A driver is a critical piece of software that relays commands from the OS to the hardware. It’s necessary for the efficient functioning of every device connected to your system, be it the mouse, keyboard, disk driver, display, and network adapters, amongst others. With Wi-Fi connectivity gaining traction in recent years, the need for an optimal Wi-Fi driver emerges.

Generally, the drivers that come pre-installed work just fine, and you need not interfere. Also, Windows downloads and installs the relevant driver when you connect a new device, thus making it even easier for you as a user. This is the reason why most people are not acquainted with the process of installing or updating a driver.

If you are connecting an external wireless adapter, you will have to install the relevant driver. Also, if there is an update available, it’s likely to improve your experience, and you would want to update the Wi-Fi driver. Here’s how you can do that.

Install from the Disc that Came Along with the External Wi-Fi Adapter

Note: Before we move to the methods pertaining to update, you will first have to install the driver. Although you can both install and update the driver with methods mentioned later in the article, this method will solely install it.

Most of the external Wi-Fi adapters that you find these days come with a disc that has the relevant driver. Simply put the disc in, install the driver, and the wireless adapter will be set for use.

If you are asked to install a third-party app to update the driver, it’s recommended that you don’t. Windows is more than capable of updating the driver after installation, so you shouldn’t rely on third-party apps. They hog the system resources and are of no significant benefit.

Install or Update Wifi Driver from Windows Update

You can also download and install the Wi-Fi driver with Windows Update. The process is actually pretty simple; thus, you should try this first before moving on to the other methods.

Connect the wireless adapter and wait for Windows to locate and install the driver. If it doesn’t, execute the following steps to check if there’s one in Windows Update.

To install the Wi-Fi driver, right-click on the ‘Start Icon’ in the Taskbar or press WINDOWS + X to launch the Quick Access menu, and select ‘Settings’ from the list of options that appear. Alternatively, you can press WINDOWS + I to launch the ‘Settings’ app directly.

In Settings, click on the ‘Windows Update’ tab at the left.

Next, select ‘Advanced options’ on the right.

In the ‘Advanced Options’ window, click on ‘Optional updates’ under ‘Additional options’.

If you see a driver for the Wi-Fi adapter, tick the checkbox for it and then click on ‘Download & install’ under it.

If prompted, restart the PC after the driver is installed or updated for the changes to come into effect.

Install or Update from Device Manager

You can also update the Wi-Fi driver on a Windows 11 PC using the ‘Device Manager’, a built-in utility that allows you to view and modify the various hardware connected to the system.

To update the Wi-Fi driver from the Device Manager, press WINDOWS+S to launch the ‘Search’ menu, type ‘Device Manager’ in the text field at the top, and click on the relevant search result.

Next, locate the ‘Network adapters’ option and double-click on it to view the various devices under it.

Next, locate the ‘Wi-Fi’ adapter, right-click on it, and select ‘Update driver’ from the context menu.

You will now find two options listed here, either to Windows search for the best available driver on your system or locate and install one manually. It’s recommended that you let Windows take care of the update, thus select the first option.

Note: The second option, ‘Browse my computer for drivers’, can be used if you have downloaded one off the web. We have discussed this option in the next method.

If there’s an update or a better driver available on your system, Windows will install it, and you will be informed.

Download the WiFi Driver from the Manufacturer's Website

If a disc didn’t arrive with the wireless adapter or your system doesn’t have a disc drive, and Windows Update couldn’t locate one, you can also download the driver from the manufacturer’s official website or Microsoft Update Catalog. Almost all manufacturers upload the driver to their websites for the users to install.

If you can access the internet on the current system, use it to execute the following steps or use another computer with a stable internet connection. Since the process is lengthy, we have split it into steps for easy understanding.

It’s recommended that you create a restore point before proceeding so that you can restore your system in case things don’t go as planned after the driver installation or update.

Step 1: Identify the Current Wi-Fi Adapter Name and Driver Version

Note: If you are updating the driver, you will first have to identify the adapter name and the current driver version. If you are installing it afresh, you can skip this step.

To identify the adapter name and the current driver version, launch the ‘Device Manager’ as discussed earlier, locate the ‘Wi-Fi’ adapter under ‘Network adapters’, right-click on it, and select ‘Properties’ from the context menu.

Next, navigate to the ‘Driver’ tab, and you will find the ‘Wi-Fi’ adapter name mentioned at the top and the driver version under it.

Step 2: Download the Driver by

Once you have all the relevant information, you can proceed to download the update. To download, you need to do a Google search using three keywords, your ‘Laptop Model’, ‘OS’, and ‘Adapter Name’.

From the Google search results, locate the manufacturer’s official website, verify if there’s an update available using the current driver version you identified earlier, and download if one is available.

Step 3: Install the Driver

After downloading the driver, the last step is to install it. There are primarily two types of driver files you would come across, ‘.exe’ ones and ‘.cab’ ones. Here’s how you can install each.

Note: If you intend to install the driver on the same PC, follow the step as it is. However, if you want to install the driver on another PC, copy the downloaded driver file to a USB driver, transfer the file to the system you want to install it on, and then execute the steps.

Installing ‘.exe’ Driver File

If the download file is in the ‘.exe’ format, simply double-click on it to launch the installer. Click ‘Yes’ if a UAC box pops up.

Once the installer launches, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process.

After the installation is complete, restart the PC to bring the changes into effect.

Installing ‘.cab’ Driver Files

For ‘.cab’ files, you will first have to extract them. You can either open the ‘.cab’ file and copy the constituents to a different folder or use the ‘7-zip‘ app to extract it.

After extracting the files, launch the ‘Device Manager’ as discussed earlier, locate the ‘Wi-Fi’ adapter, right-click on it, and select ‘Update Driver’ from the context menu.

Now, select the ‘Browse my computer for drivers’ option.

Next, click on ‘Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer’.

You will now have a list of the compatible drivers listed. If you don’t find the one you just downloaded, click on ‘Have Disk’.

Now, click on ‘Browse’ at the bottom to navigate and select the downloaded file.

Next, locate the folder you extracted the ‘.cab’ files to, select the ‘.inf’ file, and click on ‘Open’ at the bottom.

Next, click on ‘OK’.

The selected driver will now be listed, click on ‘Next’ to proceed.

Wait for a few moments for the installation to complete and once it’s done, the screen will read ‘Windows has successfully updated your drivers’. Close the update drivers windows and the Device Manager, and restart the system.

If you come across any other file type for the driver, the process would be similar and with the understanding of these two, you would be able to install it easily.

After updating the driver, you are likely to have a finer and more refined experience. However, if updating the driver introduces instability, you can always roll back the driver update.