for the controllers connected to these drives are sufficient. However, you can download Firmware updates which act as both a driver and a BIOS update. Just like your motherboard and graphics card, your drive has a chip onboard which contains information on how to communicate with your system and also contains information on the best way to manage the drive itself, such as controlling drive speeds during read/write, and management of error checking and protection checking procedures.
Firmware updates are typically available from your drive manufacturer's site and require a similar procedure (and caution) as flashing the BIOS on a motherboard or graphics card. The following are a list of common hard drive manufacturers:
For CD/DVD/CDRW drives try the manufacturer's website (there are too many to list), or the following excellent general site to obtain new firmware for your drive:
It is not essential that you update your drive's firmware, except in circumstances such as the IBM 60GXP and 75GXP drives which are prone to crash without a firmware update, or if you have an older CD/DVD/CDRW drive and you want to make sure it remains compatible with newer software/hardware.
Other peripherals such as digital cameras, optical mice or printers may well have driver updates which you can download and install, but usually the drivers which accompany such devices on their installation CDs are sufficient, and if you run a newer OS like WinXP, most current peripherals or devices are supported straight out of the box without even needing to install additional drivers.