Windows 11 is causing trouble for some users with AMD graphics cards, thanks to antics involving installing an outdated driver for Team Red’s GPUs.
What’s happening here is that Windows Update is going ahead with an automatic driver ‘update’ that actually installs an older graphics driver.
Windows Latest explains that it has received reports from readers, and via its forums, complaining about the issue, and also there’s a post on Reddit with some affected Windows 11 users making their feelings known, too.
Those hit by the glitch get an error message from AMD’s Adrenalin software informing them: “Windows Update may have automatically replaced your AMD Graphics driver. Hence, the version of AMD Software you have launched is not compatible with your currently installed AMD Graphics driver.”
In other words, Windows 11 has installed a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) driver, but this is an old version and incompatible with the AMD Adrenalin suite.
The good news is that it’s easy enough to fix this problem, as we’ll discuss next.
Analysis: A fairly easy fix – but don’t forget the extra step
The cure, fortunately, is relatively simple. You need to download the latest AMD Adrenalin driver for starters – then uninstall the current driver, and reinstall the new AMD driver. (Some also advise disconnecting from the internet while uninstalling and reinstalling the graphics driver in this way).
The next and very important step to take is to turn off Windows Update’s automatic graphics driver updates, to avoid this happening again. To do that, in the search box (taskbar), type ‘Device installation settings’ and click on this when it pops up in the panel above.
You’ll be presented with a question asking if you want to use automatic downloads for hardware manufacturers’ apps, to which you should reply ‘no’ (even though it says your device may not work as expected – don’t worry about that). Then click ‘Save Changes’ and the automatic graphics driver update will no longer happen. (If you don’t do this, you might find that Windows 11 changes the driver again, even after you’ve reverted it – and so on, ad nauseum, until Microsoft sorts out whatever the issue is here.)
Why is this happening? Good question, it’s a bit of an odd one. There’s clearly been a mistake somewhere at Microsoft, or maybe something has gone awry with the driver supplied by AMD. Hopefully, the situation will be rectified soon enough, but at least you can cure the problem manually as described above.
Windows 11 speculation has once again turned to the topic of personalized recommendations within the Start menu, and it seems that a feature which Microsoft discarded may be back on the drawing board.
The feature in question is recommended websites, which could pop up alongside other existing recommendations at the bottom of the Start menu (commonly used apps, suggested files and so forth).
You can enable website recommendations in 25247+ (and 23403) with this ViVeTool command:vivetool /enable /id:40059556 (TopSitesRecommendations)This was tested in November/December last year, interesting to see it potentially making a return soonMarch 18, 2023
You may recall that recommendations for websites to visit was an idea Microsoft was toying with in past preview builds from November 2022 onwards, but the idea was subsequently abandoned in build 25272, which landed in January 2023.
The feature is hidden – and was only unearthed using ViVeTool, a Windows configuration utility – but it’s certainly interesting to see it could potentially be making a comeback. Especially given that a fair few Windows 11 users were happy to see the back of this concept when Microsoft seemingly ditched it at the start of the year.
Analysis: Drawing the line with recommendations
What folks are concerned about with recommended websites is that Microsoft will use this as a vehicle for pushing third-party sites (effectively advertising).
It’s one thing to recommend files or existing apps on your PC that you might want to conveniently and quickly open, but it’s entirely another to start suggesting ‘useful’ websites. (Sites that’ll no doubt be opened in Edge if past Microsoft form is anything to go by – the software giant won’t likely pass up an opportunity to promote its browser).
What’s also noteworthy here is that this ties up with another hidden piece of the puzzle that was discovered in the latest preview version of Windows 11. Namely the ‘Recommended’ part of the Start menu panel being renamed as the ‘For you’ section, which as we mulled previously seems to suggest that further personalization of this element of the interface might be incoming – possibly including recommended website content? Maybe, just maybe…
Yes, we are treading deeper into speculative territory here, but with AI increasingly being pushed by Microsoft, it’s not difficult to believe that suggestions and recommendations are going to be in evidence across Windows 11 before too long.
The worrying bit is exactly where the line will be drawn regarding helping users and helping advertisers, certainly in the case of recommended websites. Fingers crossed that if recommended sites are again inbound, or about to be tested, that Microsoft can strike a well-considered balance.
You may recall that when Windows 11 first emerged, late in 2021, there was quite a fuss about VBS (Virtualization Based Security) slowing down games – and heads up, here comes some more controversy around this security feature.
Enter stage left (accompanied by a rumble of thunder, perhaps) a report from Tom’s Hardware, with our sister site having recently done a whole load of graphics card benchmarking, making a realization afterward: namely that VBS was turned on.
Here’s the thing, the senior editor at Tom’s who wrote the report, Jarred Walton, had previously disabled VBS, but at some point, a Windows 11 update (presumably) had reverted the feature and turned it back on without Walton noticing. (Windows 11 has VBS on by default now for new installations of the OS).
Walton further observes that Tom’s Editor-in-Chief, Avram Piltch, runs Windows 10 Home and hadn’t touched VBS since clean installing the OS last summer – but VBS was switched on with that system, too. Again, we can guess this happened via an update at some point (though note, we don’t know this for sure).
The long and short of it is, Microsoft wants this feature on for tighter Windows security – clearly – and is seemingly defaulting to turn it back on with all PCs (during major updates, most likely). But if users aren’t aware that VBS is being reenabled, and it can have a negative effect on gaming frame rates, well, that’s a bit of a pickle, to put it mildly.
Back at the launch of Windows 11, we heard tales of VBS hamstringing frame rates in some cases, with frame rate drops of up to 30%. Now, that turned out to be very much a worst-case scenario, with Tom’s doing its own testing at the time which revealed that the drop, on average, was more like 5% (still an appreciable decrease in frame rate).
Bearing that in mind, what kind of impact does VBS have these days? Walton was curious, so ran a battery of tests to find out using an Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card (at different resolutions and graphics settings over 15 games).
Would VBS have any noticeable impact on gaming performance with a new processor – Intel’s Core i9-13900K – and a cutting-edge GPU?
Apparently, performance drops remain at about the same level as seen with previous testing a year and a half ago, with VBS taking performance down by around 5% overall. At higher resolutions, the impact was less: only 2% when running ultra settings in 4K.
There were some games that fared worse, as you might imagine. Tom’s Hardware highlights Microsoft Flight Simulator which experienced average frame rate drops of around 10%. Far Cry 6 and Control also exhibited 10% or so drops (at 1080p resolution with certain graphics settings, anyway). Other games were much less affected, or saw no difference at all in some cases.
Analysis: A difficult choice, perhaps – but one we should get to make ourselves
It appears that VBS is still pretty much the same as it was when Windows 11 first launched in terms of slowing down games by an average of around a 5% drop in fps (frames per second).
Nothing has changed in the broad overarching picture, then, but what has changed is that Microsoft is now apparently turning on VBS post-updates, at least in some cases (and this could be true for Windows 10 systems as well as Windows 11).
That’s worrying, because the choice of 'VBS or no VBS' should be yours – and you shouldn’t have to worry about the operating system maker deciding that you mustn’t be without this security feature, and turning it on without your knowledge. At the very least, if this is the route Microsoft feels it must take, the move should be documented in patch release notes somewhere, or some effort made to inform the user.
The question of whether or not you should disable VBS is a thorny one. On the one hand, it’s a security feature, and clearly one Microsoft believes that you’d be silly not to use; hence the switching back on. Arguably, too, the impact is fairly minimal for a lot of games (as we can see with Tom’s testing).
However, there is some impact, and a 10% slowdown in outlying cases is quite a penalty to pay. Particularly for keen gamers who are obsessed with tuning their PCs to eke out every extra frame – a drop of a tenth in fps is akin to a lead weight being tied to that kind of enthusiast’s feet.
Furthermore, while VBS might be indisputably important in business PC scenarios, for the average home user, there are those who argue it’s overkill – and indeed probably not even necessary. Again, on the flip side though, Microsoft has pointed out in the past how VBS can be a useful extra line of defense against some malware attacks.
Ultimately, this decision comes down to you, the types of games you play, and whether you play them competitively – and also how cautious you might be on the security front, too. But frankly, what is rather mystifying here is Microsoft seemingly making these decisions for users, as is apparently the case now.
AMD has revealed some fresh details about its incoming graphics cards for this year, and it seems that the plan is to unleash a high-end next-gen GPU, alongside refreshes of current Navi products.
These revelations come from the very top, namely AMD’s chief executive, who was quizzed about a number of things in an earnings call following the company’s latest financial results for Q4 (which were very healthy indeed, with revenue up 50% year-on-year, one of the big drivers being Ryzen CPUs, unsurprisingly).
As Anandtech reports, when questioned on GPU plans for 2020, CEO Lisa Su stated that: “In 2019, we launched our new architecture in GPUs, it’s the RDNA architecture, and that was the Navi based products. You should expect that those will be refreshed in 2020 – and we’ll have a next generation RDNA architecture that will be part of our 2020 line-up.
“So we’re pretty excited about that, and we’ll talk more about that at our financial analyst day.”
The above information is, however, somewhat open to interpretation. It’s clear enough in stating that current Navi graphics cards will be refreshed this year, and that a next-gen RDNA GPU will be part of the release schedule for 2020.
Monster GPU inbound?
The guessing begins in terms of latter presumably referring to Big Navi, the high-end graphics card which has been much-rumored of late, and is designed to take on Nvidia’s top RTX offerings.
This GPU will purportedly be built on RDNA 2 (although note that RDNA 2 isn’t mentioned by name, it’s just called next-gen – so it could potentially be RDNA+), and that will come with hardware ray tracing acceleration to go up against the RTX cards.
The other comment concerning current Navi-based GPUs presumably means that these will be refreshed alongside the new launch, so we will get beefed up versions of RDNA cards, as well as the fresh high-end RDNA 2 offering(s) later this year. Although we obviously have to be careful here, as that’s not exactly what Lisa Su said – just what we’re reading into it.
Given the amount of spillage going on right now about AMD’s upcoming graphics cards for 2020, with a number of comments coming from the GPU maker itself, we probably won’t have long to wait to find out – and we can guess (or perhaps hope) that a high-end launch is coming sooner rather than later this year.
AMD’s most recent shot from the hype cannon is that it intends to push out a high-end GPU to disrupt 4K gaming in a similar manner to what Ryzen did in the processor world. Although whether the firm has the financial muscle to push its GPUs as hard as its CPUs – while maintaining that momentum with processors, in order to keep that lead over Intel – is another question, of course.
Let’s hope the eventual next-gen Navi product lives up to the hype, although if it doesn’t launch sooner rather than later, it may run into much tougher competition from Nvidia’s own next-gen GPUs (which the rumor mill also expects to debut in 2020).