Device drivers are critical of many reasons. They sit between the operating system and an internal or external device. They have to operate inside the operating system itself, unlike applications. If the driver is flaky, the whole system will crash, unlike application crashes.
This is the reason why I think when shopping for external gear such as external audio devices, the quality and support of the device driver is as important as the quality of the DAC (digital to analog conversion), or the ADC (analog to digital conversion) circuits.
One way to check this out is to do a web search and find out if a certain vendor and product is mentioned a lot, either positively, or negatively. Another thing is to stress-test the device connection. One way is to put the laptop or computer to sleep mode, and restart it, and see if the device is still talking to the computer. If this is a problem, you need to constantly restart the laptop for live performances — actually if possible this is good to do, anyway, so that any issues with broken device drivers might not happen during the show.
I’ve written six entries about computers and audio now, so I will switch to write a set about mastering.