If you’re in the fortunate position of swapping your graphics card for a newer, more powerful unit, then you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate software to support it.
When it comes to graphics cards, this means having the proper, up-to-date drivers installed.
It is only then that your GPU (be it either pro or consumer-grade) can work to its full potential and provide you with the performance output you desire.
In this article, we will answer all questions that relate to updating drivers – and getting rid of old ones – when switching to a new graphics card.
If you’ve already gone ahead and plugged in your new GPU and are experiencing issues due to conflicting drivers, worry not; as we will cover troubleshooting steps for that as well.
What is a GPU Driver
In order to properly recognize and use any piece of hardware equipment, your operating system (OS) needs to have access to that component’s inherent drivers.
In the case of GPUs, the driver is the mediator between the OS and your graphics card.
Not having the necessary GPU software for any PC unit can cause anything from crashes, to screen flickering, stuttering, frame drops, or even artifacts appearing on your monitor.
What if You’ve Already Installed Your GPU?
If you’ve already installed your new GPU and are experiencing any of the aforementioned issues, it will – most likely – be caused by the drivers. The best way to alleviate any such issue is by checking to see that your drivers are up-to-date and that there are no conflicts present.
Here are some preliminary methods to help you locate the root cause of the error.
Check For the Latest Driver Updates
The very first step you want to do is check to see that you have the latest drivers installed.
For Nvidia drivers, you can simply open Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software, which will automatically check if your drivers are up to date. This is the same software used to enable other Nvidia features like RTX and Voice.
AMD also offers similar functionality via their AMD Radeon Graphics driver installer. This software will auto-detect your current drivers, and only install the software components your device currently needs.
Check For Driver Conflicts (Windows)
If installing the latest driver doesn’t fix the issue, then you may have a driver conflict.
This is usually caused by either a corrupt file or residual components from an uninstalled driver that is interfering with the current ones.
Luckily, Windows will allow you to check for any recent software changes, and automatically examine whether or not a conflict exists.
To reach this functionality, click on the magnifying glass (or use the Windows search function) and type “Device Manager”.
Next, click the “Screen Adapter” drop-down arrow and right-click on your GPU to select: “Scan for Hardware Changes”.
If any potential issue is found, a yellow icon (with an exclamation point) will appear, giving you the option to “Troubleshoot”.
To alleviate this conflict, you will need to uninstall all current drivers (the process of which is detailed below) and proceed with a clean installation.
When Should You Uninstall Older Drivers Beforehand?
For those that are yet to plug in their GPU, you may be wondering whether or not to uninstall the older drivers prior to the installation. The main factor which will determine whether or not this will be necessary is the brand of the older GPU, compared to the newer graphics card.
Same Brand GPU Swap
Graphics drivers of the same brand will hardly conflict with each other, as the driver package is similar; whereas only an update may be needed.
Put simply, if the GPUs you will be swapping are AMD to AMD or Nvidia to Nvidia, you will not need to uninstall the previous drivers prior to plugging in the new graphics card.
Different Brand GPU Swap
Older drivers can become problematic when they originate from a different manufacturer than the newer ones.
That is, if your old GPU is AMD, while the new GPU is Nvidia (or vice versa), you will want to fully uninstall all older drivers prior to installing the new graphics card. If this is not completed successfully, conflicts may arise that can put your GPU’s performance in jeopardy.
How to Uninstall Older Drivers
So, now that we have an idea of when it is best to uninstall any currently installed drivers on your PC, let’s look at how you can successfully accomplish the task.
Note that it is always best to proceed with the steps below via Windows’s Safe Mode, in order to avoid any unwanted blue screens, crashes, or stuttering that can interrupt the process.
Uninstalling Through Windows
It is generally not recommended to uninstall GPU drivers solely through the operating system, as the process may leave some residual files and folders that can still cause conflicts.
That being said, many will prefer to uninstall the drive through Windows, and then also remove any additional elements via third-party software.
Through Device Manager
To uninstall your GPU’s drivers from Windows, you will want to reach your “Device Manager” via the search function in your toolbar. Afterwards navigate to the “Screen Adapter”, click on the downwards arrow, and double click on your GPU.
Next, go to the “Driver” tab and click on the final option named “Uninstall”. You can also right-click on your GPU under the Screen Adapter option and select Uninstall from the drop-down menu.
Through Apps & Features
You can also find the particular driver you’d like to uninstall by navigating to the “Apps & Features” window in your Control Panel.
From here, scroll down until you find the driver in question, click on it (so that it is highlighted), and then select “Uninstall”. In Windows 7, this option will be under “Programs and Features”.
Now, if you wish to provide your PC with a full, clean uninstallation, you’ll want to make use of a third-party application; in order to ensure the process has been carried out sufficiently.
Display Driver Uninstaller
Perhaps the best-known application for the task is DDU (Display Driver Uninstaller), which can be downloaded from their Guru3D website.
On this same page, you will find extensive AMD & Nvidia support threads, as well as instructions on how to properly utilize the application.
AMD Cleanup Utility Tool
AMD also has an equivalent program for removing unwanted drivers, called the Cleanup Utility.
It removes all graphics drivers, audio drivers, accompanying software, and registries. It is important to note that this application only works for removing AMD drivers, as it will not interfere with Nvidia’s software.
Only use the Cleanup Utility Tool if you are upgrading from an older AMD graphics card to a newer AMD or Nvidia GPU.
To return to the question of the title, the answer is: it depends.
If you are installing a new GPU that is of a different brand than your current GPU, then yes, you will need to uninstall the old drivers with one of the methods above.
Additionally, if you’ve already installed the new GPU and are experiencing issues, again it is best to do a clean install by removing the previous unwanted drivers and registries.
The process might be a bit cumbersome, but it is definitely rewarding, as afterwards you can then enjoy your new GPU’s full performance capabilities for several years to come.
Over to you
Are you looking to add a new hardware component, like a GPU, and are unsure of any precautionary actions you should take?
Have you run into any issues with driver deletions or installations?
Let us know in the comments below! If you need additional help, you can also check our expert forum, where you will find a plethora of users that can help you directly with the particular issue you are facing.