How to Uninstall Drivers
By David Wayne
Windows automatically installs drivers when you're connected to the Internet, but if they don't work correctly or conflict with drivers from a disc, Windows provides several ways to remove them. Device Manager lists drivers for essential components, such as USB and networking cards, while the PC Settings menu contains driver settings for external devices, such as printers and scanners. If Windows loads a problematic driver at startup, you can prevent it from doing so by booting into safe mode, a Windows startup option that enables you to diagnose PC problems and roll back updates.
Uninstall drivers for wired or wireless devices such as headsets, webcams, printers and fax machines by opening the PC Settings menu. Press “Windows-C” to open the Charms bar, click "Settings," then “Change PC Settings.” Select “Devices” in the PC and Devices menu and click “Remove” next to a device's name; confirm that you want to uninstall the driver when prompted. You don't need to restart your computer; the device immediately becomes inaccessible.
Remove drivers for essential components such as video cards, network adapters and USB controllers from the Device Manager. Press “Windows-X” to open the system menu, then click “Device Manager.” Click the arrow next to a device to expand its list of drivers, then right-click a driver and select “Uninstall” in the resulting drop-down menu to remove the driver. After a few seconds, when the removal completes, restart your computer to ensure Windows isn't still using the driver.
Roll back a driver to a previously working version by right-clicking the driver in Device Manager and selecting “Properties.” Click the “Driver” tab and select “Roll Back Driver” if this option is available. If this button is grayed out, Windows doesn't have an earlier version of the driver and you can't roll it back. Alternatively, to see if a particular driver is causing a problem, click “Disable” to mute the driver without uninstalling it. To ensure the driver is muted, restart Windows.
- If a bad driver prevents Windows from starting normally, you can restart your computer in safe mode to avoid loading the driver at startup. Click “Power” under "Settings" in the Charms menu and then hold down “Shift” while clicking “Restart.” On the Choose an Option screen, click “Troubleshoot,” then choose “Advanced Options” and “Startup Settings.” Click “Restart,” and after your computer restarts, press “4” to enter safe mode. Use the previously outlined steps to remove drivers from Device Manager or PC Settings. Begin by uninstalling the most recent drivers first, and after removing each driver, restart your computer in normal mode to see if it fixes the problem.
- Prevent Windows from automatically installing drivers by disabling this option in the System and Security applet. Press “Windows-X” and then click “System” in the resulting pop-up menu. Choose “Advanced System Settings.” From the "Hardware" tab, select “Device Installation Settings” and click “No, let me choose what to do.” This setting can improve the way older devices work in Windows if the manufacturer provides compatible, up-to-date drivers online or from a disc.
- Information in this article applies to Windows 8.1. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.
David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.