Over the past few months, my Windows PC has developed an annoying issue. Sometimes when I boot up, I launch a game or video editing program… and get hit by lag and performance stutters. I might just about get 1 FPS in Rocket League if I’m lucky!
I then check Task Manager, and I notice that the graphics card is no longer showing up. Why is this? And how can it be fixed? The short answer is:
Windows Update can clash with AMD’s own driver management software, resulting in a mismatching GPU driver version – that stops the GPU from working. To fix this, you should re-install the AMD drivers, and stop Windows Update from doing this again in the future.
Overview: AMD vs Windows Display Drivers
Before diving into exactly why this issue happens, it’s worth recapping on the ‘battle’ between display drivers.
1-2 decades ago, when you purchased a new piece of hardware or a peripheral, it often came with a CD/DVD containing drivers on them. These ‘drivers’ are bits of software that tell the Windows operating system how to control the hardware (or peripheral). Without these drivers, Windows would often ignore the new hardware – or just say that it’s an unknown and unrecognized device.
You would plug in some headphones, and… nothing would happen. Or you would install a new graphics card, and then be stuck at some awful resolution when booting up Windows.
But since then, Windows started getting much better at automatically downloading drivers when you installed a new piece of hardware or peripheral. This works well in the majority of cases, however some devices are too complex for Windows to manage completely.
As a result, Windows will sometimes install a basic version of the required drivers, but the user can then install the full drivers later. When it comes to AMD graphics cards, you will now be able to boot into a good resolution (after installing a fancy new graphics card) – and you might be able to play some games too.
But you certainly won’t be able to use the full power from the graphics card, or turn on some AMD-specific settings like Radeon Super Resolution and Radeon Anti-Lag:
As a result, it is often better to go straight to AMD and install the graphics card display drivers from there – bypassing Windows entirely. After all, what’s the point in only having basic display drivers when you have some really expensive GPU?
Why AMD and Windows Sometimes Clash (And Windows ‘Deletes’ The AMD Drivers)
Windows is needy and clingy. There, I said it. Even if you make the sensible decision to bypass Windows (and install the full display drivers directly from AMD), sometimes it will come along and remove these drivers. The graphics card will then disappear from Windows, and the AMD Software suite will say:
“Windows Update may have automatically replaced your AMD Graphics driver. Hence, the version of AMD Software you have launched is not compatible with your currently installed AMD Graphics driver”AMD Software suite warning
It links to a helpful AMD.com FAQ page, which explains that Windows has probably reset the graphics driver.
Gee, thanks Windows. I’ll go back to playing Cyberpunk 2077 with 1 frame a second! Who needs a fully functioning graphics card, anyway?
Well, I do. So here’s how to fix this problem once and for all.
How To Fix This (Two Simple Steps)
In general, you need to do two things here: reinstall the AMD drivers, and then stop Windows from resetting these drivers every few weeks.
Step 1: Restore The AMD Drivers
When you get the “Windows Update may have automatically replaced your AMD Graphics driver” error from the AMD software suite, you have two main options:
- Repair the drivers.
- Completely uninstall and reinstall the drivers.
To repair the drivers, simply launch the AMD installer (this is usually in the C:\AMD\ folder), and click “Repair” and “Drivers Only”:
Then restart your computer, and it should hopefully restore the proper AMD drivers.
But if you still have issues with the GPU missing, you will want to do a full uninstall and reinstall. The first step here is to go into Windows Settings, go into Apps and Programs and search for “AMD”:
When clicking “Uninstall” here, the AMD Software suite will appear and ask you which drivers to remove. Click the check box next to your graphics, and click “Uninstall”:
After this is done, you will need to restart your computer. At this point, you will not have any AMD graphics drivers left on your computer. You can then start the process of installing the display drivers again, by downloading the latest AMD Software: Adrenaline Edition program from AMD.com. Then click the downloaded “exe”, to start installing it:
After a minute or two, this will launch an AMD software launcher which asks you what to install. Here you can choose to install just the basic AMD drivers, or the full drivers and software suite:
Click install and (after another restart) the proper AMD GPU drivers will now be installed on your computer. This will restore the full graphics performance, allowing you to finally play games and get more than 1 FPS again – woohoo!
However this issue might rear its head again soon, so the final step is to stop Windows Update from resetting the display drivers again.
Step 2: Stop Windows From Deleting the AMD GPU Drivers In The Future
Unfortunately both Windows 10 and 11 suffer from this issue, whereby Windows randomly decides that your manually installed AMD display drivers are ‘old’ – thereby installing ‘newer’ drivers which are incompatible (and, in-fact, older than what you already had installed).
Many users suffer from this issue, and the only solution is to try and change an internal Windows setting to stop Windows Update from ‘fixing’ (i.e. corrupting) the AMD driver. There are three possible approaches here, although not all options work for all users:
- Change ‘Device installation’ settings.
- Use RegEdit to stop automatic driver updates.
- Use Group Policy Editor to disable driver updates.
Option #1: Change ‘Device installation’ settings
Windows has a built-in option to download manufacturer’s drivers (or not). You can disable this by searching for “Change device installation settings” selecting “No” in the dialog box that appears:
While this option can work for some drivers, it is a bit less reliable in stopping Windows updates from overwriting the AMD GPU drivers.
Option #2: Use RegEdit
Some users have reported being able to modify a registry setting, to block Windows Update from impacting GPU drivers. To do this, launch regedit by pressing Windows key + R and typing “regedit”:
Then navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > DriverSearching, and find the option “DriverUpdateWizardWuSearchEnabled”.
Update the value to be “0” (meaning disabled), and click OK. Restart your computer for this change to take effect.
Note: not all versions of Windows will have this registry option available. If you don’t have a “DriverSearching” folder under “Windows”, you are probably running an unsupported version of Windows for this option.
Option #3: Set a Group Policy
Windows Pro has a Local Group Policy Editor, which is designed for system administrators to manage settings across a range of computers (on the same network). This Group Policy Editor also (thankfully) has an option to stop automatic driver updates.
The video below walks you through how to disable this setting, but in general you need to click Windows key + R (to launch the Run dialog), type “gpedit.msc” and navigate to Computer Config -> Admin Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Update, then enable the “Do not include drivers with Windows Updates” option:
Hopefully at least one of these approaches works for you! Some users report that nothing seems to work, and Windows keeps resetting their display drivers, but I was able to stop this issue via the group policy approach.