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When Updating Drivers Check Vendor Support

I’ve been switching over from a test desktop to a Dell All-in-One for Insider Preview testing and experimentation. We’ve moved the Asrock Z97 Killer with i7 4770K CPU, 32 GB RAM, and 500 GB mSATA SSD, upstairs. In return, I’ve picked up and fixed his Dell XPS 2720 All-in-One touchscreen PC for use in my office. In whipping the Dell into shape, I’ve recalled one plus from buying a PC or laptop from a big-name vendor. (At my house that means Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft right now.) Those big outfits can afford to automate and simplify device maintenance and upkeep. That’s why I say “When updating drivers check vendor support.”

When Updating Drivers Check Vendor Support Gets You Tailored Advice

On the Dell machine, I can check drivers quite simply. I just right-click the Dell Update icon in the toolbar, then select “Dell Online Support” from the pop-up menu. It works with a utility called Dell System Detect to read the PC’s asset code from firmware, to look up its purported hardware configuration. When I go to its Drivers & Downloads page, I only need click on a button labeled “Detect Drivers” to have it scan for and recommend any pending updates.

When Updating Drivers Check Vendor Support

Once the wireless adapter is put to work, the apparent device discrepancy is resolved.

This time around, Dell found that I needed a new AHCI driver for storage, and it said I also needed a Wireless 1703 WiFi + Bluetooth driver. The AHCI driver install went without a hitch, but the wireless networking drivers failed to install. As it happens, that machine has a Killer (Atheros) N-1202 WiFi+Bluetooth adapter. I was using a wired connection, which turns off the wireless adapter. As soon as I disconnected the wired link and switched over to wireless, the scan correctly identified the networking hardware in use and reported all drivers up-to-date.

This goes to show several important things about such driver scans:

  1. They usually work reasonably well, but they’re not perfect.
  2. The user must still understand certain basics of hardware operation on the target PC for best results.
  3. Vendors don’t always keep up with the most current or latest and greatest drivers. They favor stability over currency, for very good reason (fewer support calls that way).

That’s why I also use the Windows Update MiniTool (aka WUMT) to check drivers on the PCs I maintain. On a follow-up check, thankfully, WUMT found nothing pending that Dell’s facility missed.

Outside the Dell Umbrella

On my Surface Pro 3, drivers come from the OS source itself, because Microsoft made that hardware as well as the OS. That’s usually right on the money in terms of driver currency and distribution. For my two Lenovo laptops, the company’s System Update utility does a pretty good job of keeping up with their drivers, too. Even on two of my desktops, both of which feature Asrock motherboards, that company’s App Shop app does a good job of keeping up with drivers plus BIOS and firmware updates. I might also observe that turning to the device maker is always a good strategy for chasing down drivers. That makes my assertion “When updating drivers check vendor support” true, even for homebrew or no-name systems and components.

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