All You Need to Know About Windows Drivers

all you need to know about drivers

By Miguel Leiva-Gomez for

Everything You Need to Know About Windows Drivers

When it comes to drivers, a lot of people don’t know what to expect when installing them. Many don’t understand the difference between drivers and user-level software, and even more people don’t understand what it implies. Drivers play a fundamental role in every operating system, regardless of whether you use Windows, Linux, or Macintosh. In this segment, we’ll be talking in particular about Windows drivers, their hierarchy, and how to resolve most common issues with them.

What’s a Driver?

Make no mistake, a driver is still a computer program. However, drivers actually allow other programs to communicate with your computer’s hardware. Anything that directly communicates with hardware, without using any other framework or wrapper, is known as a driver. As long as you keep this in mind, it won’t be hard to understand what drivers are and what role they play in Windows.

Kernel Mode vs. User Mode Drivers

Drivers operate in a simple hierarchy, with two types: Kernel mode and user mode. The difference is explained below:

•Kernel mode drivers communicate with the physical machine, directly accessing its resources. In the kernel level, drivers have direct – uninterrupted and unmanaged – access to the computer’s physical components, such as the chipset, memory, the hard drive, and the CPU. Examples of kernel mode drivers are CPU, network interface, video, and hard disk drivers. These drivers operate in the kernel mode because they must form a seamless bond with the Windows operating system.

•User mode drivers communicate with either other drivers or with the operating system’s upper “user” layer. In the user level, drivers have second-hand access to resources, and communicate in the same level that other programs you run do. They must adhere to the rules set by Windows and operate outside its integral system. If an error occurs with one of these drivers, Windows can continue running (in many cases), as isn’t the case with drivers operating in the kernel level. Many devices can opt to use user mode drivers, although that could possibly decrease their efficiency. However, they’re much safer and have less chances of crashing a system. Often times, you can find DVD drive emulators and firewalls using these kinds of drivers.

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