I have had occasion over the years to have to reload computers for one reason or another from a standard Windows disc. Recovery discs can be nice because they reload the PC with all drivers and apps installed. But when the owner does not have the driver disc and its a company like E-Machines which don’t always make it easy to find old drivers, you can run into problems. In the past I have done it the hard way looking at the motherboard or expansion cards for a manufacturer and model. Sometimes this works, but with more stuff integrated into the motherboard this can become difficult at times.
The method I have switched to recently is using a USB NIC to connect the PC to Windows Update to see how many drivers I can get from there. I came up with this method because I had a customer with a computer that used to be on dial-up but they switched to DSL. There was a NIC card in the computer but no drivers. I think the computer was supposed to have Vista but had XP on it. So I connected the USB NIC, loaded the driver, and downloaded the internal NIC driver from Windows Update.
The NIC driver is the minimum I like to get from Windows Update because then you can at least remove the USB NIC from the PC. Video drivers are usually easy to get because there are only three main companies to look at. Sound drivers are sometimes a pain though, as well as modems (no one really uses these so you can usually just blow them off), and motherboard drivers.
Another method to use if you just can’t find the driver is to go to driveragent.com and have it scan the PC and tell you what drivers you need. Of course you need an Internet connection first to get to the site so that NIC driver is really crucial to getting the rest of the drivers for the PC. That is why having a USB NIC with drivers handy can help you out in a bind with getting hardware drivers for a computer.