Removing and Wiping Drivers Guide
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: May 21, 2013
Nothing is forever (not even diamonds) so eventually, things must be replaced, and sometimes the best way to replace something is to completely remove it first. This holds true for video drivers, which can become corrupted for a myriad of reasons, and when this happens, the only solution is to replace them. Sometimes you can simply reinstall or repair the installation, but not always. At times like that, you have to completely remove the drivers to ensure a new installation is completely 'fresh' and will not be corrupted right off the bat.
The first step to removing your drivers is to uninstall them with the driver's own uninstaller. You do not need to know where that file is, because Windows and some software, such as CCleaner, know that for you. In Windows 7 and Vista, you can get to the uninstaller by opening the 'Control Panel,' finding the 'Programs', and selecting the 'Uninstall a Program' option. If you have the Control Panel set to view large or small icons, you are looking for the 'Programs and Features' option. Alternatively, you can go to 'Computer' or 'My Computer,' where you are shown every drive, and press the 'Uninstall or change a program' button. All three methods will take you to the same screen where you can scroll though the list to find the video drivers for your computer. In my case, they are NVIDIA graphics drivers.
If you use CCleaner, access its 'Tools' section and 'Uninstall' sub-section to view a similar list of program you can uninstall. Scroll through the list or use the search function to find the correct drivers.
Once the uninstaller is initialized, it will likely ask you to confirm that you wish to uninstall the drivers, which you must if you are following this guide. The process may take some time, depending on your system, and your screen may blink to black and lose its resolution setting. This is because your computer is switching from the preferred drivers for your video card to a generic driver baked into Windows. This generic driver often has a default resolution setting different from your monitor's native resolution and possibly even your monitor's aspect ratio. That means the image may become blurred and stretched, and while it may appear disconcerting, it is not something to worry about. Also the icons of your desktop may be moved around, due to the lower resolution. Again, this is not something to worry about as installing new graphics drivers and setting them to the correct resolution will return the icons to their proper positions.
Once the drivers are uninstalled, you will be asked to restart your computer. If all you wish to do is uninstall your drivers before installing new ones, go ahead and restart. If instead you want to completely wipe the drivers from your computer prior to installing new ones, you can wait to restart and you should read on to understand why.
Like many programs, drivers will leave some remnants on your computer after being uninstalled, and these remnants can cause complications, so removing them prior to a new install is not a bad idea. It is not always necessary though and only you can decide if it is best for your scenario.
On the previous page I concluded by saying you can wait to restart your computer after the drivers' uninstaller has run. This is because it is this time I will run the program Driver Fusion to wipe what is left of the driver from my computer. If you do a search for driver wiping programs you may come across Driver Sweeper. This solution has been used and recommended by many, but had some issues. In response, the original developers decided to rewrite how it worked, but in the process they added new functionality. To reflect the new capabilities of the software, they gave it the new name of Driver Fusion. There is a free and paid version of this software, but the free version is all you need for this.
When you open Driver Fusion you will be greeted by the 'Driver Inspection' page, which lists the different drivers you may want it to scan for. Just click on the items in the list in order to select them, and clicking on multiple items will select those multiple items. Pressing the 'Analyze' button will have the program start searching for what remains of the drivers you told it to look for, and what it finds will be listed for you to inspect. It finds files, folders, and registry entries, each of which you can choose to leave on your computer by clicking the appropriate checkbox on the side of the list. It may be a good idea to check this list before pressing the 'Delete' button because it may find something you do not want deleted, such as files that have been extracted for when you install new drivers. You can see I have unchecked the "C:\NVIDIA" directory in the screenshot, and I did so specifically for that reason.
Once you press delete, the selected entries in the list will be deleted after Driver Fusion has made a backup of them, in case something should go wrong. You can access these backups through the 'management' tab along the top of the program, and then clicking the 'RESTORE' button.
Very often there are some files that cannot be deleted while Windows is running, which Driver Fusion will tell you. In order to remove these files, you will have to restart your computer. This is why I suggested waiting to restart your computer after uninstalling the drivers; because you will likely have to restart it at this point as well. By waiting, you only have to restart once during this process.
Once your computer boots back up, the driver you decided to remove should be completely wiped from your system, along with any potentially corrupted files associated with it.