Where can I find the best drivers for my laptop PC?

May 1, 2014 By | Add a Comment

Ensuring that you use the correct drivers for the devices built into your laptop is the key to maximizing your laptop's battery life. The good news is that this is relatively easy to do. Here is our quick and simple guide to finding the best drivers for your needs.

The absence of a yellow bang in the device manager isn't good enough

The appearance of a yellow bang ( yellow bang icon ) in the device manager is a clear sign that something is wrong with that particular device and driver. Some people mistakenly think that if this yellow bang doesn't appear, everything is great. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The absence of a yellow bang basically lets you know that the driver has loaded correctly; it doesn't give you any information at all about how efficient the power to that device is managed.

Screen shot: Device Manager with yellow bang (error)

It takes some analysis to determine if the driver is power optimized or not and it's not generally something that the average user can easily do. That's where Battery Life Maximizer comes in. Battery Life Maximizer automatically assesses the drivers and devices you have installed on your laptop and informs you which drivers need to be updated for you to enjoy better battery life. It really couldn't be simpler.

Screen shot: Battery Life Maximizer found problem with AHCI driver

Failing to install drivers or disabling devices does not increase battery life

It may sound counter intuitive, but leaving a device without a driver installed or disabling a device in the device manager will actually increase power consumption. While the immediate effect may be to put the device in a power-saving state, it will prevent the USB host controller (if the device is a USB device) from entering the power-saving mode.

To maximize the overall power saving, you should install the correct drivers for your devices, even if you don't use that device. This will allow both the device and the host controller to enter the power-saving state when they are not in use.

All drivers are not equal

Drivers are usually created by the company that manufactures the device (such as Intel, AMD and NVIDIA) and installed to each laptop by the system manufacturers (such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard). Many people think that all system manufacturers use exactly the same driver package; however, this is not true. Some system manufacturers do customize the driver package when they install it to their system.

Here is a warning on one of the Intel's driver download pages (many other device manufactures present similar warnings):

These software drivers are generic versions and can be used for general purposes. However, computer original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may have altered the features, incorporated customizations, or made other changes to the software or software packaging they provide. To avoid any potential installation incompatibilities on your OEM system, Intel recommends that you check with your OEM and use the software provided by your system manufacturer.

Intel and the computer original equipment manufacturer (OEM) may not provide technical support for some or all issues that could arise from the usage of this generic version of software drivers.

What kind of customizations do laptop system manufacturers make?

Laptop system manufacturers may do one or a combination of the following:

  • Enable special features,

    including aggressive power saving and customization for special hardware configurations

  • Create workarounds for known problems associated with drivers

    Reputable system manufacturers thoroughly test each driver before they publish it on their support web site. If they find any problems, they usually incorporate workarounds into their customized driver package.

If you use generic drivers from the device manufacturer, you might miss out on these benefits.

So, what's the best way to ensure that I use the optimal driver for my laptop?

Always use the driver provided by your laptop manufacturer. You should only consider using a driver from an alternative source when your laptop manufacturer doesn't provide one.

It is also recommended that you avoid using the so-called third party Driver Updater programs because these usually use generic driver packages.

How can Battery Life Maxmimzer help you to find the optimal driver for your needs?

As mentioned earlier, Battery Life Maximizer quickly and easily screens your computer and identifies which drivers are not battery optimized.

In addition, starting in Version 2.3, Battery Life Maximizer now helps you to identify, download and install the optimal driver from your system manufacturer's support web site.

Screenshot: Battery Life Maximizer - Driver Install dialog

Battery Life Maximizer currently supports Hewlett-Packard (business model only) and Dell laptops and we are working hard to add additional manufacturers in the near future.


5/25/2014 Update: Most of the Toshiba (models sold in the US), Hewlett-Packard, and Dell laptops are supported as of Battery Life Maximizer 2.3.5

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