If you haven’t updated your graphics drivers recently, you may not be aware of a change Nvidia instituted in December of 2019. Starting from that date, the Nvidia Control Panel is no longer distributed in the version of Nvidia drivers available for default off the main website. If you navigate to Nvidia.com and check the “GeForce Drivers” page, the driver you’ll be offered is what Microsoft calls a “DCH” (Declarative Componentized Hardware) driver, and it doesn’t include Nvidia’s Control Panel. As of now, if you want the Nvidia Control Panel — and you probably do — you have to get it from the Microsoft Store. According to Nvidia, these changes were due to new requirements from Microsoft. DCH drivers always have the “DCH” string in the file name, e.g. “445.87-desktop-win10-64bit-international-dch-whql.exe”
While it’s possible to download applications from the Microsoft Store without using a Microsoft account, the company uses any interaction with the Store as an excuse to push you towards creating one. When you attempt to download the Nvidia Control Panel without logging in first, the Windows Store shoves a login window in front of you to imply you must create an account in order to install the software.
If you “X” out of this window, the Nvidia Control Panel will install normally. If you’re happy allowing Microsoft to manage your drivers, you may not mind going this route. Speaking strictly for myself, I do mind.
I find Microsoft’s ongoing attempts to misrepresent the need for an online Windows account or trick users into creating one extremely distasteful. Even if I didn’t, I’ve had far too many bad experiences with allowing Windows to update drivers to ever give the OS carte blanche to do so. Allowing the OS to stealth-update the drivers on a testbed without requiring explicit permission is a great way to wind up testing two different GPU drivers without even being aware of it.
In some cases, enthusiasts may need to retain specific driver versions to solve bugs introduced in later versions. I had to manually uninstall the drivers for a friend’s AMD GPU earlier this year after Windows updated him to a driver afflicted with the black screen problems that hit Radeon cards earlier in 2020. While AMD’s driver issues in that instance were not Microsoft’s fault, the fact remains, it was Microsoft that updated my friend’s GPU to an incompatible driver — not him.
Also, under this new distribution scheme, it’s possible for your Control Panel to be incompatible with your currently installed driver. Nvidia has a tutorial for how to resolve this problem if it happens to you, but Microsoft has no business mandating customers jump through these hoops in the first place.
How to Download Standard Nvidia Drivers
Luckily, there’s still an alternative available from Nvidia itself, as mentioned in the company’s Help page for these driver distribution changes. Gamers and compute customers can download a standard Nvidia driver distribution using the Advanced Driver Search page. Note that this page is different from the “All Drivers” search page.
One of the explicit options on the Advanced Search page is to search for the Standard Nvidia driver download as opposed to the DCH version. We’ve spoken to Nvidia about the Standard versus DCH question and while the company assures us that the two driver sets are functionally equivalent, it also has no plans to stop offering a Standard driver.
If you want to use the Standard driver, we recommend installing Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) and setting the option to prevent Windows from searching for updated drivers when Windows Update runs:
The order of events I’d recommend following to ensure a smooth uninstallation/reinstallation process is:
1). Download DDU and the Standard Nvidia driver you want to install.
2). Run Nvidia’s default uninstaller. Do not immediately reboot after uninstalling your existing driver.
3). Launch DDU and allow the application to reboot you into Safe Mode.
4). When DDU reboots you into Safe Mode, make certain you use the “Options” menu to set the flag shown above. Select your Nvidia GPU from the drop-down list of options DDU offers and choose the appropriate outcome you desire (Clean system and reboot, clean system and don’t reboot, clean system and shutdown).
5). Once your system reboots, install the Standard Nvidia driver you previously downloaded.
Obviously some people may not have even noticed the change in the Nvidia driver distribution model, or may not care about using the new, Microsoft system. If you do care, however, there’s still a way to download the Nvidia Control Panel from Nvidia and to retain manual control over how and when your drivers are updated.