If the hardware devices in your Windows 11 PC—such as USB controllers, video cards, printers, or other peripherals—need new or updated drivers, it’s usually easy to install them. We’ll show you how.
Usually, You Don’t Need To Update Drivers
Before we jump into updating drivers, let’s talk about when you don’t need to update your hardware drivers in Windows 11. Typically, you shouldn’t update your drivers unless you’re updating a graphics card driver or know that a driver update will fix an issue you’ve encountered.
If your devices already work, a driver update could potentially break something in an unexpected way by making an untested change to your system. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Safest Way to Update Your Drivers
When seeking driver updates, it’s important to know that Windows automatically keeps many drivers up-to-date with Windows Update, which is built into Windows 11. So if there are any minor but necessary updates to common components such as touchpads or USB controllers, Windows will typically take care of them automatically the next time you update your PC.
In addition, some driver updates arrive as “Optional Updates” in Windows Update. We (and Microsoft) don’t recommend installing these updates unless you are trying to solve a specific known problem with a device. But, if you are having a problem, it’s worth checking to see if any Optional Updates are available. To do so, open Settings by pressing Windows+i. In Settings, click “Windows Update” in the sidebar, then select “Advanced Options.”
In Advanced Options, scroll down and click “Optional Updates.”
In Optional Updates, click the “Driver Updates” section header to expand it. Then browse the list and place check marks beside any driver you’d like to update. When you’re done, click “Download & Install.”
Windows will install the drivers you selected, and if necessary, ask to reboot your PC. After a reboot, you’re good to go with updated drives. You won’t find every driver in Windows Update, however. In that case, see the section below.
RELATED: Should You Install Windows 10’s Optional Driver Updates?
The Best Place to Manually Download Updated Drivers
There are times when you need to update a device such as a graphics card that Windows Update won’t cover. In that case, your best bet is to locate the device manufacturer’s official website. Once there, look for a “Support” section and search for “downloads,” “updates,” or “drivers” for your device.
Beware that many scam driver sites exist that install malware instead of drivers, so make sure you’ve reached the actual manufacturer’s site. Driver update utilities that you might find online are worthless and might be full of scams or malware.
Once you’ve downloaded a trusted driver package from your device’s manufacturer, extract it and look for a “Setup” or “Install” program to run. Run it, and usually the update driver will install automatically then ask for a reboot. After restarting your PC, your new drivers are ready to go.
In the case of GPU drivers from NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel, the driver update program might install a utility such as GeForce Experience (for NVIDIA hardware) that will enable quick driver updates in the future. Using that program you can update your GPU drivers from a trusted source as new games come along.
RELATED: How to Find Official Windows Drivers for Any Device
Manually Update Drivers with Device Manager
Finally, you can also use Device Manager to switch or update drivers for specific devices in your Windows 11 PC, but most people don’t need to do this. To get started, open Device Manager: Click the Start button and search “device manager,” then click the Device Manager logo in the results.
In the Device Manager window, browse the list of installed devices on your PC and locate the device that you’d like to update the driver for. Right-click it and select “Update Driver.”
In the “Update Drivers” window that appears, you have two choices. We’ll cover both of them below, but first, here’s a look at what each option does.
- Search automatically for drivers: This choice makes Windows search Windows for compatible drivers and install them automatically.
- Browse my computer for drivers: This option lets you manually specify the location of the new drivers you want to install. This can come in handy if you already downloaded drivers from the manufacturer’s website or would like to install drivers from a CD, but the driver installation program is absent or doesn’t work properly.
If you choose “Search automatically for drivers,” Windows will run a scan of your system’s driver files, looking for updated drivers for the device. If it finds them, it will install them and ask you to restart your PC.
If not, you’ll see “The best drivers for your device are already installed.” At this point, you can further your search by clicking “Search for updated drivers on Windows Update,” which will open the Settings > Windows Update menu. Otherwise, click “Close.”
If you choose “Browse my computer for drivers,” you can browse for a location where you know new driver files are located by clicking the “Browse’ button and following the on-screen steps. Or you can click “Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer.”
If Windows recognized the drivers you browsed for—or you selected “Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer”—Windows will present you a list of compatible drivers you can choose from for the device. Select an item in the list and click “Next.”
If you see “The best drivers for your device are already installed,” then no update is necessary. You can close Device Manager, and you’re done. Otherwise, the driver will install if it is newer than the old one. After that, Windows will ask you to restart your PC. Click “Yes.”
When you log back in, your new drivers will be active. Happy computing!