It is the software which enables an internal or peripheral device to work with a specific operating system.
Where do I get them?
In the case of a laptop, most drivers are proprietary and must be downloaded from the laptop manufacturer. There are very few exceptions to this rule. The most common exception is a wireless adapter, and this is because the adapter is NOT built into the motherboard. It is a replaceable part.
For desktops, the rules change slightly. For the most part, drivers still have to be downloaded from the manufacturer, BUT in more than a few cases, network, video and sound drivers can be updated from the individual device manufacturer. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule. All you can do is look to see what is available.
These are some of the most common websites where you will find drivers for products sold in Canada..
HP desktops, laptops, printers..
Acer desktops, laptops..
Dell desktops, laptops, printers..
Asus laptops, motherboards, pci/pcie adapters..
Realtek network interfaces, sound cards..
nVidia graphics, motherboards..
Creative sound cards, webcams..
Microsoft keyboards, mice, webcams, headsets, joysticks..
Logitech keyboards, mice, webcams, headsets, joysticks..
Canon printers, scanners, cameras..
Assume that the latest driver is the best to use. By 'latest driver', I mean the latest driver to be found on the manufacturer website for the specific device. Do not ever use a driver finder utility. Invariably they find latest drivers, but they do not tell you that the drivers are applicable only to the make but not necessarily the model. Use of the wrong drivers can lead to anything between a minor inconvenience and a full scale crash.
If the latest driver causes your computer grief, roll back the driver and wait for the next release.
If the original driver CD will not work, it is because the box originally containing the hardware device does not have a Windows logo printed or stuck on it for your operating system. The CD will have been produced before your operating system. It is best practice to get drivers from the manufacturer website rather than use early versions on aging CD's.
If there are no drivers available for your operating system, it is because the hardware device has been discontinued and the manufacturer has decided to cut free driver support for the product. This is the point where you go looking for a new make/model either online or in your preferred 'bricks and mortar' store'
It is fashionable to blame Microsoft if a hardware device does not work. Please read the note below.
Note that it is the responsibility of the individual hardware device manufacturer to produce drivers which will enable ALL features of a device. Microsoft is allowed to include generic drivers which enable basic features in the event that a manufacturer has discontinued a product, and generic drivers are ALWAYS included for VGA video, basic keyboard (101 keys) and mouse and basic printers.