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HP - What Is a Driver, Firmware, and a Patch

In this document:

What is a driver?back to top of page

A driver is a piece of software used by your computer to communicate with a particular peripheral. There are drivers for printers, video, sound, modems, and many other peripherals. Drivers are regularly updated and new versions can help fix problems and bring significant performance improvements.

    Why upgrade drivers?

    There are two main reasons to upgrade drivers:

    • Problem fixing

    • Support of a new technology

    Problem fixing

    Compatibility problems are the most frequent problems solved by a new driver release. For instance, certain software may not run correctly due to the way they display information on the screen. The problem can be solved either by a new video driver or with a new release of the software.

    Support of a new technology

    Some peripherals rely on the processor computing power (for instance, most inkjet printers). Others peripherals integrate dedicated, specialized chips (for instance, graphics accelerator cards). New drivers optimize the communications speed and task sharing between the processor and the peripheral. A new driver can bring as much as 50% performance increase for certain tasks.

What is firmware?back to top of page

Firmware is embedded software on a system and is used to control the most basic functions (for example, when the system is first turned on). Firmware is stored in non-volatile areas of memory that cannot be accessed normally. It does not go away when the system is turned off.

Why would I need new firmware?

New firmware may be released to fix a problem, or to enhance functionality or performance of a system. Customers may choose to upgrade to a newer version of firmware by downloading the new software into their systems. Firmware is considerably easier to modify than hardware but more permanent than software stored on disk or volatile memory

What is a patch?back to top of page

Patching falls into the area of ongoing operations and maintenance. The term ‘patch’ is usually associated with updating software to fix a problem.

    Type of patches

    Patches are available individually or they may be combined into groups of related patches known as patch bundles.

    When to use a patch

    Patches may be used in different ways depending on the task involved. Some examples include

    • New system installations

    • Proactive patching

    • Reactive patching

    • Operating system upgrades

    • Hardware and application upgrades

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