Windows 8.1 is something between a major service pack for Windows 8 and an entirely new edition of the operating system altogether. For this reason, it is generally best to start from scratch when installing the update, although most users should not have any problem simply downloading it from Windows Update and installing it on top of their existing original edition of Windows 8. Though this is what Microsoft intended, there may still be problems with some of your drivers, in which case they will likely need to be reinstalled.
Windows 8.1 provides wider hardware support than its predecessor, so fewer hardware components will even need to have additional drivers installed for them to work correctly. However, in order to get the most out of certain hardware components, you may still want to install drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website, even if Windows installs some generic drivers for you. If you have updated Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, you should not normally need to reinstall any drivers unless you are encountering problems with your hardware. Hardware components which are rarely fully natively supported by Windows include graphics cards and sound cards.
Installing drivers in Windows 8.1 is identical to installing them in Windows 8. However, a few hardware manufacturers do provide updated drivers specifically with Windows 8.1 in mind.
Be sure to download the latest drivers for your hardware from the manufacturer’s website rather than the website of the assembler of your computer (assuming you did not build or upgrade your computer yourself). This will ensure that you get the latest and most suitable drivers for your system. For example, if you have an NVidia graphics card installed, you’ll want to download the latest drivers from nvidia.com, or if you have an AMD Radeon graphics card, from amd.com. In most situations, you can save yourself time simply by using Windows Update. You may access this feature by typing “Check for updates” in the Windows 8.1 Start screen and clicking the result which appears to the right. Alternatively, if you downloaded drivers directly from the hardware manufacturer’s website, you may simply run the setup file.
Using the Device Manager to Install Drivers
It’s always a good idea to check your computer’s Device Manager after physically installing any new hardware, installing Windows or updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. The Device Manager is a complete inventory of all of the hardware components installed in your computer, and it is an invaluable resource for hardware troubleshooting and driver installation.
In Windows 8 or 8.1, one the quickest ways to access the “Device Manager” is simply to start typing “Device Manager” while on the Start screen. Click “Device Manager” when it appears in the results. If there are any driver- or hardware-related problems with your computer, either due to updating to Windows 8.1 or any other reason, they will normally appear here. If there is a problem with your hardware, a warning or error icon will appear beside the device name.
If there is a problem with a particular device, and the name of the device is displayed in the Device Manager, then you can usually solve the issue by searching for the device on Google and downloading the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website. If the download is a setup file, you can install the driver by running it. However, if the download is a self-extracting archive, you will need to manually install it.
To manually install a driver, right-click on the downloaded file and click “Extract here.” Back in the Device Manager, right-click on the hardware component causing the problem, click “Properties” and open the “Driver” tab. Click “Update driver” followed by “Browse my computer for driver software.” Click “Browse” to locate the directory where you just extracted the download files and click “Next.” Provided that you downloaded compatible drivers, Windows should now be able to install your hardware for you. Don’t forget that you need 32-bit drivers for 32-bit editions of Windows and 64-bit drivers for 64-bit editions. The vast majority of modern desktop and laptop computers run Windows 8 64-bit.
Identifying Unknown Devices and Installing Drivers for Them
Sometimes, when using the Device Manager, you will see an Unknown Device or something with a generic name which gives no indication as to the model number or manufacturer. In most cases, you can track down the necessary information by right-clicking on the unknown device, clicking “Properties” and opening the “Details” tab. Under “Property,” choose “Hardware IDs.”
There may be more than one hardware ID. These may refer to the manufacturer, vendor or product ID. Device Manager uses the following format to present ID values (where * denotes the ID number – this is always four digits long):
– &VEN_**** for vendor ID
– &DEV_**** for device ID
– &PID_**** for product ID
By entering these values (particularly the product or device ID) into your favourite search engine, you should be able to find out more about the unknown device and then download suitable drivers for it.