Drivers, love them or hate them, they make sure our machines churn away day after day with our hardware working in tip-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 give in to the tried and tested.
Here, we take a look at Driverscape, a massive third-party database of free drivers and the crucial question of whether its safe to use.
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, and 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.
Driverscape also proposes a Driver Update Utility compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10, that scans your computer to identify on any obsolete and missing drivers 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 is there a 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, then 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 guarantee authenticity and a download free of any potential trojans, malware, or rootkits.
This approach is particularly relevant 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 strongly recommend against 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. Notwithstanding, it’s a prime vehicle for the more nefarious 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 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 isn’t broke, 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 are 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, then 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.
Approach with caution and ensure you download files individually and 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 there and then.
Stories of Driverscape files planting not only fake drivers, but trojans litter forums across the internet, but the majority of these posts are a few years old, and it appears Driverscape has cleaned up its act in the interim.
The Final Word
To summarize, manufacturer websites are unequivocally the way to go to obtain drivers. In the unlikely scenario of obsolete and hard to find drivers, then Driverscape has its uses but go forth with utmost caution.