Whether you’re moving from an older driver to a newer one or replacing your video card altogether, properly uninstalling your drivers is a critical component of system maintenance. In this guide, we’ll walk through using AMD’s standard utility for driver removal, as well as discussing whether or not you need to use a third-party tool.
It’s best to download the new driver you intend to use before uninstalling the old one. While this isn’t absolutely required, there’s a necessary reboot between uninstalling one driver and reinstalling the other (and we recommend rebooting between the two steps in any case). Once the system is rebooted, it’ll typically be running at a lower resolution and menus may be harder to navigate as a result. It’s just easier to download the replacement driver first.
The first uninstallation step is extremely simple. You can use either the “Add/Remove Programs” menu from the Windows Settings menu or “Programs and Features” if you prefer to use the Windows 7-style Control Panel. Either way, find the “AMD Software” option and click “Uninstall.” You’ll be asked to confirm this option. Click yes, and your Radeon software installation will be removed, along with any other AMD drivers if you’re also running on a Ryzen system. Unlike Nvidia, which has multiple pieces of software to remove, AMD uses a simplified uninstaller.
Once you’ve uninstalled the old driver, you’ll be prompted to reboot. It’s at this point that people typically ask “Is running the default uninstaller from AMD or Nvidia enough, or do I need to use a third-party product to perform a more comprehensive system sweep?”
How Third Party Uninstallers Work
The uninstallers that AMD and Nvidia use don’t actually scrub everything they install to your system. It’s common for registry keys, folders, and installation files to be left behind. This speeds the reinstallation process, and it’s part of why you can uninstall one driver, install the next, and still have the same profile settings you were previously using. A third-party tool like Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) will remove even these elements, restoring your machine to a pristine state.
15-20 years ago, using a third-party tool to scrub display drivers was a practical requirement, especially when switching between an AMD and an Nvidia GPU. These days, the overall situation is much improved. You can typically swap from one driver to the next with no problem, and Windows may not bat an eyelash if you pull an AMD card out and drop an Nvidia GPU in. I’ve even tested GPU swapping without uninstalling the other vendor’s software. You’ll get error messages when vendor-dependent software attempts to initialize, but that’s about it.
Do you need to run a third-party driver uninstaller? Probably not. Windows has gotten much better at handling these kinds of swaps. But if you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem with your system, or want to make absolutely positive that there’s no way leftover cruft from a previous AMD or Nvidia installation could be mucking up your operating system, then the best way to do that is to use a third-party utility like DDU.
Once you run the application, it’ll recommend that you reboot into Safe Mode (you can click on the “Options” menu and choose the “Enable Safe Mode dialog”). Exit the application and run it again after doing this, and you’ll get a screen like this one. Choose “Safe Mode” from the drop-down menu, then hit “Launch” to reboot into Safe Mode:
We recommend running DDU from Safe Mode. The application advises that you should unplug your computer’s Ethernet cable during the uninstallation and new driver installation process, to prevent Windows 10 from downloading new drivers for your GPU and attempting to install them. I don’t usually find that necessary, but YMMV. When you run it for the first time, DDU attempts to prevent Microsoft from continually downloading its own driver updates and overwriting the drivers distributed by AMD and Nvidia. If you don’t want it to do this, you can click the “Set Windows Device Installation settings to Default” button, as pictured above. This will restore Windows’ default behavior.
If you only want to install a new driver, click “Clean and Restart.” If you have other tasks to take care of while in Safe Mode, click “Clean and do NOT restart.” If you need to install a new GPU, choose “Clean and Shutdown.” Once you boot your system back up, you’ll be able to install your new GPU driver without worrying that old crufty elements were left behind. And if you don’t want to bother with the extra steps of DDU, Windows is generally flexible enough these days to handle a switch without a problem, provided you use the vendor uninstall first.
Now read: Windows 10: The Best Hidden Features, Tips, and Tricks