How to Change the Driver for a Device that Isn't Working in Windows Vista

Windows comes preloaded with an arsenal of driverssoftware that lets Windows communicate with the gadgets you plug into your PC. But if you install something that’s either too new for Windows Vista to know about or too old for it to remember, you need to know how to change the driver for a device that isn't working in Windows Vista.

In these cases, you need to do the work and track down and install a Windows Vista driver for your device. If you're lucky, you have an installation CD that automatically places the software in the right place. But if you don't have an installation program, you have to do the grunt work yourself.

If Windows Vista doesn’t automatically recognize and install your newly attached piece of hardware — even after you restart your PC — follow these steps to locate and install a new driver:

  1. Visit the part manufacturer’s Web site and download the latest Windows Vista driver.

    The manufacturer’s Web site is usually stamped somewhere on the device’s box. If you can’t find it, a Web search can yield results.

    Look for Downloads in the Web site’s Support or Customer Service area. There, you'll typically need to enter your part, its model number, and your computer’s operating system before the Web site coughs up the driver. (Be sure to scan any downloaded file with a virus checker.)

    No Windows Vista driver listed? Try downloading a Windows XP or Windows 2000 driver instead. They often work just as well.

  2. Run the driver’s installation program.

    Sometimes clicking your downloaded file makes its installation program jump into action, installing the driver for you. If so, you’re through. If not, head to Step 3.

    If the downloaded file has a little zipper on the icon, right-click it and choose Extract All to unzip its contents into a new folder. (Vista names that new folder after the file you’ve unzipped, making it easy to locate.)

  3. Click Start→Control Panel→Hardware and Sound and select Device Manager.

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    The Device Manager appears, listing an inventory of every part inside or attached to your computer.

  4. Click anywhere inside the Device Manager, click Action, and then choose Add Legacy Hardware.

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    The Add Hardware Wizard guides you through the steps of installing your new hardware and, if necessary, installing your new driver.

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