Drivers. Love them or hate them. They make sure our machines churn away day after day with our hardware working in top condition.
That is until an updated version gets released, and we come to the all-important question of whether we take the risk of possibly getting a better experience or play it safe and stick to the tried-and-tested version.
In this article we take a look at Driverscape, a massive third-party database of free drivers, to let you know whether it’s safe to use or not.
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What Is Driverscape?
Driverscape is a privately compiled third-party catalog of drivers for an array of hardware ranging from graphics cards to motherboards and peripherals, such as USB keyboards, printers or mice.
The team at Driverscape has manually amassed the drivers from official manufacturer websites and categorized them according to device category and manufacturer name allegedly for easy access as a one-stop-shop.
Driverscape claims the drivers are Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certified (Microsoft’s third-party seal of approval) and that it has individually examined each driver for authenticity. The website also offers a treasure trove of historic drivers for hardware that’s no longer in production or supported by the manufacturer.
Additionally, Driverscape proposes a Driver Update Utility compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10, that scans your computer to identify any obsolete and missing drivers and then proposes the option of downloading and installing replacements.
Is There A Need To Use Driverscape?
The question isn’t so much whether Driverscape is safe, but rather whether there is or not a real need to obtain drivers via third-party driver update software or install them manually from the Driverscape library.
The short answer is: no.
Windows does a stellar job of keeping all critical hardware up to date with tried-and-tested drivers that have Microsoft’s blessing. There’s virtually no need to update drivers manually for the majority of devices.
If a driver desperately needs updating and Windows falls short, the first port of call is always the support page of the device manufacturer’s website, where you’ll find the most up-to-date driver. By doing so, you’ll get guaranteed authenticity and a download free of any potential trojans, malware or rootkits.
This approach is particularly crucial for graphics cards with Nvidia and AMD, both providing ample options to obtain the latest drivers through proprietary software, such as GeForce Experience and AMD Radeon Software, or by visiting their respective websites (including legacy drivers for older graphics cards).
Is Driverscape Safe?
As for safety, we do discourage downloading the Driverscape Driver Update Utility. Any third-party software that scans your computer and offers to download drivers is a sure-fire way to invite a host of problems. It’s a prime vehicle for the more evil forces of the internet to gain access to your machine through spyware and malware.
Additionally, the utility scans for out-of-date drivers without considering stability or how old your hardware is. Downloading proposed replacements could lead to unforeseen problems and instability. In most cases, the device already has the most recent driver, even though it may be a few years old. More often than not, the manufacturer has stopped updating it.
To give Driverscape its due, Driver Update Utility doesn’t request money after running an initial cursory scan as counterpart driver utilities do. All things considered, this is far too little to give it legitimacy.
Windows takes care of critical security problems and vulnerabilities via regular updates. As for the rest — excluding graphics cards that benefit from frequently updating to the latest manufacturer-vetted drivers (you’ll be prompted to download these by the proprietary programs from Nvidia and the like anyway) — always go by the mantra of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
In general, there’s absolutely no sense in trawling through manufacturer driver lists looking for the latest driver for a Wi-Fi adapter if it’s working without any issues.
Using Driverscape As A Last Resort
Although the above has hopefully highlighted the inherent risk of using third-party sites, Driverscape can be useful if you’re hunting down a driver produced by a now-defunct vendor or a device that no longer appears on a manufacturer’s support page.
If, for some reason, you’re tracking down the last known driver for a sound card made in the early 2000s, Driverscape is a blessing. It may be among a handful of places on the internet where the driver is available and definitely among the more accessible of these.
We will only recommend you to approach it with caution:
- Ensure you download files individually.
- Never use the site’s proprietary utility.
- Run any downloaded drivers through a robust, up-to-date anti-virus and scan them with trusted malware-removal software before using them. Any eye-browsing signs and you should stop.
Stories of Driverscape files planting not only fake drivers but trojans litter forums across the internet. Still, the majority of these posts are a few years old, and it appears Driverscape has cleaned up its act in the meantime.
The Final Word
To sum up, manufacturer websites are unequivocally the way to go to obtain drivers. In the unlikely scenario of obsolete or hard-to-find drivers, Driverscape has its uses, but go forth with utmost caution.