Graphics drivers uninstall gone wrong

I just switched to an ATI card from a Nvidia GTX 260, so I needed to uninstall the Nvidia drivers and swap to the ATI drivers. My Nvidia was already in a box ready to ship back to EVGA when my new ATI card arrived.

I attempted to safely remove the Nvidia drivers by installing the new ATI card, booting into safe mode, and uninstalling the drivers through Add/Remove Programs. I then ran Driver Sweeper and removed the Nvidia PhysX, display and some other Nvidia driver. I attempted to reboot the PC to install my ATI drivers, but Windows 7 will now not boot.

It gets to the Windows loading logo, then proceeds to reboot. Attempting to use safe mode also fails. The only thing I can get it to do is go into Startup Repair mode, where it asks me to restore or repair. I don't have a restore point (and don't want to lose my data), and it won't repair.

What the hell happened and how do I fix it?
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  1. You needed to uninstall the drivers for the nvidia card while it was still in the pc...

    Try the old card again?
  2. Why is this not made clear anywhere? I'm a system builder and I even took the time to look up a couple of guides before attempting this, but nowhere did I see anything about it being necessary to keep the old card in place while uninstalling. I'll try it...
  3. Nope, it blue screens and crashes even with the GTX260 in it. No safe mode either. Looks like I'm boned. Son of a....

    So tell me then, if one's Nvidia card dies, and they purchase an ATI card to replace it, how is one meant to change to ATI drivers given that they no longer have an Nvidia card with which to uninstall?

    Edit: WOAH system restore saved my bacon! Now can someone please tell me exactly what i did wrong and how to avoid it?
  4. Do you have an Nvidia chipset motherboard? You may have wiped out your SATA drivers with driver sweeper (perhaps the "some other Nvidia driver" mentioned?).
  5. ^ That sounds reasonable. Can't really think what else could have done it.

    OP: Generally speaking what I would have done is first, with the old card in there, uninstall Nvidia drivers and PhysX, then run Driver Sweeper on them. Then shut down and remove the card, install the new ATI card. Then boot up and install new drivers.
  6. rwpritchett said:
    Do you have an Nvidia chipset motherboard? You may have wiped out your SATA drivers with driver sweeper (perhaps the "some other Nvidia driver" mentioned?).

    Yep, it's an Asus P5N-D. You're probably right. Little did I know I needed Nvidia drivers even if I didn't have an Nvidia card.

    So I'm now attempting to remove the drivers (with the GTX 260 plugged in) through Add/Remove Programs, but nothing happens when I click Uninstall/Change. Curious.

    Strangest of all, I can't even remove the driver from Add/Remove while in safe mode. Should I just use Driver Sweeper without uninstalling it first? What are my options?

    Edit: I was able to kill the driver through device manager, but now every time I reboot Windows automatically reinstalls it, even in safe mode with networking off. I've even set it to not automatically install drivers and it still happens. Grr...

    Edit 2: This would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. I uninstalled the Nvidia driver, only to have it reinstall every time I entered safe mode. Finally I said screw it, and just ran Driver Sweeper in safe mode. I then installed the ATI card, installed their drivers... and nothing happened. I rebooted and again nothing happened. My resolution is still in safemode-view, and I can't change it because my monitor isn't recognized. I look into my Add/Remove programs, and lo and behold the damned Nvidia driver is back. This is like herpes. How do I get rid of this damn thing for GOOD?

    Edit 3:
    Edit 3: Turns out the "AMD Catalyst 10.12 Preview for Windows 7– Featuring the new Catalyst Control Center", the first download on the ATI page for my card, does not in fact contain the driver. Who was the wise guy who thought of that? Anyhow the card is now working, but I ended up having to just delete the Nvidia folder entirely to get rid of it, since Windows kept reinstalling it and Driver Sweeper couldn't find it any longer. Was there some magic I missed to keeping the Nvidia driver from continually springing up?
  7. For future reference uninstall old drivers with old card in place. You should get a message saying you need to reboot to finish uninstalling drivers. Do Not hit restart, instead go to start menu and click on shutdown. With machine off and unplugged swap out cards, when you start up again the old card is gone and it will not reload those drivers. It will, depending on OS find drivers for new card. Once up and running you can install whatever drivers you want. After uninstalling drivers I myself run Glary Utilities to clean up anything left over in registry although there are others out there like registry cleaner that work well also.
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