Drivers are vital pieces of software in your PC. Essentially, every bit of hardware that plugs into your computer needs a driver of some kind to work properly. Everything from gaming controllers to drawing tablets need drivers, but does your CPU need its down driver?
Your CPU is designed to work without a driver, but it does have a connection to your motherboard’s BIOS which is a bit like a super-powered driver. A CPU with an integrated graphics card will often need driver updates to keep the graphics card portion working. Updating your drivers throughout your PC can help improve performance for your CPU.
Every PC pro should know these key facts about CPUs and drivers.
A Quick Overview of What CPUs Are (And How They Work)
Your CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the core of your PC. A CPU handles all of the basic computations that allow operating systems and software to work. Whether you’re just answering emails or you’re playing the latest games, your CPU is hard at work taking care of all of the math that your computer runs on!
A CPU almost works like magic. It’s so vital to all of the technology in your PC that it often feels like it’s not there unless you start to overheat and your CPU throttles your PC to save itself from the burn! It’s certainly not going to bug you for updates as much as your web browser.
Your CPU will virtually never need any kind of update until it’s time to replace the physical piece of hardware. There is one big thing about CPUs that we have to discuss: If most of the hardware on your PC uses drivers, does your CPU need a driver?
Do CPUs Need Drivers?
CPUs almost never need a driver. Your CPU is the most basic piece of computational hardware on your PC and, as such, it doesn’t need a driver to communicate with your operating system. However, a CPU with a built-in graphics card will likely need drivers and driver updates for that graphics card.
Your CPU is the core of your computer. This is just as true for high-end gaming PCs as it is for your iPhone. The CPU is an essential component of your PC, likely the most essential component, and it’s designed to not need drivers to work.
A CPU that has an integrated graphics card will probably need drivers to work properly:
Your graphics card is a specialized piece of hardware that needs drivers in order to function. This means a CPU that’s also a graphics card will have some use for drivers in order to make sure its functions work properly.
Finally, whilst specific drivers might not be required, additional software like the AMD Ryzen Master can help enhance the performance of your CPU. But why aren’t drivers specifically required? Let’s find out.
What Even Is A Driver?
We’ve already covered some driver 101, but what even is a computer driver? This is a little hard to answer because drivers are very different from each other and have a wide variety of jobs. In short, a driver acts as as a bridge that connects your CPU and operating system with a piece of third-party technology.
When a piece of software on your computer needs to interact with a device, it uses drivers to get the job done. Here’s how this works.
Your software will ask your operating system for data from your hardware. A good example would be a video game asking for inputs from a controller. Your operating system then asks the driver for that hardware for the data.
Drivers act as translators that can take the data from hardware and send it to the operating system in a way it can understand.
Your CPU is just doing all of the raw calculations. Drivers really never, or almost never, enter into the equation for the types of computing your CPU is up to. CPUs are just too basic, too essential, to be bogged down with the details of what all those ones and zeros are up to. But having said that, general BIOS and chipset updates can (and often do) impact on your CPU.
Does Your CPU Have Updates?
If your CPU doesn’t have drivers—most of the time—then it’s also going to stand to reason that it won’t have any updates. Your CPU itself will likely only ever see an update when you replace it for the next model. The programming inside of the CPU is pretty fundamental and doesn’t need the regular tuning that other software requires.
However there are chipset updates, that affect some of the CPU’s subsidiary functions (such as power management and interfacing with PCIe devices). Whilst these can’t re-write the software embedded on your CPU, they do often change how parts of the CPU interacts with your operating system.
Equally you might get updates for your CPU if it has built in graphics processing. This isn’t really for the CPU itself, but for the graphics card that is integrated into the CPU.
You also might need to update the settings on your CPU from time to time. In your BIOS menu, you can change settings like the CPU clock speed. You can do this to overclock to improve performance or underclock to save on energy and lower heat.
Now that we have mentioned the BIOS, does that have any updates?
What About BIOS Updates?
You know how we just talked about how CPUs are magic pieces of technology that don’t need any support, well, that might have oversimplified things.
Your CPU has something like a driver in the form of your motherboard’s BIOS. The BIOS is software built into your motherboard that communicates with most of the hardware that plugs into your mobo.
In fact, if your BIOS is so important that it plays a role in CPU and motherboard compatibility. Not every CPU works with every mobo. Just like drivers can’t control every piece of hardware, not every mobo can “control” every CPU.
Now that we’re starting to sketch out how your BIOS is a little bit like a very complex driver, do they need updates too?
You’ll go through a few BIOS updates in the history of owning your PC. It’s not as common as other core updates, but a BIOS improvement happens every now and then.
How to Update Your BIOS
Your BIOS should automatically update. Most PC users never really interact with the BIOS and it’s designed to be fairly independent. Changing BIOS settings is way more complicated, and risky, than simply changing your PC’s wallpaper. Your BIOS is a little out of reach in order to keep the core functions of your hardware intact.
Even though your BIOS is so far out of the way when it comes to ease of access. However, you can manually update your BIOS if necessary.
Here’s how it’s done.
- Download the latest BIOS / UEFI. You can get this from the motherboard’s manufacturer’s website
- Unzip the BIOS / UEFI and copy to a blank USB flash drive
- Restart your computer
- Press F10, F12, DEL, or the designated BIOS key for your PC
- Enter the BIOS / UEFI menu
- Navigate the menu to find the update option
- Update your BIOS / UEFI by following the on-screen instructions specific for your mobo
This is what I needed to do when I first built my Ryzen 5900X PC, since the Asus motherboard’s BIOS was quite out of date:
Why Driver Updates Matter For Your CPU?
While your CPU might not need a driver to hold its hand, that doesn’t mean that your other component’s drivers don’t have an impact on your CPU.
Maybe it would be helpful to draw an analogy for a moment. If you filled a classic muscle car with rusty parts, even the most powerful engine would struggle to move that heap of rust. The same is true for CPUs.
Even the biggest and baddest CPUs will struggle if they are stuck dealing with a bunch of outdated drivers throughout your PC. Outdated drivers slow down overall performance and this just adds more work to your CPU.
Keeping your drivers up-to-date is great for both performance and efficiency in your CPU, along with other necessary functions like ensuring that your system audio works as expected.
How to Update General Drivers
Now that you’re a master of drivers and CPUs, let’s cover updating the various drivers in your PC. There’s two things we need to do first to simplify the process.
Your drivers can sometimes be updated along with your BIOS. Ensuring that your PC is running the latest BIOS is the best way to keep things up-to-date across your computer’s systems.
Next, run a good old-fashioned Windows update. This will get your system ready for any manual updates and can even include updates for CPU settings and drivers throughout your PC:
The last step in our CPU journey is doing a manual update for other software related to your CPU. Here’s how you can get that done quickly:
- Head over to the website for the company that made your integrated CPU, such as heading to the AMD “Drivers and Support” page, or the equivalent page for Intel.
- Download the drivers for your chipset or CPU make and model.
- Install those drivers just like you would for any others!
This is usually a simple, quick and risk-free process. It’s less scary than a BIOS update, that’s for sure! (If you’ve never thought of BIOS updates as “scary”, read some stories of people who updated their BIOS during power outages or storms…).
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