What are PCI Device Drivers?
Computers typically consist of the system itself as well as peripheral devices that are added to the system. Peripherals include devices such as printers, scanners, Blu-ray players, DVD burners, network adapters, and so on. While many devices connect to the computer via USB ports or even through wireless connections, others connect directly to the motherboard. For example, an internal CD-ROM drive connects to a PCI slot on the computer's motherboard. PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect. Other types of peripherals that connect into PCI slots include network cards, video cards, and sound cards. While the connection itself is physical, the devices won't necessarily work until device drivers are installed. Device drivers are the software that tells the operating system what the device is and how to use it.
Installing PCI Device Drivers
Normally, when you buy a new piece of hardware, it comes with an installation disc containing the device drivers. Some discs feature an "autorun" program that will immediately prompt you to install the device. Others are less self-explanatory. Some products no longer come with installation discs, requiring that you download the drivers from the Internet instead of using a CD to install them. If your device's installation disk does not automatically install the PCI device drivers or you must download the drivers, you can use the built-in Device Manager to install the drivers.
Go to Control Panel and locate the Device Manager. Depending on your version of Windows and how you have the Control Panel set up, you should find it under System or Hardware and Sound. Double click its icon to launch it. Find the appropriate category for your device (such as network adapters if you're installing an network adapter) and double click it to expand. If your new device does not appear in the list, right-click the category name and choose "Scan for hardware changes." Your device should appear. Right-click the device and choose Update Driver Software. If you have a disc containing the software, choose "Browse my computer for driver software," navigate to the disc, and follow the prompts. If you do not have a disc, use the "Search automatically" option and follow the prompts to install the driver.
Plug and Play PCI Device Drivers
Some devices are called "plug and play" devices. What this means is just as it sounds: the device will work with Windows immediately upon plugging it in. If you have a plug and play PCI device, you will not need to manually install device drivers because the necessary drivers have essentially been preinstalled into the operating system. When you plug in the device, Windows is programmed to immediately recognize the device.
Updating PCI Device Drivers
After installing the drivers, you may need to update them, especially if you are installing the drivers from an older CD that came with the device. If a newer driver is available, it's smart to install it as it could solve known problems with the hardware. Use Device Manager once again. This time, when you right-click the device, choose Properties and click on the Driver tab. Click the Update button and choose the "Search automatically" option. Windows will look for fresh PCI device drivers and install them if they are found.