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Windows 8.1 and Corrupt nVidia Graphics Drivers

Yesterday I suffered the dreaded ‘Monitor display blank screen issue after driver update‘ on my Windows 8.1 PC (in the middle of my work day to add insult to injury). I’m not sure when my PC decided to do Windows updates and install new drivers but all of a sudden my PC rebooted itself and after displaying the Windows 8 boot logo both monitors turned off and went blank.

After a wee bit of googling and thinking I found that this is a fairly common issue and is caused by driver update conflicts. I haven’t found an exact reason but it sounds as though Windows basically installs two drivers at once which causes the conflict and thus it doesn’t work at all.

The Fix

In theory the fix is fairly simple but in practice it can be a little tricky. The gist of it is that you boot your machine in safe mode (I’ll explain that next as it isn’t quite as easy as it once was), uninstall the graphics drivers, download and install drivers, and then stop Windows updates from doing this all over again. Not the best solution but at least it’ll get you back up and running.

Safe Mode

The first thing you’ll find with Windows 8/8.1 is that unless you have a very old, very slow computer pressing F8/Shift+F8 to get the advanced boot options won’t work. So the only way I could figure out how to do it was to boot the machine normally, once the logo disappears and the screen went blank I counted to 10 and then rebooted again.

Now when it booted it gave me a Windows startup error and then started ‘Diagnosing my PC’. Eventually you’ll get to a screen where you can ‘Choose an option’:

  1. Continue (this will just give you a blank screen again)
  2. Troubleshoot (select this option)
  3. Turn off your PC (not really going to help)

In the troubleshooting screen you’ll again get some options:

  1. Refresh your PC
  2. Reset your PC
  3. Advance Options (select this one)

Then in advanced options you’ll get even more choices:

  1. System Restore (you could try this, but it didn’t work for me)
  2. System Image Recovery (would be handy if you have one)
  3. Automatic Repair (again didn’t work for me)
  4. Command Prompt (could be useful?)
  5. Startup Settings (select this option)

This will take you to a screen telling you to restart in order to change the Windows startup settings. Go ahead of do this.

Finally now when the machine reboots you’ll be given an advanced boot menu letting you choose Safe mode (option 4).

Uninstall Drivers / Disable automatic updates

Once you’re in safe mode (finally!) you can go ahead and uninstall the drivers. Two ways you can do this. Either go into device manager (right click on the start menu > device manager > display adapters > right click and uninstall) or go to Programs/Features (like you would to uninstall programs) and uninstall all nVidia components.

Next step is to stop Windows updates installing stuff on its own. Go to Control Panel (again right click on the start button) > System and Security > Windows Update > Change Settings (on the left). Personally I have set mine to Check Only (Do Not Download & Do Not install)  but you could probably get away with Check and Download (Do Not Install). This will allow you to oversee which updates are applied and should hopefully stop you from getting in this pickle again!

Download and Install Drivers

If you now reboot you’ll find that you now have some generic display driver which lets you back into your machine without needing safe mode. Your next step is to go to the nVidia drivers download page and download the driver for your machine. For me the latest driver (GeForce 335.23) caused the exact same issue so I had to experiment a bit and rollback even further.

Once it has installed (your screen may flicker/turn off for a bit during the process) you should now find you are back up and running successfully.

NB: I have been told that there is an automatic update utility in the nVidia control panel which may need to be disabled. So if you find that this keeps happening (even after stopping Windows updates) then this may be your problem.

If you have any questions feel free to comment or hit me up on twitter @JAGracie

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