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I Need Help with Wireless Drivers


Last Reviewed: 21-Sep-2017
Article ID: 000025498

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I want to understand the difference between a wireless adapter and a driver.
  • An adapter is typically physical hardware like a card or a dongle.
    A wireless adapter may contain one or more wireless components. For example, the Intel® Wireless-N 7260 consists of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® Technology. The Intel® Tri-Band Wireless-AC 18265 consists of Intel® WiGig, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Technology.

  • A driver is the software or program that controls the hardware.
    It allows an operating system or other software application to interact with the hardware. Hardware communicates in a specific way that only the appropriate driver can comprehend. The driver translates the common language used by an operating system to the language that the hardware understands. Different operating systems and adapters require different drivers because they each communicate differently.

Can you provide an example?
An example of the driver communicating between the operating system and the hardware, is turning Wi-Fi on or off via the Windows Menu*. Windows tells the wireless driver to turn the physical wireless adapter on or off.

How do I know what drivers I need?

A driver is a program that controls a particular type of device attached to your computer. You can have device drivers for display, audio, and so on.
An Intel® Wireless Adapter requires one driver for each of its components. Some adapters consist of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Technology, so they require drivers for each. It needs a Wi-Fi driver to communicate with the Wi-Fi, and a Bluetooth Driver for the Bluetooth Technology. So depending on your adapter and operating system, you can determine what drivers you need.

Why is it important to have the most up-to-date device driver?
Updated versions of device drivers contain more fine-tuned instructions for your devices, allowing them to perform better.

Why is it important to know the operating system of your device?
Before you load a device driver on your computer, make sure you know the operating system you use on your computer. The driver you load for a device on a PC running Microsoft Windows® is completely different from the driver you load using a Linux-based system.

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