How to Update Drivers in Windows

A complete tutorial on updating drivers in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP

What to Know

  • With drivers extracted, open Device Manager and navigate to target device. Right-click and choose Update Drive > Browse my computer.
  • Choose Let me pick from a list > Have Disk > Browse > [INF file] > Open > OK. Select newly added hardware > Next.​ Update will begin.
  • Once the update is complete, restart your computer.

You might need to update drivers in Windows when a new piece of hardware doesn't work or after upgrading to a new version of Windows. Updating drivers may be a troubleshooting step when a device is having a problem or generating an error, like a Device Manager error code. An updated driver may also enable new hardware features, as with popular video cards and sound cards.

How to Update Drivers in Windows

These steps can be used to update drivers in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. It usually takes around 15 minutes to update a driver in Windows. If you'd like to follow the process below, but with more details and screenshots for each step, use our Step by Step Guide to Updating Drivers in Windows instead.

Updating drivers yourself isn't difficult, but there are programs that will more or less do it for you. See our List of Free Driver Updater Tools for reviews of the best ones out there.

  1. Locate, download, and extract the latest drivers for the hardware. You should always check with the hardware manufacturer first when looking for an updated driver. When downloaded direct from the hardware maker, you'll know the driver is both valid and the most recent for the hardware.​ 

    If no drivers are available from the hardware maker, check Windows Update or even the disc that came with the computer or piece of hardware, if you received one. There are also several other driver download options if those ideas don't work.

    Many drivers are integrated with software that automatically installs them, making the below instructions unnecessary. If there's no indication of that on the driver download page, a good bet that you'll need to manually install a driver is if it comes in the ZIP format. Drivers obtained via Windows Update are automatically installed.

  2. Open Device Manager. There are several ways to get to Device Manager in Windows but doing so from the Control Panel (the method outlined in the link) is pretty simple.

    Device Manager menu item in Start Menu's Control Panel menu

    Device Manager is one of the shortcuts on the Power User Menu in Windows 11, 10 and 8. Just press WIN+X to open that handy tool.

  3. With Device Manager open, select the > or [+] icon (depending on your version of Windows) to open the category that you think contains the device you want to update the drivers for.

    Downward arrow button next to driver category list in Windows 10

    If you don't find the device you're after, just open some other categories until you do. Windows doesn't always categorize hardware the way you'd think about a device and what it does.

  4. Once you've found the device you're updating drivers for, the next step depends on your version of Windows:

    • Windows 11, 10 & 8: Right-click or press-and-hold on the hardware's name or icon and choose Update Driver (W11/10) or Update Driver Software (W8).
    • Windows 7 & Vista: Right-click on the hardware's name or icon, choose Properties, then the Driver tab, followed by the Update Drive button.

    The Update Drivers or Update Driver Software wizard will begin, which we'll completely step through to finish the driver update for this piece of hardware.

    See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure which you're running.

    Update driver menu item in Device Manager
    • Windows XP Only: Right-click on the hardware item, choose Properties, the Driver tab, and then the Update Drive button. From the Hardware Update Wizard, choose No, not this time to the Windows Update question, followed by Next >. From the search and installation options screen, choose Don't search I will choose the driver to install option, again followed by Next >. Skip to Step 7 below.
  5. To the How do you want to search for drivers? question, or in some versions of Windows, How do you want to search for driver software?, choose Browse my computer for drivers (Windows 11 & 10) or Browse my computer for driver software.

    'Browse my computer for driver software' button in Device Manager
  6. On the next window, select Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer (Windows 11 & 10) or Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer, located near the bottom of the window.

    'Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer'
  7. Select Have Disk, located on the bottom-right, under the text box.

  8. On the Install From Disk window that appears, choose Browse on the bottom-right corner of the window.

    'Browse' and 'Have Disk' buttons in Device Manager Update Drivers
  9. On the Locate File window you see now, work your way to the folder that you created as part of the driver download and extraction in Step 1.​ 

    There may be several nested folders within the folder you extracted. Ideally, there will be one labeled with your version of Windows (like Windows 11, or Windows 7, etc.) but if not, try to make an educated guess based on what you're updating the drivers for, as to which folder might contain the driver files.

  10. Select any INF file in the file list and then choose Open. INF files are the only files that Device Manager accepts for driver setup information and so are the only types of files you'll be shown.

    • Find several INF files in one folder? Don't worry about this. The driver update wizard loads information from all the INF files in the folder you're in automatically, so it doesn't matter which one you choose.
    • Find many folders with INF files? Try an INF file from each folder until you find the correct one.
    • Didn't find an INF file in the folder you chose? Look through other folders, if there are any, until you find one with an INF file.
    • Didn't find any INF files? If you haven't found an INF file in any folder included in the extracted driver download, it's possible that the download was corrupted. Try downloading and extracting the driver package again.
  11. Choose OK back on the Install From Disk window.

  12. Select the newly added hardware in the text box and then hit Next.​

    If you get a warning after pressing Next, see Step 13 below. If you don't see an error or other message, move on to Step 14.

  13. There are a number of common warnings and other messages that you might get at this point in the driver update process, several of which are paraphrased and listed here along with advice on what to do:

    • Windows cannot verify that the driver is compatible: If you're sure this driver is the right one, select Yes to continue installing it. Choose No if you think you might have the driver for the wrong model or something like that, in which case you should look for other INF files or maybe an entirely different driver download. Checking the Show compatible hardware box, if available, located on the window from Step 12, can help prevent this.
    • Windows can't verify the publisher of this driver software: Choose Yes to continue installing this driver only if you received it directly from the manufacturer or from their installation disc. Choose No if you downloaded the driver elsewhere and didn't exhaust your search for a manufacturer-provided one.
    • This driver hasn't been signed: Similarly to the publisher verification problem above, choose Yes only when you're confident about the driver's source.
    • Windows requires a digitally signed driver: In 64-bit versions of Windows, you won't even see the above two messages because Windows won't let you install a driver that has a digital signature issue. If you see this message, end the driver update process and locate the correct driver from the hardware maker's website.
  14. While on the Installing driver software screen, which should only last a few to several seconds, Windows will use the instructions included in the INF file from Step 10 to install the updated drivers for your hardware.

    Depending on the drivers you happen to be installing, you may be required to enter additional information or make certain choices during this process, but this isn't very common.

  15. Once the driver update process is complete, you should see a Windows has successfully updated your driver software window.

    Select Close. You can now also close Device Manager.

  16. Restart your computer, even if you're not prompted to do so. Windows doesn't always force you to restart after updating a driver but it's a good idea.

    Driver updates involve changes to the Windows Registry and other important parts of Windows, so restarting is a good way to make sure that this update hasn't negatively impacted some other part of Windows.

    If you do find that the driver update caused some kind of problem, just roll back the driver to the previous version and then try updating it again.

  • How do I install Windows updates?

    To check for Windows updates, go to Settings > Update & Security> Windows Update > Check for updates. Install new Windows updates as soon as possible.

  • How do I update my graphics driver in Windows?

    To update a Windows graphics driver, go to the Device Manager and look for Display Adapters. Select the arrow next to it, then right-click the name of your graphics card or display adapter and select Update Driver.

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