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The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter

Updated: February 7, 2011

Your scanner, printer, digicam, video card, CD-RW drive, DVD player, modem, monitor, keyboard, graphics tablet -- every device attached to your computer -- all have one thing in common.


What a Driver Does

Why a Driver Breaks

Who Does Drivers

Why They Don't Do Drivers


Your Options

Silver Lining

The Driver Project

Google Sample Searches


They are useless without a tiny piece of software that makes them responsive to your operating system. And that little gem is called a driver.

If you've recently upgraded to Windows XP or Mac OS X, you've discovered you need a compatible driver to use your old stuff with your new operating system. Without it, you can't print to your printer, scan anything or use any particular device.

The new operating system sometimes includes a driver for your old stuff, but far too frequently, you have to find one and install it yourself.

At Imaging Resource, we've been getting a lot of email lately asking us if we know where to find a particular driver. So we thought we'd try to help.

Unfortunately, we don't write drivers. And what most of us need is a new driver to let our new operating system run our old device, not an old driver for an OS we no longer want to use (which is what you'll find on most of the driver-specific sites).

The only source for that is the manufacturer of your hardware -- and, double whammy, they have often decided not to bother. It's their way of getting back at you for doing business with them in the first place.

What we can do about all this is reward those firms who publish their drivers on the Web. We call this the Driver Project. We'll start it off with a hefty list of links to drivers but we need your help (we'll explain <g>).

WHAT A DRIVER DOES | Back to Contents

So what does a driver actually do?

A driver translates your operating system's fairly generic command ("print 'who' in bold") into the specific code your device understands (zoom zoom zoom oya oya oya oya).

Sometimes the operating system comes with the driver you need already installed. Your keyboard driver, for example, is included or you wouldn't get very far. But buy a new keyboard with fancy new features (or a mouse with five buttons and a gear shift) and you'll need a new driver.

Drivers are tiny things hidden away in the dark corners of your hard drive's operating system folders. When you buy a scanner, you'll spend the bulk of your install time watching one application or another make a home for itself on your hard drive. But they will all typically tap into the little driver installed in a flash that requires a reboot.

Which is why you usually can't use third party scanning software without a driver from the scanner manufacturer.

WHY A DRIVER BREAKS | Back to Contents

You can live happily ever after with your original driver, upgrading one application after another, as long as you do not change your operating system.

Minor upgrades to your operating system (say from Doorway 98 version 2.3c to Doorway 98 version 2.3d or 2.4a) shouldn't break a driver. But you should always check with the manufacturer for compatibility issues before installing.

Major upgrades to Doorway 99 or Escalator 2002 are where you can expect trouble. Those may be completely different operating systems requiring completely different drivers. The original driver only understands the original operating system's requests.

WHO DOES DRIVERS | Back to Contents

This can be very, uh, inconvenient. Especially when you know your old scanner is just fine and should work with your pretty new operating system.

You may even feel the manufacturer of your scanner has made a blood oath to update the driver for all future operating systems during the life of the scanner hardware.

Or just that the company that revised your operating system owes you the courtesy of providing a compatible driver. This, actually, sometimes happens (as we noted earlier). But there's no guarantee.

The responsibility for writing a driver rests with the manufacturer of the device, not the people who wrote the operating system, not the people who built your computer, not the people who wrote the application software you use. Only the guys who built the device actually speak its language.

WHY THEY DON'T DO DRIVERS | Back to Contents

There are lots of reasons drivers don't get updated -- and the reasons are increasing all the time.

Companies don't usually charge for drivers. But they sometimes don't write them, either. It's not uncommon to contract with small firms (which themselves come and go) to translate the operating system generic commands into the specific control codes the device requires to do anything. There may be no one at the company who actually understands the driver code.

But even when companies do understand their own code, the number of people still using the product may be too small to warrant the effort to write a new driver. You may not like it, but you've had your ride and the Ferris wheel is grinding to a halt. Your only option is to stay with the operating system that works with the driver you do have.

Then, too, operating systems don't just change for the fun of it. Sometimes they are responding to a whole new class of peripherals. USB devices, for example. These may offer new capabilities that make a new device more attractive than staying with the old one (price excluded). Resources may then be devoted to developing drivers for the new standard at the expense of the old one. The future, that is, rather than the past.

And finally, there are licensing agreements with the operating system vendor to which device manufacturers may or may not agree. In some cases, vendors have actually pursued legal action to get the information they need from the OS vender to write a compatible driver without subjecting themselves to the vendor's new requirements. We won't mention any names here.

PROTECTION | Back to Contents

All this can be pretty unnerving.

To protect yourself, do a little research. Visit the Web site of any manufacturer whose device you can't live without to make sure they have a compatible driver before you upgrade.

You should also take advantage of any screening process of software provided by the developer of the new operating system. If you're upgrading to Windows XP, for example, visit Microsoft for their XP Upgrade Advisor. It will tell you which drivers you currently use will not work under XP.

Similarly, Microsoft offers a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

Windows users can take advantage of a new class of utility software that scans your system for drivers and reports which devices require an update with links to any new driver. Two examples are Alex Ross's $34.95 DriverFinder and the free Device Doctor, both of which are Windows 7 savvy.

On Mac OS X, the built-in Software Update utility will scan for new system software while most applications offer an option to "check for updates" on a schedule you can set.

You won't get anywhere emailing the company or phoning them or asking a salesperson when a driver for your operating system will be available. You'll only get anywhere when the driver has been written and released either as a beta for testing or as a final product. And that will happen on the Web.

YOUR OPTIONS | Back to Contents

So you have very few options when you can't find a driver compatible with your new operating system.

One thing you must not do -- no matter how tempting -- is to install a driver written for a "similar" operating system to see if it works. It won't. And it may make others things unstable, too. Like your operating system itself.

On the other hand, there is one trick that often works.

The badge on your device is often not the actual manufacturer. If the company that badged your product doesn't offer a driver, see if the actual manufacturer does.

Take for example Lexar's USB dual media reader. Macintouch reader Robert Poore was distressed to find out Lexar didn't have an OS X driver for the its card reader. But he was able to identify the reader as a Carry Computer Inc. device in Classic (OS 9) mode. So he visited the Apple Mac OS X driver download page, found the Carry driver for OS X, installed it and lived happily every after.

SILVER LINING | Back to Contents

Believe it or not, the silver lining here is that the price of most devices has plummeted since you bought your last one. Printers and scanners with drivers for the latest operating systems can be had for under $100. And everyone we've talked to who has given up the quest for a driver for their old device by purchasing a new one has been glad they did. It's smaller or faster or better in addition to cheaper.

And your time is worth something, too, don't forget.

THE IR DRIVER PROJECT | Back to Contents

The Web is your friend in your search for a driver. But there are a couple of ways to use the Web.

The best thing to do is use Google ( In the search field, just type your platform (Windows/Macintosh/Linux) and your product name (Wacom tablet). Don't be too cute, but as specific as possible. The following table illustrates how to search Google for drivers (click on the terms to see Google in action).

G O O G L E   S A M P L E   S E A R C H E S
DriverSearch Terms
XP Scanner DriversXP scanner driver
Canon OS X DriverCanon Mac X driver
Microtech DriversMicrotech driver
Nikon 950 DriversNikon 950 driver
Epson Stylus C80 DriversEpson C80 driver
Back to Links

The second best thing is the following list, which represents Stage I of our Driver Project. But, as we said, we need your help. If you have anything to add, just email it to us ( and we'll add it to this list.

D R I V E R   A R C H I V E S
Apple OS X
Canon[click here]
Casio[click here]
Device Doctor
Driver Files Net
Driver Forum
Driver Guide
Driver Zone
Drivers Planet
Help Drivers
Hewlett-Packard[click here]
Kodak[click here]
Mac Driver Museum
Mister Driver
Nikon[click here]
Olympus[click here]
PC Drivers
Sony[click here]
Back to Links

Canon[click here]
[click here]
Casio[click here]
Epson[click here]
Fujifilm[click here]
Hewlett-Packard[click here]
Konica[click here]
Konica Minolta[click here] or [click here]
Minolta[click here]
Nikon[click here]
Olympus[click here]
Pentax[click here]
Ricoh[click here]
Samsung[click here]
Sony[click here]
Toshiba[click here]
Back to Links

Canon[click here]
Epson[click here]
Hewlett-Packard[click here]
IBM[click here]
Lexmark[click here]
Panasonic[click here]
Sony[click here]
Tektronix[click here]
Xerox[click here]
Back to Links

Canon[click here]
Epson[click here]
Hewlett-Packard[click here]
Kodak[click here]
Back to Links

G R A P H I C   T A B L E T S
Back to Links

C A R D   R E A D E R S
Microtech[click here]
Unity Digital
Back to Links

S T O R A G E   D E V I C E S
Digital Wallet
Sima Image Bank[click here]
NixVue Digital Album
Back to Links


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