Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dell Drivers Drive Traffic?

Y'know what's really weird? I've been using Google Analytics to track the traffic to all of my sites for a few years now. What I really find weird is that the vast majority of traffic that hits my tech-centric ramblings are searches for Windows XP drivers. Still. I mean really, I made one post in January 2008 about how I struggled to find drivers for an Inspiron 531 and that is why people come visit my site?

Okay, for all of you individuals who are desperately seeking drivers, since I have no interest in posting (or hosting) the 150 meg file that I'm sure I still have somewhere on one of my network servers, I'm going to walk you through my process of how I found them. Trust me, there isn't always an easy way, sometimes, you just have to get down-n-dirty with the rest of us and muddle your way through.

Here are my steps to help you find whatever driver you might need to for whatever system you own. I don't care if it's Dell, HP or Apple; they all work roughly the same way.

  1. Go to Google, and type in "drivers" and then your computer's model number. You'll wind up with 156 gagillion hits, the majority of which are worthless sites that will probably do you more harm than good. Don't visit any of them. Let me repeat that part, DON'T VISIT ANY OF THEM. Just don't do it, you'll waste countless hours and become more frustrated than you were at the start. Plus, just for an added bonus, if you do visit some strange site, download something you think will be your salvation, it's probably going to be infested with malware, viruses or a slew of other things you don't want anywhere near your computer. Trust me.
  2. Instead, visit your computer manufacturer's website. Since all of my computers come from Dell, I'd start at I trust Dell. I know who they are, and unless they've been hacked (rare, very rare), I'm probably not going to infest my computer by downloading something from their website.

    Now I know they're support site isn't the best organized site in the world. I know it isn't always easy to find what you want. But this is the single best source for information, drivers and downloads for your Dell computer. They made it, they know what's in it and the resources they have are specific to it. C'mon, give 'em a chance. 
  3. Look for a link that says "Support" and click it. Find the support page for your model number and then look for links that say something like "Drivers" if you're looking for drivers. Or "Manual" if you're looking for the manual that you probably threw out with the box that it came in.

    If you really can't find what you're looking for, then feel free to use Google to search their site instead of whatever search tool they provided for you. The trick is that if you decide to use Google, limit your search to just results that are on Dell's website. How do you do this? Simply add the phrase "" to you Google search. It works. It really works. You'll still want to add your model number and the name of the part that you think needs a driver or what-not, but you're going to save yourself a butt-load of time.
  4. Many of the parts Dell (or whoever) used to make your computer are specially made to meet the manufacturers specifications. Much like the radio in your car may have been made by any one of a number of different manufacturers, but was made to the specifications of Ford, GM or whoever. It may look the same and fit in the same slot, but the innards may be slightly different, but I digress.

    In some cases, it is possible to go the manufacture's web site and down drivers for the individual parts that make up your computer. And no, Dell doesn't manufacture least the don't the last time I checked. The motherboard may be from Intel, Foxconn or a slew of other manufactures. Really the only way you can be sure is to take your computer apart and note part identification numbers on each different component and then do a Google (or Bing, if you must) search to figure out who made it. Then by visiting the individual part manufacturers site, you may be able to find and download the drivers you so desperately need. 
Listen, I'm pretty sure I said this wasn't going to be easy. But it is the way and will ensure that you find the most current versions of your drivers for your particular part in your computer. Once you know who manufactures each and every part in your computer, then you're going to have a much better chance at locating the drivers that will make that specific part work with whatever operating system you happen to be using.

And let me just say, as an aside, if you haven't moved up to Windows 7 yet, what are your waiting for? If you're still looking for XP drivers to keep your old computer running, it really is time to upgrade. My upgrade cycle for desktops is typically 4-6 years - and that usually involves add new components around the 2-3 year mark to keep the system running at what I consider to be an acceptable level. Laptops, I typically replace within 2-3 years. It isn't as easy to upgrade components other than hard drives and memory...and of course a battery which seem to need replacing every 18 months or so.

I'm not saying you should run out to Best Buy and splurge on whatever $1k+ computer they happen to have on sale...but at the very least, go out and look at Dell's Outlet where they sell refurbished and scratch-and-dent PCs. Almost every computer I have is refurbished and I have nothing but praise for them. Sure some have had problems, but Dell's warranty service is always fast and reliable (especially if you add on in-home support when you buy). Plus, if you watch for coupon codes on Dell Outlet's Twitter account you could wind up buying a $1k+ laptop for about half that amount. Even the cheapest laptop or desktop on the site will be a step up...and with prices starting around a few hundred, it's hard to find a better deal. (That's enough of the sales talk, and, for the record, Dell didn't pay me anything for this endorsement!)

If you're wondering if Windows 7 will run on your old Pentium 4, I can't say for sure, but it probably will. And if you do a clean installation when you install it, it will probably run better than your computer ever did. I tested this theory on my father-in-laws seven year old laptop...knowing that if it failed, I'd really look like moron and loose all my geek points with the in-laws. But it worked...and that poor think only had 256 Mb of RAM. How Toshiba even sold it what that little memory, I'll never know, but that's another topic for another post on another day.

Oh, and by the way, that Inspiron 531 that I wanted the drivers for? Well, it's now running Ubuntu Linux full-time and serves as my home theater PC running Boxee. With a new video card, hard drives and memory...after all, it's been more than two years since it appeared on my doorstep!