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What Are Ethernet Controller Drivers?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Ethernet controller drivers sit between a computer’s network system and operating system, facilitating communication between the two parts of the computer. Overall, while network card specific Ethernet controller drivers do exist, they are often of a lower priority than other systems. Most modern operating systems contain default drivers that provide full network access without any additional software. If specific Ethernet controller drivers are required, they may be found on the website of the computer’s assembler or the network card’s manufacturer.

Drivers allow software and hardware to interact more efficiently and help provide a feature-rich environment. Many drivers contain coding that speeds up information transferal and power usage. These features let the computer run faster while interacting with the hardware and reduce the power consumed by the peripheral.

Hardware drivers will also unlock features on a piece of hardware that the software system doesn’t know how to use. Hardware that is more complex is most likely to have these inaccessible features. For example, every personal computer has a video system; it allows the computer to display information on a monitor. The operating system understands how to use the video card well enough to display information, but very little else. By installing the driver that goes along with the specific card, the computer will learn how to use additional features.

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With that being said, network controller cards are typically very simple. Most operating systems don’t require additional Ethernet controller drivers beyond those that come with the system. These are called generic drivers; they work on a wide range of card types and styles, often without any interaction from the user. As a general rule, these drivers rarely need an update or change. Often, the only time the drivers are even considered is when a computer is acting up and the network system seams at fault.

There are three common places to find card specific Ethernet controller drivers. The card may have come with a compact disk that had a set of drivers on it. These drivers are likely several versions out of date and should only be used as a means to find updated drivers online. Many cards no longer come with disks at all; the manufacturers assume users will use generic drivers to go online without installation.

The other two places are both online. If the network card came inside a pre-built computer from a major manufacturer, it is likely that the most up-to-date drivers are on the assembler’s website. These drivers are often tailor-built to match not only the card, but also the assembler’s overall computer design. In addition, the card’s manufacturer will have drivers. In order to find the right drivers, a user needs the make and model of the network card.

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