32 bit drivers
In 32 bit operating systems, you use 32 bit drivers instead of ROM BIOS. This means that software suppliers like Microsoft and IBM must be able to supply drivers to all conceivable hardware. The advantage is, that once the operating system has installed drivers, all user programs operate alike relative to hardware.
It is an enormous project to supply drivers. Especially OS/2 has suffered problems in getting the right drivers on the market. For many years, IBM for example did not supply OS/2 drivers for Canon printers. That was part of my reason to drop that operating system. Regarding driver installations, Windows 98 is unquestionably the best operating system.
Windows supports plug and play. The operating system searches the PC for hardware. Often all drivers (to CD-ROM, network controller, sound card, etc.) are installed automatically. The drivers can be seen under System in the control panel.
Let us look at a EIDE hard disk. The hard disk operation is regulated by an EIDE controller on the system board. Therefore, Windows must have a driver installed to this controller. We can find it easily. Go to: My computer -> Control panel -> System -> Computer. In Windows 2000 you should click on Device manager:
Then expand the entries to hardware units:
Actually, you can see a long list of drivers in the picture above. Windows has installed most of them during Windows installation. An VIA Bus Master IDE controller, which regulates the hard disk can be found:
I always have these drivers on the hard disk (in the folder C:\Disks\Drivers). That makes it easy to install them after an unforeseen but necessary re-installation of Windows .
The quality of the drivers is very important. The drivers are extremely important for video cards. You often hear that a new driver has been developed for this video card and it improves performance by 40%. Then rush to download it (from the manufacturers Internet server) and install it.Don't forget to save it on disk for future use!
You also have to be cognizant about the system board chip set. Often Windows 98 installs a good standard driver, but new chipsets may contain facilities which require a new driver. That can be found on a disk, which comes with the system board or on the Internet.
Installation of new drivers
Don't let Windows search for hardware. Instead choose yourself. Then you have to select the particular hardware from the list and in the next screen click "Have diskette... " Learn this technique if you experiment with your PC and want maximal benefits from your hardware.
Also see The Windows 98 page (module 6d)
Read about chip sets on the motherboard in module 2d
Read module 5a about expansion cards, where we evaluate the I/O buses from the port side.