What is a Device Driver and Why is it Essential?

by Carson
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If you’re reading this article right now, we can tell that there are drivers in your device. You heard it right. It’s undoubtedly one of the most crucial parts of an operating system even though some of them might come from outside the OS manufacturer, but what does it do to enable your device to work? Let’s find out about that in this article.

What Do Device Drivers Do?

An operating system is a seamless interface between apps and hardware. But have you considered the wide range of peripherals that every operating system needs to support? Each one of them receives and sends out different signals, and if the operating system doesn’t understand it, it might do nothing at best, pass the wrong thing to the operating system, like thinking that the user wants to continue even if the user has rejected the request, or even cause a complete system crash at worst, rendering the computer unusable.

That’s where device drivers come in. They are interfaces between the operating system and the hardware. They convert something that can be understood and sent by the operating system to something that the hardware can use. They also forward the signals sent by the hardware to be parsed by software running on top of the OS. This might sound simple, but drivers can be challenging to write due to the wide range of signals that both the OS and the hardware can interpret.

Drivers are crucial for any peripheral hardware. That’s why you can press a key on any keyboard, and the system will do something you’d like to do. That’s why you can see the desired content on any screen, and that’s why you can print any document on any working printer.

Where Are Drivers Located?

The operating system can handle the most common sets of hardware by including drivers by default. This benefits the users as there is no need for users to install numerous drivers before being able to use their computers conveniently. They might just lose some optional features when they have no extra drivers.

Moreover, drivers are usually supplied by hardware developers instead of OS developers because it’s the hardware that does things. Remember that software cannot execute without hardware to provide the computing power, storage space, and input sources. Hardware manufacturers know well about how their products make computers work, so they design drivers for a certain amount of operating systems instead of letting OS manufacturers write drivers for the enormous amount of different types of hardware that require distinczt drivers.

Components that Don’t Need Drivers

If we have to use drivers to communicate with the hard drive, RAM, or CPU, it will not make any sense as it will be slow, but it’s also self-contradictory since drivers must use these resources as well. There are only a handful of instruction sets for these types of necessary hardware, so it should not be too costly for developers to provide software that can materialize these commands. One such example is the compiler, an independent piece of software that can turn source code, readable by humans, into machine code, executable by computers directly.

On the other hand, as mentioned above, less critical components, such as printers, sound cards, and video cards, often require external drivers if they are not common enough to achieve inherent support by the operating system.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve mentioned what device drivers are, why they’re important and when they’re necessary. If you want more information on this crucial type of software, please visit the webpages in the references below.

References and Credits

  1. (2021, November 10). What is a Device Driver? Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/d/driver.htm
  2. (2021, December 14). What is a driver? Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/drivers/gettingstarted/what-is-a-driver-
  3. Tim Fisher. (2022, February 14). What Is a Device Driver? Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-a-device-driver-2625796

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