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Drivers are dramatic!
Be sure yours are working FOR you.

Always use the latest device drivers for best speed. Updated drivers are usually:

More functional
More compatible
less buggy


Basic Concepts

So you have good hardware? Great. And you also have a working version of Windows plus all its appropriate updates and fixes? Great again. So everything is working fine?

Untrue! You also need software that allows communication between the hardware and Windows. This is where drivers play their part.

Drivers are essential for the operation of hardware. Make sure you have the correct drivers, the latest versions, and they are setup optimally.

A dramatic speed improvement can often result from the installation of a new updated driver. Updating the CPU, Video card or RAM can be expensive. These drivers are free so we have no excuse for not using them. They are almost always faster.

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What are Drivers?

A driver is software that lets your PC talk to peripherals and other hardware. It interprets operating commands to the specific, and very individualistic, needs of each item of hardware.

Driver software is quite highly specific for each piece of hardware, knows the capabilities of the hardware, and lets Windows 95 know just what that item can actually do.

There are also drivers built into the operating system to control memory, cache, and other basics of your PC - just one good reason to get the Windows updates.

The system BIOS chip holds drivers for essential components like the keyboard and floppy drive.

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Types of Drivers

General purpose drivers
These can be expected to work with almost any component type requiring that type of driver. They are often referred to as generic drivers. Windows 95/98 has many of these e.g. the VGA driver for the video card. However these are extremely basic in nature and, while they will get that component working, they will function only at a very low level - forget about 3D rendering for example.

Device specific drivers
These have been developed by the device manufacturer to enable all the special functions of that particular component. Every one is highly specific to each device model. Windows 95/98 will have many of these, but those can never be up to date.

Newer & 32-bit drivers
If you are using drivers that came with Windows 95/98 then they are out of date and should be updated immediately. Never use a generic driver, always NAME the driver for Windows 95/98.

Always look for 32-bit drivers - they are designed for use with Windows 95/98 and can make a huge difference. There may be more than one driver for each device.

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Beware of 16-bit drivers

Windows 95/98 is designed to work best with 32-bit drivers. The speed at which information travels between your PC and its various peripherals greatly affects overall system performance. If a device has an out-of-date driver, it may be running in real mode (another name for 16-bit or Windows 3.x mode). This will result in a sluggish system.
Select Control Panel • System • Properties • Performance, and look for the words Your System Is Configured for Optimal Performance. That's OK.

However . . .
1. If you see a different message such as Some Drives Are Using MS-DOS . . . , then you have a serious problem; your PC's performance is slower than necessary because it sometimes uses 16-bit code. Look for 32-bit replacement drivers immediately. You will be delighted with the improved performance.
2. Now switch over to Device Manager • Hard Disk Controllers. If you see yellow exclamation marks, you may have a quite common Windows 9x problem. To fix this, run Regedit; use Find to locate the Key called NoIDE; use Export to save that Registry part, and now right-click on NoIDE key and Delete it. Reboot. You should see an immediate, dramatic improvement in disk performance.

All vendors regularly release new, and free, versions of their drivers. These are more efficient, improve performance, improve compatibility, offer greater options and correct bug-fixes. It is important to check for new versions on a regular basis, and install them correctly.

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To view your drivers

Select Start • Settings • Control Panel • System • Device Manager
Select the device and click Properties
A list of drivers is shown for many devices. Highlight a driver to see its version number. Printer Drivers are different

Right-click the printer icon, and click Properties. They rarely cause confliction problems with other devices.

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98+ VMM32.VxD may be a problem

Sluggishness, hang-ups, freezing, unexpected crashes, erratic mouse, shupdown problems. Windows 98, 98SE, and ME may not use all the device-specific drivers, or not use them correctly or, at least, have a problem in this area. Windows may, incorrectly, rely on some non-specific drivers to manage some devices, or may simply mismanage them.

This area is somewhat controversial and likely to get more so in the near future. A problem undoubtedly does exist in this area.

A specific VxD driver knows 'exactly' how to operate with the device it was designed for. Installing such a driver often cures many unwelcome problems.

Advanced / Intermediate users can go to the VMM32.VxD page in this Updates section to see a possible fix.

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Driver Properties are shown in Device Manager

If troubleshooting a device always look at its Properties in System Properties and check the settings. Also have a look at the device manual, the supplied Help or .txt file, and the Web site (usually Tech Support).

If you're not sure what's been updated, check for details in the Web site of every vendor you've bought software from.

New drivers for the Video card are the most essential for best performance; they are also the most often updated.

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Driver Update Sites

First check at your own device manufacturer web site.
You can also use a useful Utility such as Driver Detective to view the driver versions in your system, and you can visit for a list of updates. Driver Detective (1.3MB) utility to view your current drivers
and visit:

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Driver Installation

Sometimes you can install over an existing version. However it is often advisable to uninstall the older version first. If in any doubt, always uninstall first. It may also be advisable to backup the current drivers first - just in case of problems with the update or its installation.

Hopefully the manufacturer will have supplied a self-installation package. Typically you will find installation instructions in a Readme/Help file. You may have to copy, the files to a particular folder, and run a Install/Setup.
At worst you will have to copy files to a hard disk folder and then:
1. Return to the device's Properties in System Properties
2. Click the Drivers tab
3. Click the Change Driver button
4. Click Have Disk and Browse buttons
5. Point the installation program to the files you stored on the hard drive
6. Reboot

Note: Read Driver trouble (next) if you encounter a problem installing, or changing, a driver.

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Need help ?

If it is all too much for you then you can always use a free updating utility such as Catch-Up or Oil Change. Both are said to make finding and downloading software upgrades and patches painless. These programs first take an inventory of your installed software, then search the Net for more recent versions and start the download process. Having no personal experience with them, no recommendation is made on their usage.
Catch-Up        Oil Change Drivers to look for include:

• Video • Modem • Multimedia
• Printer • Storage • CD-ROM
• Input • Scanner • BIOS & System
• others

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Nail biting times for all!

DLL files and Drivers can become non-functional or corrupted and lost, and reported by Windows as 'missing'. This leads to anything from a minor (and ocassionally transient!) glitch, throu the loss of a particular function, to a total system collapse.

Locating / replacing the missing or 'bad' file can be a headache even for the most experienced of users. Try entering *.dll in Find and search the entire hard disk(s). You will discover you have many hundreds, probably thousands, of different DLLs.

There is no quick fix for this problem. However prior to the drastic step of re-installing that entire software (or the entire OS) you could keep in mind:
1. The fault may not be with the named DLL but with an associated file.
2. Visit Microsoft's DLL Help Database to discover the function(s) of the DLL and its associated files.
3. Download / Run DLLShow to view your DLLs or use Driver Decective (1.2MB) to view your Drviers.
4. Download Driver-Lynx - it will locate the hardware vendors for you.
5. If you have Windows 98, you can run FILEINFO.EXE from \TOOLS\RESKIT\DIAGNOSE folder on the Win98 installation CD.
6. You can find many DLLs at 'The DLL Archive'
7. You can locate newer Drivers (see next)

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Useful Driver Sites

HelpDrivers NEW large data base, updated daily
DriverGuide Large database of device driver resources. Membership (free)
• WWinfo
Windows Device Drivers Large database of hardware drivers, and links
ZDWinodws: DriverFinder Search, or ask them
The Driver Zone Alphabetical list | search by company | older equipment drvs
Drivers Headquarters

• Drivers Guide (subscription - free)

3D Drivers:
• 3D drivers

Bus Mastering
• Bus Master drivers Bus Master Intel Windows 9x BM DMA Driver INF Updates for ALL Pentium & Pentium II chipsets Bus Master Intel Win95 (retail) + Win95 OSR1 (upgraded with SP1) BM DMA Driver v3.02 for ALL Pentium + Pentium II chipsets. Do NOT use with Windows 95b (OSR 2.x) or Win98!

• Compac: What are Device Drivers? A short summary about device drivers

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Companies: IBM | Lotus | Microsoft Corp. | Novell Inc. |

CPU: AMD | Cyrix | Intel Corp. |

Hard Disks: Adaptec Inc. | BusLogic | Conner | Micropolis | Procom | Promise Technology | Quantum | Seagate | Western Digital |

Modems: Boca | Hayes | Multi Tech | Supra Telebit | USR Robotics | Zyxel |
Printers: Hewlett Packard | Okidata QMS |
SoundCards: Aztech Labs | Creative Labs | Diamond | Ensoniq MediaVision |
Video: ATI Graphics | Diamond | Hercules | Number Nine

CERN | Computer Associates | Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) | Informix Software | NEC Corp. | Oracle Corp. | Panasonic | Performance Systems International | Silicon Graphics Inc. | Sony | Sun Microsystems Inc. | Sybase Inc. | Taligent Inc. | Texas Instruments | Toshiba Sun Microsystems | Unisys |

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Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

Copyright © LarryM 1998-2015