Keeping your system drivers up to date is always a good idea. Whether they’re drivers for your graphics card, motherboard chipset, or even specialist storage devices, they should all bring with them the following benefits.
Bugs appear in all aspects of the PC environment, particularly games. Crossfire scaling doesn’t work in recently released titles; glitches in foliage or weather effects are common; perhaps slow loading times or a crash when moving to a new area.
With each new driver release the above and more bugs are fixed. This needs to be a continual process though, as the games themselves are also being updated, which could cause bugs to return or new ones to develop over time.
Support for new hardware
With new driver releases comes support for new hardware. In the case of graphics cards, the latest drivers are an absolute necessity just after a new range of cards is released. Older drivers may work with the newly released graphics cards, but the performance won’t be that which the card is capable of.
In other areas the latest drivers increase compatibility with new generation hardware. USB 3.0 is a good example; updating the default drivers that ship with modern operating systems can enable technologies such as USB 3.0, which weren’t supported (or even commercially available) when the operating system was released.
While not technically a driver, the motherboard BIOS should be mentioned here. The latest BIOS for your motherboard will ensure that new hardware connected to the board functions properly.
Enabling new technology/features
Often new drivers bring with them new features or technologies. Whether this is SLI support for a recently released game, new configuration options in the control panel or a reworked control page allowing for easier navigation, new features come with drivers all the time.
In the latest (at the time of writing) Nvidia beta drivers (290.53), a graphics feature known as ambient occlusion was made available for both Skyrim and Modern Warfare 3. Also available is Nvidia surround technology support for Intel X79 based boards.
The same drives mentioned above are also tweaked to provide better performance in some games. Most notably Skyrim, where Nvidia claims up to 25 percent increase in performance over the previous version of graphics drivers.
However, increased performance isn’t just limited to graphics drivers – storage drives can also benefit from a driver update. Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) drivers are also ones to consider upgrading. Newer versions bring greater performance, particularly for SSDs used as the operating system drive, as well as support for newer drive technologies.
Newest drivers aren’t always best though
For all the good they do, the latest drivers aren’t always the best set for your system. New drivers can often unexpectedly break things, so you’ll find that while there are a host of benefits, your particular game of choice or hardware configuration benefits more from the previous version of the drivers.
However, the previous version will still be relatively recent; very rarely will an old, outdated driver give you any benefits over new versions.