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Updating drivers is something any serious gamer/graphics appreciator must do on a regular basis. New drivers from AMD and NVIDIA add optimised support for specific game titles, improve overall performance, make the most of hardware and so on. They also address any issues the engineers notice over time or as a result of community feedback. Despite a more streamlined process, driver updates can still cause some issues. This is especially the case if you skip driver versions, for example go from version 1.2.1 to version 1.2.5 directly. You may find that such a move could cause all kinds of incompatibilities and problems. This is why both GPU makers and experienced users recommend a proper driver wipe whenever upgrading.

This AMD-based card wants the latest drivers

Now, if this is a new build and you simply have no driver installed for your graphics card yet, the situation is simpler. Just go to the official AMD or NVIDIA sites and get the latest driver for your GPU. These are usually arranged by series, so the entire Radeon HD 6000 series from AMD will have the same driver suite, and so on. Yes, ASUS and all other hardware makers will give you a driver disc in the box but that’s mostly a courtesy these days, and of course for people who don’t have internet access temporarily for whatever reason. If you’re able to go online, leave the disc alone and get the latest drivers from the respective site.

An NVIDIA-based card. No prizes for guessing what this guy craves

If you already have a card or are changing cards (as opposed to a fresh build), here’s the ritual I personally recommend.

  1. Uninstall current drivers. Find the driver file you downloaded last time, click it and choose the uninstall function. Always use the express option rather than a custom install/uninstall, this makes life a lot easier. This is what is called the official uninstall, but it’s not enough. If you can’t find the file for the current driver you have installed, don’t worry, just go to the next step.
  2. Download CCleaner from the wonderful people at Piriform. This is a nominally free program that cleans your computer and can even wipe a hard drive, but if possible, you should choose to pay for it to support them. If not, that’s fine, too. Once CCleaner downloads, install it, and run analyze. This will bring up tons of files that you can remove to make your PC run faster and leaner. Remove them while you’re at it, but remember this will delete stuff like internet search history and cookies. Then, choose the Tools tab. Look up any files with ATI/AMD or NVIDIA in the name and uninstall them. This will be a deeper uninstall than the official one we did in the step above.
  3. Download Driver Sweeper from the equally awesome people at Guru3D. This is another free program that specialises in removing drivers, as the name quite clearly suggests.
  4. After Driver Sweeper downloads, install it, then restart your PC.
  5. Keep hitting F8 while the PC restarts to get to the boot menu, and choose Safe Mode.
  6. When in Safe Mode, run Driver Sweeper. It will bring up a choice of drivers to remove by brand, like ATI – display, NVIDIA – display, and so on. Choose the one applicable to you, then remove.
  7. Restart your PC, go to Windows as normal. Of course, by this juncture your PC will have no graphics card drivers, so it will revert to good old fashioned VGA and everything will look like it’s 1995 again. Do not panic.
  8. Go to the official AMD or NVIDIA site, whichever applies in your case, and find the LATEST version of the driver for your card series. Download it to your desktop, and keep the file there where you can easily find it next time you need to update.
  9. Run the driver installer from your desktop. You’ll probably get a notice that a driver folder doesn’t exist, so just say yes to creating a new one. Choose express install, like I said before, it’s the easiest way and ensures you’re in line with what AMD and NVIDIA are expecting your PC to do. For 99.9% of users, this is more than fine.
  10. Restart your PC. Boot into Windows as normal. You now have fresh drivers. Enjoy. Well, enjoy for a month until the next update. Muhahahaha.

CCleaner from Piriform in action

Driver Sweeper from Guru3D does its thing

If you have your own driver ritual, let’s hear about it in the comments section below!

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