When a reader upgraded his laptop to Windows 7, he found that many of the software drivers for external devices did not work. Our Helproom Expert explains how to update software drivers in Windows 7.

QUESTION Following an upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, my laptop has begun reporting ‘Device not recognised' error messages for USB devices. My research suggests that a driver update is required. Why doesn't Microsoft issue new drivers with Windows 7? I attempted to update an ATI graphics driver manually, but couldn't find it on AMD's website. Windows' Device Manager reports that the latest drivers are installed, although some are five years old. WBA Ecclestone

HELPROOM ANSWER The most reliable solution we've found to this problem sounds unlikely, but works more often than fiddling with drivers. Shut down your laptop, unplug it from the mains and remove the battery. After 10 minutes you can reinstall the battery and boot up the laptop.

There are programs that offer to keep an eye on your applications and auto-update drivers as they become available, but if your system is working well then they're often best avoided. The exception is with drivers that were designed to fix a particular issue, boost performance or add new features.

Microsoft included new drivers with Windows 7 and continues to deliver them through Windows Update. However, these generic drivers are often less sophisticated than those you can obtain directly from device manufacturers. Although Microsoft provides everything necessary to get the device working, you may find that extra features are missing, such as greater control

over settings or a more sophisticated user interface. An example of such a device is an all-in-one printer that's supplied with template software and sample images. For products such as these, it's worth visiting the manufacturer's website and downloading the latest software.

You don't mention the model name of your graphics card. Although AMD supports ATI products released in the past few years, it's unlikely to find support for products older than this. You can still install the Windows Vista Catalyst Display Driver 10.2 under Windows 7, however.

Because you're using a laptop, the process for updating graphics drivers is a little different to that for desktop PCs. Desktop users download and install the latest software from the graphics chip vendor's website, but laptop users will usually need to visit the support section of their laptop manufacturer's website.

Using a five-year-old driver is not in itself a problem. There's no reason for newer drivers to be released if the existing ones are stable and work properly.

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