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Drivers allow your computer communicate with the hardware you have plugged in. In this video, we explain how to install them.

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[♪ atmospheric moody beat] [A SciShow video plays in the background].

There's a hundred thousand things you can plug into your computer. You don't need to know what routines their calling programs invoke or how they interact with the kernel.

You plug them in, the computer figures out what it is, and your device works. Or sometimes it doesn't, and you're on your own. Do you understand?

Good. Now I'm going to teach you how to fix it when things go wrong. [♪ Music]. Drivers are special programs that allow your computer to communicate with any hardware you plug in or install.

Usually when your computer mentions drivers, it's talking about a mouse or a thumb drive, but it also needs drivers for the USB ports and WiFi antenna. Most operating systems—like Windows, Mac, and Linux—will already have most drivers you'll need included with them, especially if you bought a computer that you didn't have to build yourself. Even if they don't, they usually have a tool that automatically downloads them for you if you're connected to the internet.

But sometimes it doesn't work. [CAR SPEEDING NOISES]. When your computer's automatic tools don't do the job, you'll have to track down the drivers yourself. There are two things you need to know in order to do that:.

First, what exactly is the device you're trying to install? If it's a printer, for example, what exact model and manufacturer is it? Second, what operating system are you using?

Like, if you're using Windows, are you on Windows 7 or Windows 10? If you have a Mac, are you running Mavericks, which is 10.9, or Sierra, which is 10.12? Once you know those two things, finding drivers is as easy as Googling them.

Just be careful where you download them from. There are a lot of websites that pretend to have drivers, but will just give you viruses and malware instead. It's best to get your drivers from the website of either the manufacturer of your device, or the manufacturer of your operating system.

Anywhere else could be dangerous. And as much as I like danger, I'd rather have a computer that works. Something to keep in mind as you look for drivers is that they aren't something that just happens by magic.

Some software engineer has to write the code to tell each operating system how to use your device. If your device is too old, then it may not even have drivers for your operating system because nobody bothered to write them. [♪ANGELIC MUSIC] I suggest you save yourself a lot of hassle and just replace the device before it gets to that point. If you keep using an old operating system just so you don't have to buy a new printer, then you leave yourself open to viruses that can exploit old security holes.

That's part of how those hospitals got hit by WannaCry. Ugh! [BREAKING GLASS]. Just upgrade.

You'll feel better. I promise. [SMASHING NOISES]. Wait, was that my printer?

I needed that! I needed that! This is how I drive.

But sometimes... it doesn't work. [laughter]. Okay. I was like... [laughter] [Caitlin] Was that long enough? [laughter].

Oh shoot! [laughter]. Oh, I looked right at the camera. Because I know what my job is, it's to look at the camera!