What Is a Driver, Firmware, and a Patch
In this document:
What is a driver?
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.
There are two main reasons to
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
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?
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?
Patching falls into the area of ongoing
operations and maintenance. The term ‘patch’ is usually associated
with updating software to fix a problem.
Patches are available
individually or they may be combined into groups of related
patches known as patch bundles.
Patches may be used in
different ways depending on the task involved. Some examples