A computer’s mainboard is a piece of hardware that connects all the different areas of a computer together. A driver is a piece of software that connects a computer’s hardware systems to its software systems. Since both the computer’s mainboard and drivers are so important, mainboard drivers are essential to a smooth running computer. In general, you can find mainboard drivers from the board’s manufacturer or, if the system came preassembled, the computer’s manufacturer.
In most cases, a totally bare bones mainboard will only have a driver for the chipset. The chipset helps a computer transfer information from the various components quickly and efficiently. This driver should be kept as up-to-date as possible. Very few modern mainboards have as few functions as that. In many cases, mainboard drivers cover a wide range of built-in functions on the computer’s system. Even though the mainboard and drivers are important, these driver updates have a range of necessity.
Some mainboard drivers relate to the computer’s drive connections. These drivers are called integrated drive electronics (IDE); serial advanced technology attachment (SATA); and redundant array of independent disks (RAID); they have varying importance. In most cases, updates to these drivers are minor, and most users won’t notice a difference. Occasionally, however, updating these drivers can result in an improvement in a drive system’s transfer time — something that is very noticeable.
Mainboards may also offer updates to the system’s port drivers. These updates, usually to firewire or universal serial bus (USB) ports, are similar in importance to drive updates. While most of the time they won’t do much, occasionally they will do a lot.
Other common mainboard drivers relate to the computers integrated features. Many modern mainboards have built-in sound and network features. These areas are covered by local area network (LAN) drivers and audio drivers. In most cases, these drivers are unimportant; an update won’t typically have any direct impact on the system’s performance. While there is no harm in updating these, many users only update these if there if a problem with the current drivers.
Another common driver is for integrated video. This type of driver is common on laptops, but much less so for desktops. This driver is typically available from the board manufacturer as well as the video chip manufacturer. Updating this can be very important if the system uses graphic intensive functions such as video editing, rendering or video games. If the system doesn’t use any of these functions, then the update is much less important.