Device drivers are programs that provide an interface between general-use software (such as an operating system) and specific hardware or software modules. With personal computers (PCs), device drivers are often packaged as dynamic link library (DLL) files. The operating system (OS) determines how connected devices are controlled. In turn, the device driver translates OS-mandated function calls into device-specific calls. Without the correct device drivers, hardware devices and software applications will not function properly. Common types of products include printer driver software, scanner driver software, Windows drivers and Linux drivers. Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Many different types of printer scanner driver software and printer driver scanner software are commonly available.
Device drivers work with an operating system in a variety of ways. For example, printer driver software converts data that is to be printed to a format specific to the printer. The installation of proper printer driver software enables applications such as Microsoft Word to print documents to a specific type of printer. Scanner driver software translates the data used by the Windows or Linux operating systems into a format that a specific type of scanner can understand. Other Windows drivers and Linux drivers enable their respective operating systems to use computer hardware such as video cards, keyboards, and mice. In this way, software drivers are small but important software programs that explain to an operating system how a piece of hardware works.
There are many applications for device drivers. Some products are suitable for interfacing with printers, scanners, video adapters, network cards, or storage cards. Others are designed for computer storage devices such as hard drives or compact disc read-only memory (CD-ROM) drives. Companies such as National Instruments may provide guidelines for designing hardware-compatible software drivers. Software driver suppliers are located across the United States and around the world.