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A rare AMD Radeon driver bug is breaking PCs. this fix revived me
A rare AMD Radeon driver bug is breaking PCs
The carefully indexed, rock-solid-reliable AMD Radeon PC I completely and completely shut down this week for testing graphics cards. I couldn’t even get the system to boot into Windows Repair Mode to attempt to troubleshoot it. Criminal? A rare bug in the way Windows interacts with AMD’s latest WQHL-certified Radeon driver, Adrenalin 23.2.2. Some quick Googling revealed that this is happening to a few other users since Adrenalin 23.2.1 landed in mid-February, with similarly disastrous effects.
This experience would be an absolute disaster for anyone who isn’t an executive editor of a computer publication with a deep rolodex (though AMD representatives are very sensitive to driver feedback on social media). But luckily, I was able to work closely with AMD on this issue.
AMD engineers not only managed to diagnose the likely root cause of this exotic bug, but also discovered a downright exotic troubleshooting workaround that helped revive my PC. A permanent fix is being investigated, but affected users can use this workaround to repair their systems without resorting to a completely new Windows install.
what happened here How It happened, how you can avoid it, and how you can fix it if a similar disaster strikes your PC.
How AMD’s Radeon drivers broke my Windows install
I got a new custom Radeon RX 7900 XT to test this week, so I went about my usual go-between process for making sure the PC is up-to-date and ready for benchmarks. Before swapping in a new graphics card or new drivers, while my current stable setup is still intact, I would try to make the system “like new” to avoid potential problems caused by swapping in different GPUs from different brands. I follow several steps to (The system remains stable with minimal software installed beyond the benchmarking tools to ensure hardware stability.)
Adam Patrick Murray / IDG
I already had a GeForce RTX 4070 Ti set up to give Nvidia’s awesome RTX video Super Resolution a whirl. With that installed, I manually updated Windows 10. Then, I powered down the system and replaced the 4070 Ti with the Radeon RX 7900 XT. It booted normally. I then used Windows 10’s Add and Remove Programs tool to uninstall all Nvidia software from my PC and rebooted. standard stuff. I then used the fantastic DDU uninstaller tool to make sure the Nvidia bits were truly and completely erased, and rebooted. everything went fine.
Then the problems started.
I opened Chrome, navigated to AMD’s website, and downloaded the WQHL-certified Adrenalin 23.2.2 drivers that the site recommended for the 7900 XT. Then I installed the driver, checking the box to perform a “factory reset” clean installation instead of upgrade-in-place. It turns out that checking that box is done in conjunction with a silent Windows Update happening in the background without my knowledge, Perhaps Caused the collapse of my rig.
Everything ran fine – until the software said I needed to reboot my PC to complete the driver installation. After restarting, my system hit the MSI BIOS splash page as usual, but the second time it tried to load Windows, it immediately encountered the Blue Screen of Death, shown in the image in the tweet below. Flashed the “inaccessible boot device” error code (which is unrelated to this AMD issue). Uh The system then began an endless cycle of BSOD > reboot > BSOD > reboot without turning off the automatic repair attempts or offering me the usual Windows troubleshooting options.
I didn’t have time to troubleshoot this so I shut down the system and tried again the next day. Same deal. I took out the custom Radeon RX 7900 XT I needed to test and replaced it with AMD’s reference Radeon RX 7900 XT. This time, after two BSOD>reboot cycles, Windows attempted to automatically repair the system after the BIOS splash screen. Success! …or so I thought. But I was very wrong.
choosing to fix the problem, rather than startup Repair made it worse. When this was done, the screen went dark and completely unresponsive (while still on). Now, whenever I try to boot the computer, I see the “Windows is thinking about it” circle spin after the BIOS screen for a while, then return to infinite blackness. My Windows install had been so difficult that even the BSOD didn’t crash, and I had no chance to try standard Windows troubleshooting efforts.
In desperation, I tried to replace the Radeon RX 7900 XT with an RTX 4070 Ti and an Intel Arc A750—GPUs I’ve tested over the past two weeks work reliably—to no avail.
Googling came up with this WCCFTech article from mid-February, along with a lot of other coverage, citing several user reports of Adrenalin 23.2.1 destroying their Windows installs. It’s a deeply frustrating experience, and would be devastating to a standard PC gamer. I tweeted about my woes and an AMD representative emailed me back within minutes. Obviously, being PCWorld’s executive editor allows me to be fast-tracked for a quick response (though again, AMD representatives are very sensitive to driver feedback on social media). In this case, my high-profile headache managed to help AMD investigate the core issue, so I can provide troubleshooting steps that worked for me. And Pleased to report that a permanent fix is under investigation.
How to fix Radeon drivers breaking your Windows installation
I could have just slapped in a new SSD with a clean Windows install, but we spent two days going through various troubleshooting while AMD engineers tried to reproduce and diagnose the problem. Swapping GPUs, trying new monitors, pulling out the display cables at different times, cleaning the CMOS, and making sure UEFI was selected instead of CSM in the BIOS (it was!) All proved in vain.
But this morning, AMD’s team got back to me with another suggestion: When the BIOS splash screen is up right after you turn on the PC, try to force an automatic recovery attempt by refusing Windows to power on. Slam the button. I tried it four times, to no avail. I was told to maintain it, that it would like finally work. And after fifteen total tries, it did it!
I’m not sure what caused it to catch on, but timing seemed to play a part in it. The BIOS keypress options were up when pressing the power button just shut down my PC right away. Killing it after the spinning “Windows Thinking” icon appeared kept the PC running, but did nothing – my system just black-screened again. Eventually, I managed to hit the power button in the split second between the BIOS options disappearing and the Windows circle appearing, and He Managed to kickstart the automated recovery effort.
After Windows did its job for a while, I finally wound up in the Windows Recovery Tools menu, able to restart my PC or select advanced options. I went into the Troubleshoot menu of advanced options and chose system Restoresince startup Repair Broke my pc before. I selected a restore point from mid-February, loaded it, and after two admittedly frustrating days, my test rig was back in action.
If you’ve recently suffered from your Windows installation being corrupted by Adrenaline drivers, expect this process to get you back on your feet. You should also try the usual cryptic method for invoking the Windows Recovery Tools found in the “Use the Startup Repair Function” section here. (don’t use startup Repair Although! Use restore points! Just use this process to get you to a menu with both options.)
But how did it happen and how can you stop it from happening to you?
How to avoid Radeon drivers breaking your Windows installation
AMD told me that due to its extreme rarity it took dozens of attempts to recreate the issue in its labs. On one call, a representative actually referred to me as “Patient Zero”. The company provided me with the following statement while its investigation was ongoing:
“We have reproduced an issue that may occur in a small number of cases when PCs are updated during the installation of AMD software: the Adrenalin version, and we are actively investigating. We recommend that users ensure that all system updates have been applied or paused prior to driver installation, and that the “Factory reset” option is unchecked during the AMD driver installation process. We are committed to resolving issues as soon as possible and returning users to AMD We strongly encourage you to submit issues with Software:Adrenaline Edition via the bug report tool.
It’s worth noting that my version of Windows 10 was updated before I tried to install the Adrenaline software, but the Game Bar or some other part of Windows may have been updating silently in the background to kickstart this disaster.
As a workaround, just don’t check that factory reset box if you’re installing new Radeon drivers. There’s no reason to do this if you already have a working Radeon GPU installed and are updating to the latest drivers anyway. simple as that. This worked for me after my test system was regenerated and I now have Adrenalin 23.2.2 installed and working like a charm.
a damned shame
It is a shame that this happened. Most excruciatingly for me and other gamers whose Windows was deeply broken, of course, but also for AMD.
I’ve been a vocal advocate for the serious driver and software improvements that AMD has been making over the past half-decade. People criticized the iffy state of the Radeon drivers for years. AMD listened to them and made tremendous investments and efforts to make them shine. Now, Team Red’s drivers are even better than Nvidia’s popular Game Ready drivers in many ways, and in June 2022 AMD felt confident enough about its software to announce that it was “leading the industry” with 99.95% of users. -Leading stability “Provides no crashes when AMD software is installed.”
There’s no doubt that AMD’s driver stability and overall stability are right up there with the best of them after years of intense refinement. This is a very unusual edge case. It certainly sucks in that 0.05%! but the issues This Radeon software’s image retouching has resulted in catastrophic injuries, no matter how rare they are. Regardless of whether Windows or AMD is to blame in the end, this experience is the kind of thing that will make many PC gamers immediately turn off Radeon GPUs forever, and tell all their friends why. And it’s a shame.
Several Radeon GPUs feature in our roundup of the best graphics cards. I’m not going to remove them, despite my personal disaster. This serious problem isn’t widespread, occurring only in ultra-rare circumstances, while AMD offers truly compelling value with Nvidia hiking GeForce prices through the roof. And yes, AMD’s drivers really are rock-solid huge most of the time. This particular scenario could have been disastrous without AMD’s direct help, but no software is perfect — especially in a complex PC ecosystem — and when I got stuck in a deep frustration state, it was only a matter of time before I was affected. slim chance You, (And hopefully this article can help you if it does.)
Most people don’t check the factory install box anyway. Just make sure you don’t do either until the permanent fix is released.
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