AMD Radeon driver update still bricking Windows installs, but there's a simple fix

AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT graphics card
(Image credit: Future)

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.”

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.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).