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  Drivers
NOTE: You change graphics card rivers at your own risk, we only provide advice and cannot be held responsible.

What should I do if I think my graphics drivers need updating?
You need to work out who made your PC and if it is standard or not. If it is a standard PC then you must find out who made your graphics card and go visit their website for the latest drivers. If it isn't standard then you need to get the drivers from the PC manufacturer, you can find this information in the manual that came with the machine, asking at the shop you bought it from or visiting the manufacturers website. For example, if someone put your PC together out of off the shelf parts then it should be standard. Or if it doesn't have a trade name printed on it then it is probably completely standard. Some PC's, especially laptops, are not standard and therefore you can't install any old driver on them, you have to go to the website of the company that made it and follow their instructions. For example, dell, compaq, sony and HP machines may not work well if you just download a driver from ATi or nVidia and install it.

Manual approach
step1. what have I got? - check your PC's manual or if you don't have one right click on the desktop, select properties, then settings, then advanced, one of the tabs should contain the name of the card (i.e. GeForce FX 5500) and clicking on here should bring up information on who made it and what it is.
step2. visit the website of the company that made your computer if it isn't generic i.e. compaq, dell, hp, sony are not necessarily standard PC's. Check if they have new drivers for you. If not you can see if it is ok to install standard ones. If you're still unsure then use google and search the net for other with your make of PC and see what they are doing. The best option is probably to ask someone knowledgable who you trust.
step3. if you want to try standard drivers then visit the website of the graphics card manufacturer directly (i.e. intel, nvidia, ati) and follow the instructions to get your driver. They usually have a link on the main page called something like "drivers" or "drivers and software" or "download drivers".

Automatic approach
  • Step1. Open a web browser and go to the Windows Update site , a link is sometimes included on your start menu too.
  • Step2. Follow the instructions and Microsoft will suggest what needs installing and do it for you. NOTE - you must have a legitimate copy of Windows to do this, they will check.
Windows Update http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/
Directx http://www.microsoft.com/windows/directx/
Nvidia http://www.nvidia.com/
Ati http://ati.amd.com/
Intel http://downloadfinder.intel.com/scripts-df-external/Support_Intel.aspx

Can all graphics drivers be updated?
No. Sometimes the graphics card manufacturer will have gone out of business or the card is so old they have stopped supporting it. In this case there is nothing you can do. Sometimes the PC was made by a company who purpose built all the components, this is especially common with laptops, and you have to go to them for drivers. For example, your laptop may use a bog standard GeForce FxGo graphics chip, but Toshiba may have put the whole thing together and then decided only they are allowed to release drivers. In this case, even though nVidia's standard driver would have worked, you wont be able to use it. Normally, with a standard PC using standard components you just need to work out who made your graphics card and what type it is so you can go to their website and download appropriate drivers.

What is a graphics card?
A graphics card controls what appears on your monitor screen. it can be a plug-in card or it may be built directly into your motherboard. Without a graphics card you would see nothing on scree. Some graphics cards are better than others. Some can play the latest 3D games using hardware acceleration to achieve smooth framerates, some cannot.

What are graphics drivers?
These are instructions created by the company who made the graphics card in how to interpret commands from Windows to draw things. The part of Windows that talks to your graphics card is called DirectX. A game talks to DirectX and DirectX talks to your graphics card. New versions of games and DirectX come out all the time so if your graphics card is not kept up to date then it could get confused when asked to draw certain things.

What is DirectX?
DirectX is free software made my Microsoft for the Windows operatin system. It is used to allow a game to draw all kinds of things on many different graphics cards. It is because of DirectX that each game does not have to worry about all the different makes of graphics cards. The game just talks to DirectX and then it sorts out everything else. This is why it is important to get the latest version of DirectX. It helps to ensure DirectX knows all about all the different graphics cards that are coming out all the time. Updating also helps fix any little mistakes that may have slipped into DirectX.

How do I know I have the latest version of DirectX?
You can download DirectX from here. You can also just run Windows update which handles all this automatically.

What is WHQL certification?
To ensure your graphics card driver understands what DirectX is saying Microsoft test them and if they pass they get a WHQL certificate to show how good they are. If your drivers are not certified then Microsoft have never seen them and there is a chance they don't work properly.

Why does it matter if my graphics drivers are old?
As newer games are released and newer versions of DirectX are released everything starts to change. If you don't update your graphics card drivers then they might start to get confused about what to do. This can show up as games crashing or not looking quite right or running slowly. If you aren't experiencing any problems then don't bother updating, if you are then it is worth considering an update. People aren't perfect and graphics drivers usually contain mistakes, these are fixed in updates so if you don't get the update then you don't get the fix.

Why is it a problem with this game if other games are ok?
Each game can ask DirectX to do all sorts of different things. Most of the time your graphics card driver will understand and everything will be fine. As the driver gets older though it is more likely to get something wrong. So it only takes one game asking for something unusual and you could have a problem. You often find games bought at or before the driver release date work fine and those bought later, when things have started to get updated, suddenly start showing up problems in your driver.

What does any of this have to do with Microsoft?
Microsoft make Windows and DirectX, if anyone knows who the driver ought to work it should be them. That is why they run the certification process and that is why a lot of people rely on the automatic Windows Update system.

Why do you say "update at your own risk", is it safe?
Altering something as fundamental as a driver always carries an element of risk so think about it first. If you aren't experiencing a problem then its probably best not to do it. In theory if anything went wrong you could "roll back" the changes and reinstate the old driver. However, there is always the possibility of something going wrong.


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