How do you reset your graphics driver, and why should you even bother to begin with?
As it turns out, graphics drivers can prove pretty integral to the proper functioning of your system, and even minor driver issues can manifest themselves in disruptive ways.
Today, I’ll walk you through what you need to know about that process, including how to do a clean reinstall of your GPU drivers and what problems it will actually fix.
The Basics of Graphics Drivers
In PC hardware, a “driver” is a layer of software that allows your hardware to properly interact with your operating system.
Many drivers are device and OS-specific for this reason, and in the case of complex devices like a discrete graphics card, are regularly updated to improve performance and fix bugs.
While generic input, sound, and display drivers do exist, it’s always better to get a device-specific driver from the manufacturer of your hardware if one is available.
Due to the complexity of graphics cards and graphics drivers, you can expect regular driver updates until a given generation has reached end-of-life, roughly 6+ years after release (usually).
Unfortunately, all this complexity makes things more likely to break, and if you’re here, you may already know that from firsthand experience.
Moving forward, I’ll cover common reasons you might need to reset your GPU drivers, and then a step-by-step guide to doing so.
Why You May Need To Reset Your Graphics Drivers
GPU Upgrade (New GPU of the Same Manufacturer)
If you’re upgrading your GPU to a newer card from the same manufacturer, you may actually find that your previously installed drivers…work!
If this is the case and you don’t notice any issues, feel free to proceed.
However, it’s a good idea to install new GPU drivers whenever you get a new GPU, and failing to do so could result in the below problem.
Clearing Faulty GPU Settings or Cache
If you wind up with bad GPU settings or a corrupted GPU cache for any reason, you may need to reset your graphics drivers.
I once had this problem after my PC experienced a forced restart while playing Street Fighter V.
Something about the forced restart during that high GPU utilization screwed up the GPU’s power management, and this resulted in constant crashes until I did a full clean reinstall of my drivers.
Especially if you’re crashing frequently, resetting your graphics drivers is a good place to start.
GPU Upgrade (Different Manufacturer)
If you’re going from Nvidia to AMD, AMD to Nvidia, or either of those vendors to Intel… clear your old drivers.
You do not want two conflicting graphics drivers within the same operating system. While it’s not likely to cause catastrophic damage or something scary like that, it will cause issues, especially once you start pushing your GPU utilization.
Conflicting drivers can also result in things like Blue Screens (BSOD) and forced restarts, which you really don’t want to deal with if you don’t have to.
General Graphics Troubleshooting
Last but certainly not least…sometimes you just have weird graphics issues and figure that doing a clean reinstall of your drivers will fix them.
And it should, as long as your issue is a software rather than a hardware issue. If something that should be working isn’t, reinstalling your GPU drivers is a pretty good way to troubleshoot and narrow down the potential cause.
How To Reset Your Graphics Drivers
1. Download Your New/Current Drivers Ahead of Time
Before continuing, go ahead and make sure you have the latest stable drivers for your graphics card of choice downloaded to your desktop.
Where to download the newest Graphics Drivers:
After selecting the appropriate device driver you’ll need and downloading your drivers, place the setup files somewhere you can easily find them later— even your desktop is fine.
2. Download Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU)
Now, head over to Guru3D.com for the latest DDU download. Display Driver Uninstaller is pretty much what it sounds like: a dedicated tool for uninstalling your graphics drivers.
Unlike built-in uninstall solutions, DDU will completely remove all your old files and settings, ensuring that your new driver install will be as fresh and clean as possible.
Once you’ve downloaded the DDU zip file, extract it into an easy-to-find folder of your choice. Your Desktop can suffice here, too.
After extracting the DDU zip, you’ll enter the folder to find a Guru3D.com folder and the DDU.exe.
Opening the executable will reveal that it’s a 7Zip Self-Extracting Archive, which will extract the files into your directory of choice— this one, by default.
Inside this new DDU folder, you’ll find the Display Driver Uninstaller.exe you’ll want to run in order to clear your GPU drivers.
3. Launch DDU
On your first launch of DDU, you’ll be presented with the following screen. Check the vendor-specific options according to the GPU you have.
4. Optional: Run In Safe Mode
Once passing this dialog, you’ll also be encouraged to reboot into Safe Mode.
Now, in my years of experience with this utility, I’ve never felt the need to actually use it in Safe Mode, since all that happens if you don’t is a few black screen flickers while you’re doing the uninstall.
Windows will fall back on its generic display drivers when your original drivers are uninstalled.
If you want to be particularly sure that this will work, though, you’re welcome to run through this process in Safe Mode.
To do this, type “Advanced Startup Options” into your Start Menu, and click “Restart now” under Advanced startup.
From there, you’ll be able to choose your Safe Mode version— I recommend With Networking for most features enabled, or at least With Command Prompt— and run through the rest of this guide unimpeded.
Upon reboot, open up Display Driver Uninstaller.exe again and proceed as outlined below.
5. Uninstall Your Old Drivers
Within DDU, you’ll be presented with a status window reading your current GPU and GPU driver.
The clean options up top will be grayed out until you manually select the driver you wish to uninstall, though— use the two dropdowns on the top-right in order to do this.
Once you’ve selected “GPU” and your GPU brand, the theme of the window will change to match and you’ll be able to proceed with your chosen clean operation.
The “black screen” issue mentioned by the second option is just a flicker during the uninstall— it won’t cause any long-term issues to do the clean process without a restart, especially if you’re doing it from Safe Mode.
Whichever option you choose, DDU will do the rest for you. Once it’s closed and your PC has potentially restarted, all that’s left to do is…
6. Run The Fresh Install and Restart Your PC (Again, If You Have Already)
From here, all you need to do is run the executable with your driver software and let it do the rest.
Afterward, however, you’ll most likely be prompted to restart your PC once more. Do so and congratulations: you’re good to go with fresh drivers!
If there were software issues screwing up your GPU functioning, they should be fixed now.
If your issues are persisting, you could be dealing with other issues, like GPU overheating or even GPU death.
You could also be dealing with an issue specific to that particular driver— if this is the case, find the last stable driver you remember working properly and use that with this guide instead of the latest download.
How hot is too hot for a GPU?
Not all GPU issues are related to software. Sometimes, you might just be dealing with some regular old GPU overheating— but how do you tell if your graphics card is overheating?
Alex has written an in-depth guide on this already, but as a general starting point, I wouldn’t be alarmed until your GPU temperatures exceed 95 degrees Celsius.
This can change depending on the GPU brand and the specific GPU you’re using, though, as some GPUs are made with heat tolerances that can go above the 100 C mark that’s supposed to be a death knell for most PC hardware.
Check out Alex’s guide for more on this particular question.
If you need software for monitoring your GPU temps, try using Windows Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC) first.
For more in-depth readings of temperatures and performance, dedicated software can serve you well, too. I recommend your GPU vendor’s (EVGA, MSI, etc) control software as a starting point.
How long do GPUs last?
How long is a GPU supposed to last?
Well, as long as you’re taking proper care of it, a graphics card should be able to last five or more years without much issue.
Alex has written a guide diving into the various factors that go into GPU livelihood, but like the rest of your computer, the answer will mainly depend on how well you take care of it.
Other factors can creep in too, though— check out his guide for more on those exceptions.
How do I tell if my GPU is dying?
Finally, it’s time to address the scary possibility, especially if you’ve run through the above guide and are still experiencing issues. How do you tell if your GPU is dying?
Well, if you’ve followed this guide and your issues haven’t improved, you may be dealing with some deeper hardware issues rather than software issues.
Taking steps like dusting your PC and GPU (being sure to hold any fans in place while blasting with compressed air to prevent damage) should help if the problem is just regular old overheating, but it may not always be that simple.
Alex has a more detailed rundown of symptoms if you’re concerned that your GPU is dying, but definitely don’t jump to this conclusion before you’ve done everything else you can for your graphics card.
That means running through this guide in Safe Mode, trying older stable drivers you remember working properly, and even troubleshooting Windows itself.
Sometimes you may just be unlucky, though, and it might be time to upgrade.
Fortunately, GPU prices have started to lower and normalize in the years since the 2020 Chip Shortage, so hopefully, that won’t be an expensive upgrade if you have to go through with it.
Over to You
And that’s it, for now!
I hope that this article helped you reset your GPU driver, or at least learn why and how you might need to at some point in the future.
Until then or until next time, have a good one!