Thursday, August 25, 2011

Operating Systems - Device drivers

You install XP or Vista or windows 7 in any computer, the prime thing that is done, immeditely after installing the operating system is installing of device drivers. Ever wondered what exactly are they ?

" A device driver is a piece of software, that acts as a translator "

You may look at some of my previous posts and there I told you, a compiler is a translator. So, a device driver converts one language code to another language code, hence's it's also a typical compiler.

Consider, we insert a pendrive, the first thing that the operating system does is check for the device driver. If it's not present, then the OS installs it, you can see the pop up on the left bottom corner showing "Installing device driver software" and when it's successfully installed " Your pen drive is ready to use" pops. The reason, why the operating system first checks and does this, is because of the fact that device drivers helps it, to talk with the hardware of the device. Consider the computer passes a high level instruction "copy file - mog.avi". Now our intelligent device driver, converts this into a language that the harware controller that interfaces the pendrive with the computer understands and the task gets done.

Before the invention of device drivers, the task that needs to be done, needed to be partitioned and carried onto different hardware, since there is no communication between them. But now, with a translator, the task can be done smoothly.

Almost every piece of hardware, that is connected to the mother board has a device driver software and they get installed as soon as they are connected. And now a days, most of the device drivers, come bundled with operating system. Windows 7 has almost removed the need for all drivers, except the wifi, and one or two others. And Ubuntu from the beginning had no need for them except the wifi and graphics drivers.

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