If you connect your computer to an external device, they may not talk to each other right away. You might need software to facilitate communication between the two devices. That piece of code is called “driver.”
A computer will only detect and successfully send print instructions to a printer if the necessary drivers are installed. You cannot connect the printer to your system and expect them to work right out of the gate.
However, many external devices can talk to a computer without installing drivers separately—for instance, a mouse, keyboard, headphones, etc.
Similarly, plug in a USB cable, and your computer will detect it instantly and ask how you would like the USB-connected device to behave on your system.
So, do HDMI cables work just like USB or support plug-and-play too? Or do they require special drivers to work? Read on to find that out and more.
What are Drivers?
A driver is a group of files instructing a computer or another piece of hardware (such as printers, graphics cards, etc.) on how to interact with the device’s operating system.
Also called device drivers or software drivers, drivers allow a piece of hardware to communicate with another electronic device—for instance, a personal computer with a printer.
A computer has a panoply of drivers—some preinstalled and others set up separately. Without them, the machine’s software and hardware will not talk to each other.
In other words, your computer display will not increase or decrease in brightness in response to your inputs if the required drivers are not in place.
Why Do Most Devices Don’t Require Drivers?
The CPU, cooling fan, heat sink, hard drive, keyboard, mouse, etc., don’t require discrete drivers because those are prebuilt into the OS.
Windows, macOS, Linux, and other modern operating systems employ device drivers to access all hardware.
An external keyboard works immediately after you plug it into your computer’s USB port because the OS already has the necessary drivers for the accessory as an aspect of its distribution.
Certain devices have non-standard features that need specific drivers to use. HDMI is or has no “non-standard” feature.
Suppose the aforementioned keyboard is unique or has non-standard characteristics unknown to a particular OS. In that case, separate drivers could be required for those specific features.
Plugging it in without the drivers will not render the keyboard useless. It will continue to work but without the glitzy features.
Printers almost always don’t communicate with your computer sans drivers as they come in varied types and accomplish different things, rendering a universal driver for printers implausible.
Computers that don’t have an OS preinstalled require drivers, depending on the later operating system installed and the drivers that come in with the retrofitted OS.
Does HDMI Require Drivers?
No, HDMI doesn’t require separate drivers to be installed before use. The arrangement is usually plug-and-play.
However, the word “drivers” gets used in the same sentence as HDMI because the devices it connects to should have their drivers up to date. If not, audio or video may not go through.
Is HDMI Not Working a Driver Issue?
Your HDMI connection may not work properly for different reasons. The most common cause is a loose connection or broken cable/connector.
At times, the HDMI port it connects to could be damaged. If you’re using an HDMI adapter to bridge two different reasons, the linking device could be the issue too.
The HDMI port on your laptop may not work if newly installed apps interfere. Uninstalling the apps and rebooting the device will rectify the problem.
The “driver” conversation usually arises vis-à-vis an HDMI setup when connecting a laptop to an external monitor, and the image looks disproportionate on the latter.
In such scenarios, the “display adapters” driver may require updating, which you can do so manually in your computer’s settings or by using third-party software.
Letting the device do the searching for a suitable adapter is recommended, particularly if you’re not tech-savvy.
Manual driver updates can be challenging to pull off correctly since the process entails patience and skills to look for the correct driver online.
The need to update the display adapter or graphics driver arises when the existing driver is corrupted, outdated, or incompatible with the computer’s OS.
To conclude, HDMI doesn’t require drivers, which is why the interface is ubiquitous.
Although installing drivers isn’t necessarily a complex or time-consuming process, it’s an additional step.
And there’s always the outside chance of installing the wrong driver or getting it from the wrong source. Drivers could also have malware like any piece of software.
If HDMI were to come with added features foreign to modern operating systems, those might require installing drivers.
But during the two decades of its presence, HDMI hasn’t introduced a non-standard feature necessitating discrete drivers.
It’s, therefore, safe to assume HDMI is unlikely to come with an added feature that you can enable only with separate device drivers.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.