Graphics drivers are a vital and essential part of running a modern PC, but they’re often packed with aggravating bloatware. Some software might be useful, what do you do if you want to get rid of the extra junk?
The easiest way to get rid of NVIDIA bloatware is to run a third-party program like NVSlimmer that automatically removes this additional software. You can also try doing a custom installation and deselect any additional software you do not want. Another option would be to selectively uninstall unwanted software after updating your NVIDIA display driver.
We’re going through every single thing you need to know about the software that comes packed with your NVIDIA graphics driver and how you can get rid of that bloatware if you don’t want it.
What is a Graphics Driver Anyway?
Every computer you’ve owned has relied on a graphics driver. This is an essential piece of software in every single PC and is especially important for people who rely on a lot of graphics power for games and video editing software.
It might surprise you that most people don’t know what a graphics driver actually does.
The graphics driver in your computer is responsible for sending instructions to the graphics card so that it can process visuals. One way to think about this is that your graphics card is a machine for producing visuals and the graphics driver are the instructions your computer needs to operate that machine.
Most of the time you won’t have to worry about installing or updating your graphics driver. If you have a standard Windows PC and a popular graphics card, there’s a good chance that things are just going to be automatically updating for you when your computer goes through its usual software updates.
However, graphics drivers can come with a lot of additional software that people don’t always need.
What is The Bloatware That Comes With Graphics Drivers?
Looking at the extra software that came with your NVIDIA graphics card is a bit of a complicated conversation to have.
On one hand, there’s a lot of people that see this as unnecessary bloatware. There are even a few programs that can be installed with your graphics driver that many people consider to be spyware. There’s also a risk that all of this additional software is going to be cutting into performance that you can be using elsewhere.
Some software is legitimately useful. If you’re looking to use first party overclocking, tuning, or the other software that comes with your NVIDIA graphics card, it might save you time and effort just to get it all installed in one place.
Here’s a list of a few of the programs that might come with your NVIDIA graphics driver, that probably don’t need to:
- GeForce Game Ready Driver
- HDAudio (Keep this one if you need an audio driver)
- Shield Wireless Controller
Note: The exact bundled software will vary depending on your graphics card version, and operating system. For example, older NVIDIA cards would bundle ‘Miracast’ – but this has not been included for a few years now.
This isn’t a complete list of all the bloatware that can come with an NVIDIA graphics driver, but it is a list of some of the biggest culprits. You want to check with the software that comes with the current driver release for your graphics card to see what specific bloatware is coming with your download.
Pros of Graphic Card Software
We have to start things off by taking a look at the pros of using the included NVIDIA software that comes with your graphics driver. These programs take a lot of heat for being bloatware, but there are some situations where they’re very useful.
GeForce Experience is probably one of the most important ones we need to talk about. While there are people who either won’t use GeForce Experience, think that it’s lowering their PC performance, or just don’t like it—this can be very useful can be useful.
GeForce Experience allows you to optimize your graphics and gaming experience. This piece of software is very directed towards gamers so if you’re not into gaming, this might not be the right choice for you.
A lot of the other programs that come with your NVIDIA driver are going to be pretty conditional. Here are two solid examples: Shield Wireless Controller is great if you don’t have a driver for your wireless controller. ShadowPlay lets you record game footage as well as stream and share it with friends.
You can already tell that you don’t necessarily need to take a scorched-earth approach to removing NVIDIA’s extra software. It might be beneficial to keep a few of these programs, but get rid of most of them.
Cons of Extra Graphic Card Software
Now we need to jump right into the controversy and talk about the cons of all of this bloatware that comes with the NVIDIA graphics driver.
The truth of the matter is that you really don’t need most of the software. Even the best parts about GeForce Experience are probably better served by third-party optimizing programs.
It might seem like ShadowPlay and other features are great for streaming and sharing footage, but if you plan on streaming on Twitch or YouTube, there are better options out there for you that are going to be more responsive and use less PC power.
NB: Now we need to talk about the biggest villain when it comes to NVIDIA’s bloatware: Telemetry. Telemetry is a piece of marketing software that many people would consider to be “outright spyware” that is packaged with NVIDIA drivers (although others disagree, and say that it’s not spying on you).
Telemetry tracks information about your graphics card experience. It reads crash reports, knows what games are playing, and gathers user data.
NVIDIA claims that they do not use individual-level data, but instead uses the aggregate of all user data, when sharing this data with third parties. However, there really is no way to know exactly what NVIDIA is doing with this information.
The big takeaway here is that NVIDIA’s extra software is convenient. However, it’s definitely not the best choice when it comes to optimizing games and sharing gameplay.
What Is All That Extra Software Comes With NVIDIA Drivers?
In order to give the extra software that came with your NVIDIA driver a fair shake, we should take a closer look at it.
Even if you came to this article dead set on this NVIDIA software being bloatware, it’s important to know exactly what it’s doing to your PC—and doing with your information.
We’re going to look at a few of the most talked-about pieces of extra software when it comes to NVIDIA.
GeForce Experience is a popular piece of software that will come with your NVIDIA graphics driver.
GeForce Experience automatically optimizes your graphic experience depending on the game you’re playing. It also allows you to stream to YouTube, Twitch, or devices that have NVIDIA Shield installed.
GeForce experience can also let you set some custom graphics card options. It even allows you to do customizations that are specific to individual games. This does beg the question of what exactly GeForce Experience is offering that NVIDIA Control Panel isn’t.
NVIDIA Control Panel
NVIDIA Control Panel allows you to set global and specific settings for your graphics card. This is perfect for people who are looking to tune in optimizations and get that kind of dialed-in precision you can’t get elsewhere.
Whether or not NVIDIA Control Panel is going to be better than a third-party option all depends on what you’re looking to achieve with your graphics card. NVIDIA Control Panel can also do most of the optimization that GeForce Experience can.
NVIDIA Control Panel is less equipped to optimize for a specific game, but this can even be achieved if you’re willing to dig around in the settings for a while.
Optimus is an interesting piece of software that might offer you some benefit depending on what type of device you’re running.
Optimus, as the name might suggest, is used to optimize notebooks and other devices with integrated graphics cards. These devices have traditionally struggled when it comes to balancing battery life and graphics power. Optimus attempts to constantly correct and balance this by detecting what software you’re using and adjusting PC power and battery usage accordingly.
However some people argue that this software can actually harm performance, instead arguing that removing it will improve your FPS:
NVIDIA 3D Vision
NVIDIA 3D Vision is one that you’re definitely going to want to delete unless you have some discontinued hardware on hand.
NVIDIA 3D Vision was the software used with and videos stereoscopic 3D gaming glasses. NVIDIA discontinued this tack in 2021 which means that the value you’re getting out of NVIDIA 3D Vision today is pretty limited.
Finally we have to talk quickly about Telemetry. We already mentioned the pros and cons of this piece of software, but it’s worth taking a closer look. Telemetry won’t offer anything for you as a user of the software.
It’s just there for NVIDIA to gather marketing information about the types of games you play, the hardware you’re using, and crash data when things go wrong.
You could make the argument that Telemetry is helping NVIDIA create a better product, but it’s mostly there to gather marketing information from you.
Can You Install NVIDIA Drivers Without The Extra Software?
You can often install NVIDIA drivers without the extra software. Your first option is to skip the ‘automatic driver’ install option on the NVIDIA website, and instead use the “Manual Driver Search” form:
This can then allow you to pick and choose which NVIDIA software you want installed. Unfortunately, much of this software still has other software bundled within it – which you still might not want.
Therefore you have three further options to choose from when it comes to installing graphics card drivers without bloatware. You’ll either need to do a custom installation, or look at some options to try and strip out all of the bloatware after your installation.
How to Install NVIDIA Drivers Without Bloatware
Here’s a quick guide for installing NVIDIA drivers without the bloatware.
Do a Custom Install
Our first option is probably going to be your best choice, but it doesn’t always work.
When you install the driver, you have the opportunity to do a custom install. This is an advanced option that will let you change things like the folder the driver gets installed into and it will also let you toggle off all of the additional bloatware.
However, this option doesn’t always appear. It seems like NVIDIA is a little reluctant to hand over the keys to removing the bloatware when it comes to doing a custom installation. In this case, you might be able to remove some of the bloatware (after install) by using Windows’ uninstall programs screen:
Use Third-party Software
Your single best bet is to pick up a piece of third-party software that’s designed to strip out bloatware. There are plenty of options out there, but NVSlimmer is one of the most popular choices. All you need to do is run that piece of software and you can selectively remove anything you don’t want to get installed alongside your driver.
It also allows you to set your driver installation to manual rather than as part of the regular Windows update.
This means you won’t have to deal with constantly removing bloatware whenever the graphics card decides it’s time to ready for an update.
You can try to strip out the bloatware the DIY way, but this has gotten a lot of mixed results and may result in the driver not being able to install.
All you need to do is open the archived file after you install the driver. You’ll be able to explore the files and delete all of the folders for the unnecessary bloatware.
Warning: However, some of those files are necessary for the installer to run and this might cause your install to crash. Only attempt this is you really want a certain bit of NVIDIA software removed, and you can’t seem to remove it via NVSlimmer (or other approaches).
What About AMD Drivers?
AMD Graphics drivers are a little less aggressive when it comes to bloatware. You can do a minimum installation that just adds the graphic driver without any of the extras during your installation – although you will often end up with ‘AMD Software: Adrenaline Edition’ which offers some nice (albeit unessential) features:
There are also the same options when it comes to using a piece of third-party software to strip out the bloatware after your installation.