A few weeks ago, the graphics card on my PC finally gave up the ghost. What should have been a simple replacement turned into a frustrating example of bureaucratic nonsense.
My old card was an AMD Radeon R9 390. Decent for its time, and I would have kept using it if it hadn’t decided to kick the bucket. I chose to replace it with a Radeon RX 580. The RX 580 is a midrange graphics card. It’s not the fastest in the world, but given that the PC games I play are several years old, speed was not a factor for me. Nor was 4K resolution, as I’m using a bare-bones PC on a dinky old monitor. All I really needed was something that can run a couple of relatively recent games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, some older games like Might and Magic Heroes VII, and some really old games like Zeus: Master of Olympus from the Windows 2000 days.
Installing the card was no problem. I was pleased when I plugged it in and voila! a functional graphics card. I figured I was four case screws and a quick driver install away from glory. All I had to do was pop over to the AMD web site, grab the drivers, and I would be good to go.
Or so I thought.
I found the Windows 7 drivers. I found the Windows 10 drivers. But the Windows 8.1 drivers were nowhere in sight. Some sleuthing gave me the answer, as I encountered forum after forum filled with irate customers who, like me, were furious to discover that AMD quietly discontinued their drivers for Windows 8.1.
You may, at this point, be wondering why I’m running Windows 8.1 instead of Windows 10. Part of it is a need to run the operating systems that my clients use, so that I can replicate any problems they may encounter. The other part is a lingering distaste for the way Windows 10 foisted itself off on unsuspecting users upon its initial release. So yes, one solution would have been to upgrade to Windows 10, but I was way more interested in getting back to my video game than spontaneously spending a day backing up and doing a clean install on my computer.
(Why a clean install? Wouldn’t an upgrade over the existing system be faster? Yes, but I despise upgrading over existing software. Any lingering problems inevitably carry over, causing headaches down the road. If I’m going to change operating systems, I might as well start fresh. It’s the same advice I give to my customers.)
So I tried the Windows 10 drivers, to no avail. They installed, but the system refused to acknowledge that there was a bona fide AMD card in there. Thankfully, the computer accepted the Windows 7 drivers and I was soon back to fighting darkspawn with my trusty mage staff.
Still, the experience left me hesitant to recommend AMD graphics cards in the future. Windows 8.1 may be old, but it’s still under extended support from Microsoft until 2023. Microsoft’s Windows 7 extended support, on the other hand, ends in January 2020. AMD’s apparent reasoning is that they didn’t want to spend time developing for an operating system that is not widely used.
In my opinion, if the operating system is still supported by Microsoft, then vendors ought to offer a driver, especially if they’re continuing to offer drivers for an even older operating system. Because if the box says “Windows 7 and Windows 10,” then the average consumer is going to assume that the version in between is also supported.
I have no idea how long these drivers will continue to work. Fortunately for me, this is mostly a gaming PC. Imagine the nightmare if this was my primary work computer. Imagine if I had business software that was Windows 8.1-specific and I ended up stuck with a graphics card with no Windows 8.1 drivers. That’s the sort of thing that can really cause major headaches, and perhaps even cost your business extra time and money that you don’t have.
Have you ever run into a similar instance of bureaucratic tech nonsense? Share in the comments, and be sure to sign up for Tech Tips by email for the latest computer news and advice for Windows, Mac, and mobile users. You can also follow Tech Tips on Facebook.