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Do I Need To Remove Old Drivers Before Installing New Ones?

When you decide to invest in new tires for your car, you have to start by taking off the old ones. The same basic idea applies when you replace kitchen counter tops or flooring in the home. This concept doesn’t necessarily extend to your computer, however. The operating system handles driver files a little differently. In most cases, it isn’t necessary or even recommended that you fully remove old files before you replace them with newer ones. Updating your driver files is usually a very simple process, barring complications.


The Endless Clean Up Debate

The idea of fully removing device drivers before updating has been sparking controversy and arguments for years. Many users swear by the method and claim it is the only way to make sure that conflicts don’t arise later. Others rightfully point out that removal of the files disables a number of helpful features offered by Windows XP when it comes to driver management. The process really boils down to personal preference, but for most users, leaving older driver files in place is the best method.


Don’t Lose Your Tools

Removing a driver, either manually or through the Device Manager, deletes the files. If you leave those files in place, you can access the Rollback Driver and Reinstall Driver options through the Manager if there is an issue with the new file. Computer users that are not comfortable with in-depth registry editing and system file manipulation should definitely leave their older drivers in place to take advantage of these helpful tools. Attempting to rollback a driver update by installing it over the new file often backfires, so Windows XP has a specialized process for handling the challenge. Unless you already know how to do a manual rollback, don’t delete your driver files. Your system will remove all unnecessary and outdated material except for the last version before your update, keeping your system clean and relatively uncluttered.


The Conflict Of Manufacturer’s Instructions


It can be difficult to make the right choice when a new device comes with instructions that tell you to remove all existing drivers first. When replacing a graphics card or other integrated device, this may well be the right path to take. AMD is one of many manufacturers that requests a removal of all related files before driver updates or upgrades are made. However, these companies also tend to offer automated driver installation packages in .EXE files. Most of these programs include driver removal and clean up tools to ensure you get a correct and updated installation. Using these tools can take the work and risk out of removing old files. Always follow manufacturer instructions if they contradict other information so their support team can help you more easily if a problem does occur.


How To Remove Driver Files


If you’re convinced that you need to remove your files before a driver update or you have noticed issues from drivers that weren’t removed, you can easily do it through the Device Manager.


  1. Open the Start Menu with a click on its button. Look for the Run listing and click it.
  2. Type or copy and paste “devmgmt.msc” into the Open: box, without the quotes around it.
  3. Press the OK button and the Device Manager should pop up within a few seconds.


You can also access the Device Manager through the Control Panel. Once you have it open, you can continue to the driver removal step.


  1. Find the device that you need to remove the drivers for in the list. It may be highlighted with a yellow caution icon if there is an issue due to the files currently installed.
  2. Right click on the related listing, then select the Uninstall Driver option and follow the prompts that appear to complete the process.


Recovery Options


If you delete your driver files by accident, you may be able to recover them with a System Restore. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen. It is best to try the recovery process immediately after your mistake rather than waiting or making a bunch of changes to fix the problem. If the System Restore doesn’t work, you can always download the driver files again and reinstall them.


Using a System Restore:

  1. Access the Start Menu and open the All Programs tab. Follow the Accessories and System Tools folder to find the System Restore listing, which you should click on.
  2. Choose the restoration option and check the calender that appears. You may find that your system created a point specifically before you removed the drivers if you used the Device Manager. This is unlikely if you manually deleted them from the corresponding folder. If there is no driver related point, choose another one from a time when the drivers were intact and functioning properly.
  3. Follow the rest of the prompts and allow your computer to restart. Check for the driver file when the system is up again, and rollback the System Restore process through the window that appears during start up if it didn’t fix your problem.


Setting Up System Restore Before You Make Driver Changes


Users planning to remove driver files to stop errors or to make a clean install of new files should definitely use the System Restore tool to protect themselves. Taking the time to create a distinct and new point will make it much easier to undo the deletion if you realize it wasn’t needed later.


Making A System Restore Point:

  1. Open the System Restore tool using step one from the above instructions.
  2. Select the “Create a restore point” option instead and click Next. Give the point a description related to the driver you are removing so you can easily find it later.
  3. Click on the Create button and give your system time to save your settings and crucial files. It may take a few minutes, but your computer will notify you when it is done.


You will need to turn on the System Restore tool before using it to create a point or rollback to a previous setup.

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