Fix: Photoshop has encountered a problem with the display driver

Users encounter the error message ‘Photoshop has encountered a problem with the display driver’ when the application fails to connect and utilize the graphics hardware properly. All the enhancements who make use of graphics are temporarily suspended. Since Photoshop relies heavily on graphics rendering, this error message makes it almost unusable.

Photoshop has encountered a problem with the display driver
Photoshop has encountered a problem with the display driver

Adobe has acknowledged this error and even released an official documentation on the website describing the causes. The troubleshooting offered by Adobe isn’t helpful and leaves the user at a state of confusion on what to do. This error message may seem intimidating but can be fixed using the workarounds listed below.

What causes the error ‘Photoshop has encountered a problem with the display driver’?

This error message only occurs when Photoshop is unable to access your graphics resources for its operations. The reasons why it is unable to access can vary computer to computer. Some of the causes are:

  • There is a conflict with your onboard and dedicated graphics installed on your computer.
  • The graphics sniffer program of Adobe Photoshop is not working properly and fails to retrieve details of the graphics hardware installed.
  • The application is not installed in your system directory which may cause issues in permissions in accessing the graphics resources.
  • There is a problem with your graphics drivers. If the drivers are not working properly, no application will be able to use the resource.

Before we start with the workarounds, make sure that you are logged in as an administrator on your computer and have an open internet access.

Solution 1: Disabling ‘sniffer.exe’

The executable ‘sniffer.exe’ is an application which detects the graphics modules installed on your computer. It detects your graphics resource and passes the information on to the application so the resource can be utilized. The sniffer can sometimes go into an error state which might cause Photoshop not to detect any hardware. We can try moving/rename it and see if this fixes the problem at hand.

  1. Navigate to the directory where Photoshop is installed. The default directory is:
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.
  1. Once in the directory, search for the executable ‘sniffer_gpu.exe’. Cut it and paste it to some other location (such as the desktop).
Relocating Photoshop's GPU sniffer
Relocating Photoshop’s GPU sniffer
  1. Now restart your computer and try accessing Photoshop. Check if the error is resolved.

Solution 2: Disabling onboard graphics (if dedicated graphics installed)

Another workaround which was reported by users was disabling onboard graphics if dedicated graphics (such as AMD or NVIDIA) are installed on your computer. It seems that Photoshop has issues when two graphics options are available and it fails to make a choice which one to use for its rendering and operations. Before following the steps, you should verify that your third-party graphics card is functioning properly.

  1. Press Windows + R, type “devmgmt.msc” in the dialogue box and press Enter.
  2. Once in the Device Manager, navigate to the entry “Display adapters”, right-click on the onboard graphics and select Disable device.
Disabling onboard graphics
Disabling onboard graphics – Device Manager
  1. Now try accessing Photoshop and check if the error message is resolved.

Solution 3: Changing directory of Adobe Photoshop

Another hiccup which Photoshop faces are the permissions if it is installed on another directory. Whenever an application is installed in program files (the driver where the OS is installed), it gains all the basic permissions automatically. If your Photoshop is in another directory, we can try changing its directory and see if this fixes the issue. If simply changing the directory doesn’t work, you might need to reinstall the application to the targeted directory.

  1. Press Windows + E to launch Windows Explorer. Once in the explorer, navigate to the directory where you installed Photoshop. Right-click on the folder and select Copy.
Relocating Adobe Photoshop
Relocating Adobe Photoshop
  1. Now navigate to the driver where your OS is installed (by default, it is Local Disk C), and open your Program files. Paste the application there.
Relocating to System drive
Relocating to System drive
  1. Now navigate inside Photoshop’s folder and launch the executable. Check if the issue is resolved.

Solution 4: Updating Graphic Drivers

If your graphics drivers are not working or installed properly, Photoshop will not be able to use the graphics resources. Drivers are the main modules which enable interaction between the hardware and software and if they are corrupt/outdated, the resources might not be accessed. We can try updating your graphic drivers and see if this fixes the issue at hand.

  1. Press Windows + R, type “devmgmt.msc” in the dialogue box and press Enter.
  2. Expand the category of ‘Display adapters’ and select the graphics card. Now there are two options. Either you can search online for the latest/older driver available for your hardware from the manufacturer’s website such as NVIDIA etc. (and install manually) or you can let Windows install the latest version itself (search for updates automatically).
  3. Here we will just look at how to update automatically. Right-click on your graphics hardware and select Update driver.
Updating graphics hardware - Device manager
Updating graphics hardware – Device manager
  1. Now select the first option “Search automatically for driver software”. Now your computer will connect to Windows Update modules and install the drivers available.
Updating driver automatically - Device manager on Windows 10
Updating driver automatically – Device manager
  1. After installing, restart your computer and check if this resolved the error message.

Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.