Updating Drivers in Windows 7 Tutorial

1
Download the Latest Windows 7 Driver for the Hardware

Screenshot of Microsoft's download center
Download the Latest Windows 7 Driver for the Hardware.

Updating drivers in Windows 7 isn't something you do on a regular basis but you might find yourself needing to do so for any of several different reasons.

For example, you might need to update drivers in Windows 7 for a piece of hardware if you're troubleshooting a problem with the device, if a driver isn't automatically installed during a Windows 7 installation, or if a driver update enables new features you'd like to utilize.

Note: I created this step by step guide to to accompany my original How To Update Drivers in Windows how-to guide. Updating drivers can be a little complicated, so this visual tutorial should help clarify any confusion you might have had looking over the how-to.

Updating drivers in Windows 7 should take less than 15 minutes for most kinds of hardware.

In this tutorial, I'll be updating the driver for the network card on computer running Windows 7 Ultimate. This tutorial will also serve perfectly well as a walkthrough for installing any kind of driver like a video card, sound card, etc.

The first thing you need to do is to download the latest driver for the device from the hardware maker's website. It's important to download a driver directly from its source so you're sure you're getting the most valid, tested, and recent driver possible

See How To Find and Download Drivers From Manufacturer Websites if you need help.

As you can see in the screenshot above, I've visited Intel's site to download the driver for my Intel-based network card. The download came in the form of a single, compressed file.

Important: You must download either a 32-bit or 64-bit driver, corresponding to the type of Windows 7 you have installed. If you're not sure, see Am I Running a 32-bit or 64-bit Version of Windows? for help.

Important: Many drivers available today are packaged for automatic installation. This means that all you have to do is run the downloaded file, and the drivers will be updated automatically. The instructions given on the manufacturer's website should tell you if the drivers you're downloading are configured this way. If so, there's no reason to continue with these steps - just run the program and follow any instructions.

Note: This walkthrough demonstrates the driver update process in Windows 7 Ultimate but all steps can be followed exactly in any edition of Windows 7, including Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Starter, etc.

2
Extract the Driver Files From the Compressed Download

Screenshot of extracted PROWin32 driver files
Extract the Driver Files From the Compressed Download.

When you download a driver for a piece of hardware in your computer, you're actually downloading a compressed file that contains the one or more actual driver files, plus various other auxiliary files necessary to get the driver installed in Windows 7.

So before you can update the drivers for a specific piece of hardware, you have to extract the files from the download you completed in the previous step.

Windows 7 has built-in compression/decompression software but I prefer a dedicated program like the free 7-Zip, mainly because it supports so many more formats than Windows 7 does natively. There are plenty of free file extractor programs out there if you don't care for 7-Zip.

Regardless of the program used, you can usually right-click on the downloaded file and choose to Extract the files to a folder. Be sure to create a new folder to extract the files to and make sure you choose to create the new folder somewhere you'll remember.

3
Open Device Manager From the Control Panel in Windows 7

Screenshot of Device Manager in Windows 7
Open Device Manager From the Control Panel in Windows 7.

Now that the driver files are extracted ready to be used, open Device Manager from the Control Panel in Windows 7.

In Windows 7, hardware management, including updating drivers, is accomplished from within Device Manager.

4
Locate the Hardware Device You Want to Update the Drivers For

Screenshot of Device Manager in Windows 7
Locate the Hardware Device You Want to Update the Drivers For.

With Device Manager open, locate the hardware device you want to update the drivers for.

Navigate through the hardware device categories by using the > icon. Under each hardware category will be the one or more devices that belong to that category.

5
Open the Hardware Device's Properties

Screenshot of a Windows 7 hardware device in Device Manager
Open the Hardware Device's Properties.

After locating the hardware that you want to update the driver for, right-click on its name or icon and then click on Properties.

6
Start the Update Driver Software Wizard

Screenshot of the Driver tap in a Windows 7 device's properties window
Start the Update Driver Software Wizard.

Start the Update Driver Software wizard by first clicking on the Driver tab and then the Update Driver... button.

7
Choose to Locate and Install Driver Software Manually

Screenshot of the Update Driver Software screen in Windows 7
Choose to Locate and Install Driver Software Manually.

The first question asked by the Update Driver Software wizard is "How do you want to search for driver software?"

Click on Browse my computer for driver software. This option will allow you to manually select the driver you want installed - the one you downloaded in the first step.

By manually selecting the driver to install, you can be sure that the best driver, the one directly from the manufacturer that you just downloaded, is the driver that will be installed.

8
Choose to Pick From a List of Device Drivers on Your Computer

Screenshot of the Update Driver Software screen in Windows 7
Choose to Pick From a List of Device Drivers on Your Computer.

On the next screen where you're told to Browse for driver software on your computer, instead click on Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer at the bottom of the window.

Note: In some cases, simply browsing to the extracted folder location would be good enough here but the Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer option gives you more control in situations where there are multiple drivers available in the extracted folder, which is often the case.

9
Click the Have Disk Button

Screenshot of the Select Network Adapter screen in Windows 7
Click the Have Disk Button.

On the Select Network Adapter1 screen, click the Have Disk... button.

Note: You don't need to select a Network Adapter here. The zero, one, or more entries in that box don't directly represent the actual device(s) you have installed but instead represent the available drivers that Windows 7 has for this particular piece of hardware. By clicking Have Disk... you're skipping this existing driver selection process and telling Windows 7 that you have better drivers you'd like to install that it isn't yet aware of.

[1] The name of this screen will be different depending on the kind of hardware you're updating the drivers for. A more generic Select the device driver you want to install for this hardware is common.

10
Click the Browse Button

Screenshot of the Install From Disk screen in Windows 7
Click the Browse Button.

Click the Browse... button on the Install From Disk window.

11
Navigate to the Folder with the Extracted Driver Files

Screenshot of browsing for a driver file in Windows 7
Navigate to the Folder with the Extracted Driver Files.

In the Locate File window, use the Look in: drop-down box and/or the shortcuts on the left to navigate to the folder with the extracted driver files that you created in Step 2.

Important: There may be multiple folders within the extracted folder so be sure to work your way to the one for Windows 7 if it exists. Some downloads will also include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of a driver with the 32-bit driver in one folder and the 64-bit version in another, sometimes nested under an operating system labeled folder as well.

Long story short: If nicely named folders exist, get your way to the one that makes the most sense based on your computer. If you're not that lucky, don't worry about it, just navigate to the folder with the extracted driver files.

12
Choose Any INF File in the Folder

Screenshot of selecting an INF driver file in Windows 7
Choose Any INF File in the Folder.

Click any INF file that displays in the file list and then click the Open button. The Update Driver Software wizard will read the information from all the INF files in this folder.

INF files are the only files that Device Manager accepts for driver setup information. So while you may know that a folder you've selected has all sorts of files in it, it's an INF file that the Update Driver Software wizard is looking for.

Couldn't find an INF file in the folder you selected from your driver download?

Try looking in another folder within the extracted drivers. Maybe you chose the wrong one.

Couldn't find an INF file in any folder from the extracted driver files?

The driver download may have been damaged or you may not have extracted them properly. Try downloading and extracting the drivers again. See Steps 1 and 2 again if you need help.

13
Confirm Your Folder Choice

Screenshot of the Install From Disk screen in Windows 7
Confirm Your Folder Choice.

Click OK back on the Install From Disk window.

You might notice the path to the folder you chose in the last step in the Copy manufacturer's files from: text box.

14
Start the Windows 7 Driver Installation Process

Screenshot of the Update Driver Software screen in Windows 7
Start the Windows 7 Driver Installation Process.

You're now back to the Select Network Adapter screen you saw in Step 9.

This time, however, you want to choose the correct driver and then click the Next button.

Important: Only one compatible driver is listed in my example above. However, you may have multiple drivers listed that Windows 7 sees as compatible with the hardware you're updating the drivers for. If that's the case for you, try your best to choose the correct driver based on your knowledge of the model of the hardware device.

15
Wait While Windows 7 Installs the Updated Driver

Screenshot of Windows 7 installing a device driver
Wait While Windows 7 Installs the Updated Driver.

Wait while the Update Driver Software wizard completes the driver installation process.

Windows 7 is using the information included in the INF files you provided in Step 12 to copy the proper driver files and make the proper registry entries for your hardware.

16
Close the Update Driver Software Window

Screenshot of the Update Driver Software screen in Windows 7
Close the Update Driver Software Window.

Assuming the driver update process completed successfully, you'll see the "Windows has successfully updated your driver software" message.

Click Close to close this window.

You're not finished yet!

You need to restart your computer and make sure your hardware is working properly with its new drivers.

17
Restart Your Computer

Screenshot of the Shut Down options in Windows 7
Restart Your Computer.

Not all driver updates require a restart of your computer. Even if you're not prompted, I always recommend restarting anyway.

The driver update process involves changes to the Windows Registry and other important areas of your computer and restarting is a good way to confirm that updating drivers hasn't negatively impacted some other area of Windows.

18
Wait While Windows Restarts

Screenshot of Windows 7 restarting
Wait While Windows Restarts.

Wait for Windows 7 to fully restart and then log in as you usually do.

19
Check the Device's Status for Errors

Screenshot of a device's status in Device Manager in Windows 7
Check the Device's Status for Errors.

Once logged in, check the device's status in Device Manager and make sure it reads "This device is working properly."

Important: If you receive a Device Manager error code that you weren't receiving before the update, it's possible that there was an issue during the driver update and you should roll back the driver immediately.

20
Test the Hardware

Screenshot of Lifewire.com in Google Chrome
Test the Hardware.

Finally, you should test the hardware device and make sure it's working properly.

In this example, since I updated the drivers for the network card, a simple test of the network or the internet in Windows 7 should prove that things are working properly.

Were you trying to fix a Device Manager error code but a driver update didn't work?

If a driver update didn't fix your problem, return to the troubleshooting information for your error code and continue with some other ideas. Most Device Manager error codes have several possible solutions.

Need some further help with updating drivers in Windows 7?

See Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more.