Installing drivers can be a hair-raising adventure, even on the latest operating systems. These finicky pieces of software code act as the middleman between your PC hardware and its operating system. Although drivers install with ease, they integrate deeply into the OS, sinking their teeth into areas most other software doesn't go near.
Most of the time the driver installation process is simple, seamless and transparent to you, as it should be. But when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. A poor driver can even crash your PC.
For example, when Microsoft launched Windows Vista in 2007, critics lambasted it for being slow and prone to crashing; Microsoft investigated and found that a majority of computer crashes were due to driver issues.
Should you encounter a problematic driver, a couple of tricks can help. Microsoft has introduced an easy way to roll back to a previous, hopefully more stable, version of the driver, or remove it from the system altogether, giving you a clean slate to try again or install a different version.
How to roll back to a previous driver
Click Start, type Device Manager, then press Enter. Find and double-click the category of device causing the issue (for instance, the graphics card is listed under Display Adapters).
Double-click the problematic device to bring up the Properties window. Click the Driver tab. Click the ‘Roll Back Driver' button. Click Yes to confirm your choice.
Windows will automatically remove the current driver for the device and reinstall the previous driver. You may receive a notification that the system settings have changed, and be prompted by Windows to reboot. In this case, restart your PC as soon as possible.
How to uninstall a driver
The best and safest method of uninstalling a driver completely is to use the device's uninstaller program – if it has one. If you used an installer to set up the device (as is the case with most graphics card and sound card drivers, for example), you can uninstall it just as you would any other program on your PC.
Click Start, type Uninstall Program and press Enter. In the Uninstall window that appears, go through the list and find your device or drivers. Double-click the entry to begin the uninstallation process.
Sometimes a device won't have an uninstaller or it doesn't appear. You can use the Device Manager to remove such drivers. Click Start, type Device Manager and press Enter. Find and double-click the category of device whose driver you wish to uninstall.
Right-click the device and click Uninstall. Windows will prompt you to confirm the device's removal. Click Ok to remove the driver then reboot as soon as possible.
After you roll back or uninstall a problematic driver, you can try downloading and installing the latest version from the manufacturer's website, or try a specific version that previously worked to get your computer back on its feet.