Update video card drivers on Windows in four simple steps

This post describes how you can update the video card drivers of your computer. It is important to update drivers because manufacturers often release updates that increase the performance and stability of their devices. Updating drivers is a very straightforward task that can be done by any user but most guides forget a crucial step: remove the old driver before installing new drivers. The following steps are described in detail and will ensure a clean computer and avoids any potential problems:

  1. Find the manufacturer and type of your video card.
  2. Download the latest drivers [NVIDIA] [AMD] [Intel].
  3. Completely uninstall the old drivers.
  4. Install the new drivers.

 

Step 1: Determine the type of video card

  • Can be found in the display properties of Windows.
  • Automatic detection is possible if the name of the manufacturer is known (see Step 2A, 2B or 2C).

First you'll need to determine which video card is installed in your computer. The easiest way to do this is by opening the Display properties window.

  • Windows XP: Right-click on the desktop and select "Properties". Click on the "Settings" tab in the Display properties window. The type of card is located at the end of the name of the display after the word 'on' (Figure 1). For example "Plug and Play Monitor on RADEON 9200 SE" where Radeon 9200 SE is the type of video card.

Windows XP Display properties
Figure 1 - Display properties on Windows XP. Red markings indicate the position of the video card description and the 'Advanced' button (for Step 2) [1, 2]*.

  • Windows Vista: Right-click on the desktop and select "Personalize". Select "Display Settings" at the bottom of the list. Click on "Advanced settings". At the top of the window it shows the adapter type with the name of the device (Figure 2, right side). For example "ATI Radeon HD 3870".

  • Windows 7 and 8: Right-click on the desktop and select "Screen resolution". Select "Display Settings" at the bottom of the list. Click on "Advanced settings" (Figure 2, left side). At the top of the window it shows the adapter type with the name of the device (Figure 2, right side). For example "ATI Radeon HD 3870".

Display settings Windows 7 and Windows 8
Figure 2 - Display properties on Windows Vista, 7 and 8. Red markings indicate points of interest.

 

Step 2: Download the latest drivers

  • Download the latest driver from the manufacturer website [NVIDIA] [AMD] [Intel].
  • Remember the location where you save the installer.

Download the latest drivers from the manufacturer website. There are a lot of sources for drivers such as the website of the manufacturer of the video card (best choice) or the website of the company that made your computer, for example the Dell website. For the sake of simplicity only three of the largest manufacturers will be discussed in detail. Usually a quick search on Google with the type of the video card plus the word 'driver', for example "Ati Radeon HD 3870 driver", has the correct website in the top 5 results. The overall search and download procedure is roughly the same for all manufacturers.

To get the name of manufacturer do the following:

  • Windows XP: Click on 'Advanced' (Figure 1), select the 'Adapter' tab and click 'Properties' (Figure 2, right side, same for Windows XP). The manufacturer is shown in the description at the top (Figure 3).
  • Windows Vista / 7 / 8: Click 'Properties' (Figure 2, right side). The manufacturer is shown in the description at the top (Figure 3).

Windows Device Properties ATI Radeon HD 3870
Figure 3 - Adapter properties on Windows. Red markings indicate the manufacturer name.

 

Step 2A: NVIDIA video card drivers

Download the latest NVIDIA driver for your video card [3]. Figure 4 shows the two available options. Option 1 lets you select the correct driver by narrowing down possibilities through the use of dropdown boxes. Option 2 can automatically determine the correct driver for you but requires the installation of the NVIDIA Smart Scan tool which needs the latest version of Java. Search for the driver and click "download" to download the installation. DO NOT INSTALL YET! Continue with Step 3.

 

Update NVIDIA Drivers
Figure 4 - Download the latest NVIDIA drivers by selecting the correct product. [3]

 

Step 2B: AMD/ATI video card drivers

Download the latest driver for your video card from AMD [4]. As shown in figure 5, AMD offers direct links to drivers for its latest products and dropdown boxes to narrow down the possibilities for its other products. Another options is to "Automatically Detect and Install" (top of the right column) the driver through the installation of another application named AMD Driver Autodetect. Unlike NVIDIA this does not require the installation of Java. Select the device, as found in Step 1, and download the latest driver by clicking "Download". DO NOT INSTALL YET! Continue with step 3.

Update AMD Drivers
Figure 5 - Download the latest AMD drivers by selecting the correct product. [4]

 

Step 2C: Intel video card drivers

Download the latest driver for your video card from Intel [5]. Figure 6 shows the available options for the Intel Download Center. You can search by category which lets you select the correct driver by narrowing down possibilities through the use of dropdown boxes. As we already determined the video card type in Step 1 it is easier to simply search with the product name directly. Just like NVIDIA and AMD Intel offers the option to automatically determine the correct driver for you.  The  Intel Driver Update Utility requires the installation of the latest version of Java. Search for the driver and select the correct operating system and 'Drivers' download type in the next screen. Select the driver installer (.exe) and download the installation by clicking "download". DO NOT INSTALL YET! Continue with Step 3.

 

Update Intel Drivers
Figure 6 - Download the latest Intel drivers by selecting the correct product. [5]

 

Step 3: Completely uninstall the old drivers

  • Uninstall old drivers 100% with Driver Fusion.
  • Note that the screen might flicker and the resolution might temporarily change. Don't worry, this will be fixed when installing the new driver in Step 4.

Before installing the new driver it is wise to uninstall the old driver. You could use the uninstaller provided by the manufacturer but those generally don't remove the driver 100%. The remaining entries (such as folders, files and registry entries) can influence the new installation or even corrupt it. Many of the main video card related problems are caused by faulty drivers.

Download Driver Fusion here [6] and install. Driver Fusion does delete drivers 100% and thus eliminates the chance for corruption and ensures the best possible performance. Delete the current display driver by selecting the driver of the manufacturer and click delete. In the case of "Advanced Micro Devices, Inc." (better known and abbreviated as AMD), the manufacturer in Figure 3, you would select 'AMD Display'. In the case of Step 2B you select 'NVIDIA Display' and in the case of Step 2C you need to select 'Intel Display'. Figure 7 shows the driver selected for removal in Driver Fusion. Note that Driver Fusion can also delete any leftover entries if you already used the uninstaller by the manufacturer.

 

Driver Fusion delete AMD video card driver
Figure 7 - Use Driver Fusion to completely uninstall old drivers.

 

Step 4: Install the new drivers

All that is left is the installation of the new driver. Run the installer that you downloaded in Step 2 and follow the on screen instructions. You have now successfully updated your video card driver.

 

Sources:

* No Windows XP computer was present during the creation of the article so the images used belong to the above sources.

  1. OUTERRIMSIEGES, OuterRimSieges • View topic - *** ORS EVOLUTION: Display settings feedback, visited 14-11-2012, http://boards.outerrimsieges.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=4166.
  2. BRIGHTHUB, Fixing Icon Background Colors in Windows XP, visited 14-11-2012, http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/13875.aspx.
  3. NVIDIA, Drivers - Download NVIDIA Drivers, visited 14-11-2012, http://www.nvidia.com/Download/index.aspx.
  4. AMD, AMD Graphics Drivers & Software – Download the latest drivers for your graphics products, visited 14-11-2012, http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx.
  5. INTEL, Intel Download Center, visited 16-11-2012, http://downloadcenter.intel.com/.
  6. TREEXY, Driver Fusion - The Complete Driver Solution, visited 16-11-2012, http://treexy.com/products/driver-fusion.
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