If you’re new to computer hardware, and you’re swapping out an old graphics card for a new one, then you might be wondering if you need to uninstall your old graphics drivers first. And it’s a valid question. If you look online, you’ll find conflicting answers—some say it’s imperative, while others say it’s unnecessary with today’s tech.
If you’re confused on whether you should or not, then keep reading. We’ll go over this age-old question and figure out if it’s actually necessary to uninstall your old graphics drivers before installing a new graphics card.
Is It Necessary to Uninstall Old Graphics Drivers Before Installing a New Card?
The quick answer to this question is: in principle, no.
Thanks to the plug and play nature of modern iterations of Windows, you can easily turn your computer off, swap cards, reboot, and it will detect the new card and install basic display drivers. From there, you can download the latest drivers for your new card from the manufacturer’s website, and you’re off to the races.
However, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. The crux of the issue lies in the intricacies of how drivers work.
Drivers are pieces of software that allow the operating system to communicate with the hardware that’s in your computer. And these instructions are stored in a multitude of locations, from files scattered across your hard drive to a plethora of registry entries.
In principle, when you swap cards, Windows Plug n Play manager should create a new profile of the new card, allowing for a seamless transition. But sometimes pieces of the old driver software can conflict with newer driver software.
These issues are particularly relevant if you’re switching from a card made by a different manufacturer than the one you’re putting into your system (so, from NVIDIA to AMD, or AMD to NVIDIA). Meanwhile, if you’re sticking with the same card manufacturer (e.g., swapping an older NVIDIA card for a newer one), this tends to be less of an issue.
What If I’ve Already Installed My New GPU?
If you’ve already installed your new GPU without uninstalling the old drivers, and you aren’t facing any issues, then there’s nothing to worry about. While it’s generally best practice to uninstall old drivers before swapping in a new graphics card, it clearly isn’t the end of the world if you don’t.
However, if you find your new card is under-performing, or you’re running into strange issues that only started after swapping in your new card, then you might have a conflict between the old drivers and the new ones. And that could mean you’ll need to uninstall both your old and new drivers, and start over fresh.
That’s why when swapping cards, you should uninstall the old graphics drivers first, to avoid any potential issues and save yourself the headache later.
How to Uninstall Old Graphics Drivers
There are a few different ways that you can uninstall your old graphics drivers. We’ll show you how to do that within Windows, as well as cover some helpful and trusted third-party tools to help do a more complete job to cleanly uninstall your old graphics drivers.
Uninstalling Graphics Drivers Through the Device Manager
The first and quickest way to uninstall old graphics drivers is through the device manager. To start, first right-click on the Start menu and click on Device Manager.
Now click on Display adapters to expand the list, and right-click the graphics card that you’re uninstalling the drivers for. On the context menu, click Uninstall.
On the Uninstall Device window, check the box next to Delete the driver software for this device., then click the Uninstall button.
Uninstalling Graphics Drivers Through the Control Panel
You can also uninstall graphics card drivers through the control panel, along with any other software that may come with your graphics card (such as NVIDIA GeForce Experience). To start, open the Run box (Windows key + R), type in control panel. and press Enter.
Now click on Programs and Features.
On the Programs and Features window, scroll down to find your graphics card drivers. Highlight the driver, then click on Uninstall/Change at the top to get started, and follow the instructions in the uninstall wizard.
Uninstalling Graphics Drivers Through Third-party Software
While Windows offers built-in solutions for uninstalling graphics drivers, they aren’t the most complete solutions. In fact, uninstalling drivers through the built-in features on Windows can leave a lot of leftovers behind that can sometimes cause issues when installing a new graphics card.
This is why there are a few different trusted third-party tools you can use to completely uninstall graphics drivers. We’ll link to each one and briefly cover each of them below.
Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) is a tool that’s been around for many years, and is a staple in any device administrator’s toolbox.
This program will uninstall any graphics and audio drivers you don’t need, and will clean up any leftovers like registry entries and files. And since it’s completely software and hardware-agnostic, this program is especially useful if you’re switching from NVIDIA to an AMD graphics card, or vice versa.
If you’ve had an NVIDIA graphics card, then you likely know what the GeForce Experience tool is. In addition to providing driver updates for NVIDIA cards, it also has the ability to do a clean install of your NVIDIA drivers, which will clear out any old NVIDIA drivers before installing newer ones.
AMD also offers a standalone driver cleanup tool that will not only uninstall old AMD graphics and audio drivers, but also clean up residual files and registry entries missed by the standard Windows tools.