Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Woes with Catalyst driver

Since I upgraded to a 24" LCD, WMP has had some crashing issues when opening and closing. I never figured out what precise conditions triggered those but instead decided that it's time to upgrade the video driver - running a 24" is a heavier job (I had a 17") and might require a newer driver for my old Radeon 9600 Pro. The other issue is sometimes the monitor thought the output is 1600x1200 even the Catalyst Control Center said it's doing 1920x1200, so I got a desktop area bigger than the screen displays.

It turned out to be a mistake. The newest 8.3 Catalyst (internal 8.471) for x64 never worked right. After upgrading the graphics were significantly slower - windows would leave "trails" if you drag them. Dream Aquarium screensaver refused to run citing no graphics card support. DxDiag showed no Direct3D support. Actually if I disable hardware acceleration the graphics would speed up - what a joke! I reinstalled and reinstalled to no avail (also a pain to cleanly reinstall - had to do many manual cleanups to remove some parts: see here). Finally I did a full cleanup, including dropping into Safe Mode to remove some stubborn parts under Program Files (x86)\ATI\ACE. Then I reinstalled the old 6.3 Catalyst (internal 8.231), which is no longer available on ATI's site so I had to download it from Guru3d.com. Everything went back to normal after that.

Many said Catalyst is a little more flaky than Forceware. If what I had is anything close to common, than it doesn't take much to agree with that assessment...

UPDATE: 08/15/2008
Of course, the saga continues at some point. :-) The crash with closing some video files happened again a few days ago. But this time I couldn't boot into Windows XP anymore - all I got is a blank screen after Windows logo disappears. If I drop into Safe Mode, I could see an "ati2mag going into infinite loop" message. Since I have no usable computer anyways, I decided to do some experimenting. I removed 6.3 under Safe Mode then installed 8.3 under normal mode. This time the driver actually works! My 3D screensaver ran and everything seemed fine, except that the Catalyst Control Center doesn't run. But today I got the blank screen again after resuming from hibernation, and restarting it's the same. Under safe mode I could see besides the "infinite loop" message I also got "invalid CRT display". I remember seeing a cure for the "infinite loop" somewhere that involves using the "standard PCI-to-PCI bridge" driver for the CPU to AGP link. So I found it under the Device Manager (it's VIA CPU-to-AGP bridge) and replaced the VIA driver with the Windows one. That did it. I got my regular desktop back! Fingers crossed...

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