Warning: AMD graphics driver bug could brick your Windows 11 PC

Windows 11 (and 10) users are suffering from a really unpleasant bug that effectively bricks the PC, putting it in a boot failure loop, and it’s caused by the latest versions of AMD’s graphics driver, the company has confirmed.

PC World reported on this one (via Tom’s Hardware), specifically executive editor Brad Chacos who was unfortunate enough to experience the bug on his gaming PC.

The problem has been found in AMD’s Adrenalin 23.2.1 driver, and the most recent 23.2.2 driver, and leaves the user with a corrupted system.

The occurrence of this glitch is rare, though, and it depends on two factors. Firstly, when installing the new AMD GPU driver, the option for a clean installation (‘factory reset’) must be selected. Then you also need to be unlucky enough for Windows to kick in and perform an update in the background while installing the Adrenalin driver.

Due to the fact that it’s not likely for Windows Update to decide to fire up just at the wrong moment, it seems the bug is rare, which is at least something.

However, this can happen when Windows is set to update automatically (rather than scheduling an update), and if it does, it appears to be the case that the two update processes happening simultaneously (with a clean AMD driver install, as noted) causes severe havoc.

Chacos was left in a situation where instead of Windows booting, a Blue Screen of Death error came up, then the computer rebooted, and the same thing happened again, in a loop. Urgh…

AMD told PC World: “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.”

Analysis: Better safe than sorry

So, as AMD suggests, if you are going to update your graphics driver, ensure you don’t go for that clean installation option (‘Factory Reset’) until AMD has cleared up this situation. Also, make sure any Windows driver updates are already applied (or updates are paused) before you go ahead with installing the AMD driver.

Following either of those rules should mean you’re going to be fine, but ensuring both are observed is obviously the safest thing to do in this situation. And caution definitely seems to be the right approach here, given what happens to PCs that get hit by this particular bug.

The way out of the boot failure loop, as Chacos points out, is to get into Windows recovery mode, but doing so apparently involves a tricky bit of timing. You need to hit the PC’s power button in the fleeting moment between BIOS options disappearing and the Windows loading circle appearing – and it took Chacos no fewer than 15 attempts before getting the timing right. The message is to persevere, but again, this is another unpleasant aspect of this bug.

While rare, given the gravity of this gremlin, hopefully AMD (and Microsoft) will be working to quickly clear up this one. It’s not exactly clear where the fault lies here, but as Tom’s and PC World point out, this has been a problem for a while now – and there’s no way Windows should be kicking in an update, when another update is already underway, because clearly that’s a recipe for chaos.

Fingers crossed for a swift resolution, then, and we wouldn’t blame folks for not taking the workaround presented and simply holding off installing the new AMD driver for a while until a full fix is implemented. As Chacos also observes, his PC was updated to the latest version of Windows 10 before going ahead with the Adrenalin driver installation – it may have been the case that something else, like the Game Bar, just happened to run a conflicting update.

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Warning: this fake Windows 11 upgrade is filled with malware

Security researchers have found a fake Windows 11 upgrade website that promises to offer a free Windows 11 install for PCs that don’t meet the minimum specifications, but actually installs data-stealing malware.

Windows 11 has some… interesting… requirements to run, and its most famous demand is for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0 support. This has led to perfectly capable, and powerful, PCs and laptops being unable to upgrade to Windows 11, as they did not meet the minimum specifications.

Understandably, this annoyed people with relatively new hardware that couldn’t upgrade to the latest version of Windows, and many looked at ways of circumnavigating the TPM 2.0 requirement to install Windows 11 on their unsupported devices.

It’s these people that this new threat is targeting, as Bleeping Computer reports.

Looking legitimate

While the website’s address (URL) should be a red flag (we won't mention it here), as it’s clearly not a Microsoft website, the actual website itself does look like it’s an official Microsoft website, using logos and artwork that makes it difficult to tell it apart from a real Microsoft page.

However, as security researchers CloudSEK discovered by clicking the ‘Download now’ button, the website downloads an ISO file that contains malware.

This malware, called ‘Inno Stealer’, uses a part of the Windows installer to create temporary files on an infected PC. These create processes that run and place four additional files on your PC, some of which contain scripts that disable various security features, including in the Windows registry. They also tweak the built-in Windows Defender anti-virus, and remove other security products from Emisoft and ESET.

Other files then run commands at the highest system privileges, while yet another file is created in the C:\Users\AppData\Roaming\Windows11InstallationAssistant folder, and it’s this file that contains the data-stealing code, named Windows11InstallationAssistant.scr. This then takes information from web browsers, as well as cryptocurrency wallets, stored passwords and files from the PC itself. This stolen data is then sent to the malicious users who created the malware.

Pretty nasty stuff.

Analysis: Be careful what you wish for


(Image credit: Pixabay)

The scale of the infection here, and what it’s able to steal from you, is very scary, but the good news is that it’s easy to avoid.

No matter how desperate you are to install Windows 11, you should only download ISO files from sources you are absolutely certain are legitimate. While the makers of this malware have put in a lot of work to make the website look legitimate (like many so-called ‘phishing’ attacks), there are some tell-tale signs, such as the aforementioned URL, which highlights that this is not a genuine Microsoft website.

If your PC is eligible for a Windows 11 upgrade, you’ll be alerted via Windows Update, a tool that’s built into Windows operating systems. This is the safest way to ensure you are downloading and installing a genuine copy of Windows 11.

If your PC isn’t eligible, due to not meeting the TPM 2.0 requirements, then there are some safer ways to install Windows 11 without TPM anyway. But we don’t really recommend any of them, especially as Microsoft is making it harder to run Windows 11 on unsupported systems, which could mean you miss out on important updates, security fixes and features in the future.

Above all, however, you should never attempt to download and install a Windows 11 ISO file from any website that isn’t run by Microsoft itself.

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