PC gaming continues to be among the most popular hobbies in the world. Around 1.86 billion people are expected to identify as PC gamers in 2024, a 3% – 4% increase from the estimated number in 2022.
Allowing the freedom to customize specs and boasting better graphical fidelity, PC is believed to be the long-term solution to playing video games in general. That being said, computer gaming has its own ‘hassles’.
Unlike consoles, a PC requires various software programs to be installed because every computer has different specs and hardware built into it. Some might even need to be updated with newer programming to allow the latest games to be played properly.
These software applications are called drivers – also known as device drivers – and they allow seamless communication between a computer and its internal hardware or external devices, ensuring functionality.
If you are building your own custom gaming PC, a few important drivers will need to be installed on your computer, minimizing the possibility of in-game bugs, glitches, or hard crashes occurring while playing video games.
PC Drivers Required to Play Video Games
After setting up the ideal PC gaming rig, these are the drivers that we need to install next:
- Graphics card drivers
- Motherboard drivers
- Audio drivers
- Wi-Fi drivers
- Gaming device drivers
These drivers ensure that our computer is updated, allowing us to play new or patched games on our systems normally. Even current-gen consoles like PlayStation™ 5 and Xbox Series X/S receive driver updates too, usually hidden behind regular system updates.
Here are some insights into each device driver:
1. Graphics card drivers
A computer graphics card – also called display card or graphics adapter – is a component that translates a video game’s programming inputs and instructions into actual 3D images on a display monitor. They are commonly referred to as GPUs or video cards too, but these terms actually have different meanings in computing lingo.
Due to the regular advancements in gaming technology, new video games also enjoy better graphical features and improved optimizations. As a result, graphics cards also need to update their drivers to stay relevant and compatible with current-generation PC games.
Each graphics card model has its supported drivers introduced by their respective manufacturers like EVGA® and MSI. According to the graphics card’s specific make and specs, these drivers can be installed directly from the manufacturer’s websites.
That being said, all GPUs soldered on a graphics card are exclusively created by NVIDIA® or AMD, so you can also find their respective drivers straight from NVIDIA’s or AMD’s website.
2. Motherboard drivers
A motherboard is a PC’s primary internal component that houses all the hardware inside a computer chassis. Also termed a printed circuit board (PCB), a motherboard holds all computer components together, linking them together.
Multiple crucial PC modules exist on the motherboard itself, such as the chipset (containing the CPU), device connectors, and expansion card slots. Because of this, the latest motherboard driver is needed to allow stable communications between itself, the Operating System (OS), and other device applications, enabling a computer to function optimally.
Special gaming motherboards are also created to cater specifically to PC gamers. Brands like Biostar® and ASUS® are among the most popular companies offering these types of motherboards, regularly supporting them with robust drivers too.
It is always recommended to download the latest motherboard drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website according to its model and specs.
3. Audio drivers
Imagine playing games without sound. Even the best triple-A (AAA) games would make me bored if there were no audio effects or background music to immerse myself in. That’s why sound cards are important for games, allowing the computer to convert programming input into actual audio.
When building a gaming PC from scratch, sound cards are needed if the motherboard does not have its own integrated audio functionalities. Low-cost motherboards usually don’t have them, allowing us to minimize budget at the expense of buying a sound card later.
If we do use a sound card, its audio driver will need to be installed as well, either through major system updates or directly from the manufacturer’s website. An audio driver allows the OS to decode different audio files to be converted into music or sounds for us to enjoy.
Creative® Labs is one of the most trusted companies supplying outstanding sound cards for gaming, multimedia, and professional music purposes.
4. Wi-Fi drivers
Today, online multiplayer games are fast dominating the industry. This is not to say that impressive single-player games like A Plague Tale: Requiem do not exist, but many publishers favor online games more due to their revenue potential and larger target audiences.
Hence, a gaming PC must have a dedicated Wi-Fi adapter attached, boosting Internet network speeds, stability, and range. This significantly improves gameplay experiences while playing online multiplayer games like Apex Legends™ and Valorant™, minimising lag and in-game latency.
Like any other PC device, gaming Wi-Fi adapters need to be updated with the latest drivers, and renowned brands like Realtek and TP-Link continuously offer driver support for their products on their websites.
5. Gaming device drivers
PC gamers are blessed with more gaming accessories than console players. From superb headsets to precise gaming mice, the choices are endless. However, each gaming peripheral comes with its drivers too.
Brands like Razer™ and SteelSeries usually offer built-in drivers inside their devices, prompting a driver installation the first time they are connected to the computer. Sometimes, the driver comes packaged as a CD, commonly found with older Logitech® items.
Regardless, these drivers are essential for the devices to function perfectly, and you can even tweak certain commands or key bindings using the software. If the drivers are not provided right out of the box, then the next-best way to update your gaming device is to browse the manufacturer’s website to download the respective device driver accordingly.
How to Install Drivers
Almost every other device connected to the computer has its device driver, but the aforementioned drivers are the most important for gaming. So, how do we install them?
Here are a few quick ways to do it:
1. Windows updates
For Windows users, the customary Windows Update should be enough to detect any outdated drivers and include them inside the new download.
After all, the Windows OS needs to ensure every component of the computer can be communicated with to execute its tasks, and it will automatically prompt a new driver update request inside the system update if a device is believed to be outdated.
Sometimes, we might not even be aware that our computer has just updated some of the PC’s drivers, leading to certain issues with the hardware, most notably the graphics card. It might be best to always follow up with every change made by Windows Updates if possible.
Here’s how to check what’s recently been installed after a Windows Update patch:
- Open “Settings” from the Search bar.
- Select Update & Security.
- Choose Windows Update.
- Click “View update history”
2. External download/ install
Like any other executable program, device drivers can be saved inside the computer or external storage device for future emergencies.
Let’s say I’m using my laptop away from home and come across a new driver update for my gaming keyboard. Instead of returning home first, I can promptly download the file inside a USB to be installed later, in case I forget.
Driver files are also transferable between storage devices and computers, allowing us to share them with others or keep older versions in case a new update causes critical issues instead (there is always a risk).
Remember to scan the computer or device for viruses, especially if you’re using an external DVD drive to play games.
3. Manufacturer’s website
Every device manufacturer keeps a catalog of all its drivers on its website for customers to browse and download according to model and hardware. This is the safest and most direct way to download a specific driver, minimizing the chances of downloading the wrong file or infected software.
Furthermore, we get instant access to the manufacturer’s customer support, letting us communicate with them for immediate guidance or help. If we have the time, we can even browse the company’s other products while we’re at it, keeping an eye out for new gaming items to buy.
We can install new drivers by launching the computer’s Device Manager as well. The program is present in all Windows PC, and it will list out every internal component that is built into the computer.
Through Device Manager, we can identify all hardware installed while also manually updating their drivers directly. Nevertheless, this should be done as a last resort if other methods of updating a driver fail.
For instance, here’s how I update my display adapter (graphics card) driver by using Device Manager:
- Launch “Device Manager” from the Search bar.
- Click on Display Adapters from the list provided.
- Right-click on the chosen graphics card.
- Choose “Update Driver”.
Installing drivers might seem like annoyances when we simply want to turn on our computers and play video games. Still, even video game consoles have regular driver updates too, to ensure their systems are updated to support newer-released games on the market.
We only need to install the drivers once, and their regular updates are actually optional for us to download. However, it is strongly recommended that we update our drivers to the latest version if available, to avoid any software conflicts or problems from occurring.
If an update does create an issue with your device, though, simply revert to its previous driver version using Device Manager:
- Launch “Device Manager” from the Search bar.
- Right-click on the affected hardware and select Properties.
- Select “Roll Back Driver” under the Driver tab.
You can always consider selling your old PC games if you’ve decided to game on your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S instead, so there’s always that.