Radeon Driver Bug Corrupts Windows, AMD Shares Fix

It takes time to reproduce bugs and find solutions, especially rare ones. However, after a couple of weeks of investigation, AMD finally found a solution for Radeon graphics card owners who faced an Adrenalin driver bug that corrupted their systems.

AMD’s Adrenalin 23.2.1 driver delivered decent performance improvements and new features to users. But, lamentably, the driver also brought some users headaches since it bricked their Windows installation. 

The issue isn’t limited to the Adrenalin 23.2.1 driver, either. Brad Chacos, the executive editor at PCWorld (opens in new tab), encountered the same bug even with the latest Adrenalin 23.2.2 driver that recently left AMD’s oven. Chacos worked hand-in-hand with AMD engineers to discover the root cause of the problem and a temporary workaround.

“We have reproduced an issue that can occur in an extremely small number of instances if a PC update occurs during the installation of AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition, and we are actively investigating. We recommend users ensure all system updates are applied or paused before installing the driver, and that the “Factory Reset” option is unchecked during the AMD driver installation process. We are committed to resolve issues as quickly as possible and strongly encourage users to submit issues with AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition via the Bug Report Tool,” one AMD spokesperson told PCWorld.

Judging from AMD’s statement, the software has a flaw that appears to conflict with Windows Update. However, you can argue that it’s a Windows bug, not an AMD bug. Windows shouldn’t be updating a driver of any kind if there’s a current installation in progress. It has been an issue with all sorts of other drivers for quite some time. It’s the reason why some users prefer to disable automatic driver updates.

In the meantime, AMD has advised users not to use the “Factory Reset” option while installing the Adrenalin drivers. The aforementioned option removes all traces of the previously installed driver, similar to what popular third-party Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) does, and requires a restart. Our theory is that Windows Update simultaneously installs the Adrenalin driver during the standard driver installation because the system momentarily lacks a display driver when restarted.

Adrenalin Software (Image credit: AMD)

It’s good practice to always do a clean install of your display drivers with every update. However, the feature is currently borked on AMD’s Adrenalin drivers, so heed the company’s advice and make sure you untick the “Factory Reset” option before installation. Also, for good measure, disable or pause your Windows updates before installing the Adrenalin drivers. AMD believes it’s an uncommon bug, but we don’t recommend taking any chances until the chipmaker provides a final solution.

DDU, for example, has a specific option that prevents Windows Update from downloading drivers when the program is running. AMD could adopt a similar strategy to ensure that Windows Update and the Adrenalin software don’t perform a parallel installation.

Windows recovery mode is the answer for those unlucky users that have already gone down this road. However, it may not be easy to get there.

According to Chacos, AMD recommended hitting the power button to force Windows into automatic recovery. It’s easier said than done, though. The trick is to hit the power button right after the BIOS options disappear but before the Windows circle. Unfortunately, Chacos noted that pushing the power button during the BIOS options would turn off the system and at the Windows spinning circle only lead to a black screen. It took Chacos 15 attempts to succeed, so perseverance is key to recovering your system.

If you’re not the type to keep regular data backups, you should probably do so before installing AMD’s latest Adrenalin drivers. It’s a rare bug, and unticking “Factory Reset” seemingly prevents it from happening, but do you want to take that chance?