Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

I.I.A.B,D.F.I. Part 2 Device drivers give you a boost

Even if you just purchased your PC, the chances are good that you do not have the newest (faster/more secure/more capable) device drivers installed. In yesterday’s article, I demonstrated how to use Windows’ built-in Hardware Update Wizard to remedy this and optimize your machine’s performance.

I also told you that frequently, due to Microsoft’s definition of what is an improved device driver, the Update Wizard will often ignore what is available to you. It shows you this screen.
The key phrase being “better match”. Today I am going to show you how to do this without the wizard’s help, and get the newest drivers installed for your devices. I still recommend that you use the wizard (as described yesterday) as your first effort. I will also show you how to undo your install, in case it causes trouble.

Tip of the day: Get the best performance out of your machine and its devices by seeking out and installing the latest drivers for your devices. The method I’ll describe today requires visiting the device manufacturer’s website and downloading the driver. (Sometimes, you may have to visit the PC manufacturer’s website; more likely for laptops.) I will continue to use the laptop’s sound as my example.

Of course, it is a big help if you know the make and model of the device. In some cases, such as a printer, you can simply look at the label. In the case of onboard sound, it is not so easy, and I must turn to my Device Manager. Right-click My Computer >Properties >Hardware tab >Device Manager. Then double-click on the device you want to update and its Properties will open, which will give us clues, if not the actual make/model.


In my example, the Properties window tells us the make (manufacturer) is ESS Technology, Inc. and gives a model name, “ESS Maestro PCI”. We have tried to find a newer driver by clicking on the Update Driver button, so it’s time to go to the support page on the ESS Technology, Inc. website. I am an efficiency kind of guy, so I Google’d “ESS Maestro PCI”


Right at the top was the page I want. How do I know that? Because of the URL; while I very well may find the driver at TechFinder and at Sound Card, I want to go to the support page of the manufacturer, so the URL should look something like

Now we are probably going to be presented with a long list of all the different devices, and device types, made by this manufacturer and we need to drill down to exactly the right model.


Since I’m a little vague on the model number, I have highlighted (selected) the “identification instructions”. This takes me to a page that tells me how to determine (usually the number of the driver already installed is a help) the model number; but in my case there was a happier result — ESS has a downloadable tool which scans my machine and tells me the exact model.

Now that I have the right model, I simply click on the download link. When the file has finished downloading, I simply double-click on it. It does the installation itself. I ignore the warnings that Windows displays about “unsigned software” and I “continue anyway.”

Now I repeat this process for all my main devices — printer, network adapter (or modem), video/graphics, monitor, etc. If the process above still doesn’t give me the exact model number, I will use either Belarc Advisor or Sandra Lite (see below) to analyze my system, and hopefully get the details that way.

If this somehow causes some problems, and I want to revert back to the driver I had before, I go back to the ESS Maestro Properties (see the picture above) and click on the “Roll Back Driver” button. Easy.

Today’s free link: a good alternative, or supplement, to Belarc is Sandra Lite. I think its reporting is a little less detailed, but I do like its benchmarking tools — except for its Internet connection speed test; that uses a server in Denmark which is too far away for relevant results.

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Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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August 23, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, PC, Plug and Play, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 1 Comment