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Rebooting may be necessary, but deleting the old driver typically is not.

Is it necessary to uninstall an existing nVidia graphics card driver before installing an upgraded version?

In this excerpt from Answercast #16, I take a look at the way drivers update and why you often need to reboot.

Uninstall a driver first?

Typically, the answer is "No." There's no reason to most of the time.

When you get new drivers for just about anything, regardless of where you get them from (be it from Windows Update or as a direct download from the manufacturer), the installation program for the driver should replace the driver that's in place. In other words, it should simply upgrade the driver that's already there without causing any kind of problem.


The worst case (and it's probably not even that bad of a case, but it's something to be aware of) is that there's a good chance that you'll need to reboot your machine as part of that upgrade process. Drivers, and in particular video drivers, often interact with a system at a relatively low level. When upgrading, you're asking the system to change something while it's currently being used.

So, normally what happens is the setup program puts everything in place. It leaves some instructions, and when Windows reboots, it finalizes those last steps of the upgrade. Once you're rebooted, you're running with the upgraded drivers.

Article C5316 - May 9, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment

May 11, 2012 3:25 PM

I think the question is a leftover from about 10-12 years ago. Back then, there were many more problems with upgrading software, including drivers. Most tech support was actually rude about informing you that you must uninstall old software before upgrading the new stuff. Quite frankly, even back then, it was not so difficult to write installation code to first check for older software, and uninstall it if necessary. But laziness prevailed; something that seems less common these days. I, myself, am still leery of hard drive encryption after a disaster 20 years ago that wiped out ALL of my data, even though I'm certain that the bugs have been worked out, so old superstitions are hard to break.

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