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Out of 3, which is the best:

  1. Nvidia's Driver on the cd that came with the card

  2. MS' driver from Windows update

  3. Direct download from Nvidia.com

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4  
Is 3 not obvious? –  Phoshi Mar 4 '10 at 18:51
    
No 3 is not obvious because since windows 7/2008 all kernel mode and driver code must be signed by Windows Compatibility Center or something. –  user27803 Mar 4 '10 at 20:05
2  
Not obvious either when bad drivers will cause physical damage to your card. –  DHayes Mar 7 '10 at 16:46
    
pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2361488,00.asp –  user27803 Mar 24 '10 at 10:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

#3 - Direct download of the WHQL Driver off Nvidia's website.

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2  
+1 Why would you not use the latest driver from the vendor? –  Dave M Mar 4 '10 at 19:03
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0 I would agree with downloading the newest drivers from the Nvidia website. The latest WHQL drivers usually will have updates for newer games and fixes for older games. Take for instance the video card I have now is Nvidia 280gtx, if I had not updated the drivers from the ones that came with the card my drivers would be about 2 years old now. –  OldElfin Mar 4 '10 at 19:29
    
Regarding the latest driver off the vendor, oftentimes these lag behind that of Nvidia's (or ATI for that matter). Most vendors just put a "wrapper" over the Nvidia drivers to add their logo or minor tweaks to the base driver. Also, I don't think vendor drivers even go through a "WHQL" driver certification process with Microsoft. –  cyclo Mar 4 '10 at 22:48

All nvidia cards are based on an Nvidia reference implementation, so there really isn't anything special about any particular card besides the fancy picture they stick on the cover.

So XFX GTX260 = BFG GTX260 = Gainward GTX260 .. they're all the same. minor differences in how they're clocked from the factory and are unlikely to have some "secret sauce" proprietary driver.

You'll want the direct Nvidia driver because that is the one that is updated most often.

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Nvidia's driver that is on the cd that came with the card.

This driver is going to be the most stable and rock solid for your particular card. There is only so much performance that new drivers can really offer, and all too often can a new driver end up causing issues (not just hearsay, have dealt with 2 different cases of this recently). If you want to just install and forget about it, go with what is on the disk.

Edit: As I was saying about updated drivers causing issues. Here's a CURRENT issue where a new driver revision can cause the fan to fail on Nvidia cards, potentially causing PHYSICAL damage.

Bugged Driver Announcement

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most Nvidia cards are pretty much the same with just different badges on - if I buy a card two months later, they will be using the latest version of drivers that was released at the time of making the cds. When I have done big runs (buying 100+ cards) I get the first few with one version then the others with another version... what is shipped really means pretty much nothing. –  William Hilsum Mar 4 '10 at 19:25
    
I seriously doubt that the driver that ships with a card is going to be an untested one. The 2 cases I refer to involve a driver causing the card to lock in a low power mode, crippling performance. Another case caused the framerate in games to be abysmal. A manufacturer won't let something like that out the door. They will ship with a stable driver that lets their product run smooth. Should a problem arise, that will be a lost customer in the future. –  DHayes Mar 4 '10 at 19:32
    
In quite a lot of cases, newer drivers contain plenty of bug fixes and improvements. I've had official drivers that came with the graphics card that were rock solid (or at least I thought they were), yet they had subtle problems (here's what I'm talking about: superuser.com/questions/57239/…). Upgrading to the latest driver both solved those problems and improved performance. –  alex Mar 4 '10 at 19:40

The Microsoft Update is best because

  • it does not contain extra pieces of unnecessary software, only drivers
  • drivers are always signed (nVidia direct drivers can sometimes be unsigned)
  • they have passed through same amount or more tests than nVidia direct ones
  • they keep being updated automatically on background

At the core they are same code made by same people. But what matters is the amount of eyeballs watching after the quality. I can guess that with installing just Microsoft drivers you can get some extra valuable pieces like resetting of some unofficial overclocking made by card manufacturers behind the scene which can help with stability.

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1  
btw. Today Nvidia is recalling their drivers due to overheating problem. –  user27803 Mar 8 '10 at 18:14

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