A graphics driver is the software that allow your operating system and programs to use your computer’s graphics hardware.
Updates to your computer’s motherboard, sound card, and network drivers don’t generally give speed improvements.
They will often fix rare bugs – and maybe even introduce new bugs.
However, this is not the case with updated drivers for your graphics card, also known as a GPU or video card.
NVIDIA and AMD both frequently release new graphics drivers that often give major performance improvements, particularly for newer games.
With Intel getting serious about integrated graphics performance with their upcoming Haswell graphics architecture, they are now starting to release more frequent video driver updates, too.
Here is a snapshot of the changelog from NVIDIA’s most recent graphics driver package, released on January 5, 2013: These sorts of performance increases in updated graphics drivers are not uncommon.
While newer games like Far Cry 3 saw significant improvements (up to 38% on some hardware), even older games like Skyrim and Starcraft II saw a significant increase in performance.
NVIDIA may be overstating the performance increases you will get, and it probably won’t be as pronounced on older graphics cards. Some newer games may refuse to run with old, unoptimized graphics drivers installed.
Of course, if you never play PC games on your computer and don’t care about 3D graphics performance, you don’t really need to update your graphics drivers at all.
There is a variety of ways to identify your computer’s graphics hardware, including third-party system information utilities like Speccy.
However, you can get this information right from the Windows Device Manager.