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My Worst Windows 2000 Driver Problem Ever

Since I got my BookPC its main problem has been getting decent Windows 2000 device drivers. One of the most important drivers is the video driver, and I have been through hell to get one that works correctly. Here is my story.


My on-board video chip is an Intel 810. The PCI numbers are Vendor=8086 (Intel) and DeviceID=7121 - look at the PCI list from the BIOS on startup to see if you have the same hardware as I do. If I just wanted a driver that worked on a monitor, I would never have had an issue. The trouble is that the machine is in the media room, and I didn't want a PC monitor down there: I wanted to be able to use my TV on those few occasions when I needed direct access to the machine. Most of the time it is accessed via a web browser or Terminal Server so does not need a monitor (or keyboard/mouse for that matter).

Default Windows 2000 Support

My suppliers gave me no info at all on Windows 2000 support, except that "it works". Helpful. I got my BookPC with no operating system, though at the time it was normally offered with Windows 98, for which it had full device driver support apparently. Anyhow, mine came with a blank hard disk so I immediately installed Windows 2000 Server. Much to my surprise frankly (given my prior experience with Windows NT 3.x and 4.0) the CD came with a video driver for my card - awesome. My joy was short lived when I discovered that this driver had no support for TV Out. And so began my search for a device driver...

Intel Drivers

Intel's own site was an obvious starting point and I soon found drivers for the 810 chipset. I can't remember the version of that driver, but I installed it. No difference could be detected, and still no TV output. I searched the web and came up with nothing, so I repeated this every month or so. Eventually Intel's site had some newer drivers, so I tried to install them. When I did so, I got an ominous warning: "this driver does not match your hardware, are you sure you want to continue" - sadly I said yes. Well that was that - my machine blue-screened on startup and I was stuffed - even "safe mode" didn't help me, it still blue-screened.

<rant> Page 836 of the Resource Kit says "W2K includes mechanisms to ensure that incompatible display drivers cannot prevent a user from accessing the system... this ensures you can start W2K to fix a display- related problem" - this has not been the case for me. I have had video drivers destroy the boot sequence of my machine more times than I can estimate and even Safe Mode hasn't helped me. </rant>

Recovering from a bad Display Driver

I urge anyone with a Windows 2000 installation to dual install - set aside a small partition (say a gig) and install a minimal W2K setup on it, I recommend a FAT partition as C:. Hopefully you'll never need it, but when you do, you really do. Fortunately I had done this myself, so although my server install (lets call this RealOS) could not boot, my safe install (SafeOS) could. I booted it, and with it I deleted the video driver DLLs from my RealOS and rebooted to RealOS with fingers crossed. I determined the DLL list by two methods:
  1. dir /od in system32 and system32\drivers - almost everything else in there came from the Windows CD so the newest stuff was probably the driver.
  2. Reading the i81xnt5.inf file which lists which DLLs are installed - its not exactly bedtime reading but with a little technical knowledge and several readings it begins to make sense.
When RealOS came up, it detected that its video drivers were gone and defaulted to the VGA driver, so I could get a picture again - hoorah! Having been through this sequence probably twenty times now, I can say that sometimes W2K will prompt you with the New Hardware Wizard, for the proper driver, and sometimes it won't. If it does, choose the Windows driver that you know works - don't choose the driver you just jumped through hoops to remove else you'll be back in the same state again.

And So It Continued

A discovered a local dealership selling the BookPC (and its newest version with a DVD drive and in a black case - man I wanted one of those) and they pointed me at a site for W2K drivers, Amptron. I got yet more drivers to try out (apart from video, I have also been hunting for a decent sound driver, but I'll spare you the details of that particular epic). They didn't destroy my machine, but they didn't give me TV Out any more than their predecessors.

A Work Around

At some point I discovered a work-around for the lack of TV-Out - if did all of the following I could get TV output:
  • Have S-Video or Composite Video cable plugged into PC at boot time
  • Have the standard VGA driver installed (not the Intel 810 one)
  • Press F8 during NTs boot sequence to get to the Safe Mode screen
  • Select VGA Mode on that screen
Well, it worked, but was less than ideal because:
  • I had to be there when it booted to press the keys
  • If it rebooted without me (e.g. a power cut) I had to shut it down with TS as I could not see its screen display at all
  • 640x480x16 is not exactly my favorite video mode
  • Net Meeting Desktop Sharing does not work when you boot in any kind of safe mode

The Solution

My friend John Cunningham has a Compaq IPaq desktop machine and it uses the same video chipset as my BookPC. He went to WindowsUpdate and it had offered him a new video driver, which he downloaded and told me it worked fine. This was excellent news, but as he doesn't use TV-Out it wasn't a slam dunk just yet.

I rushed home, checked WindowsUpdate and to my amazement it said that it had a new driver for me. (Windows Update has never, ever offered me a device driver for any of my computers before). I installed it, rebooted with the TV connected, and oh dear - blue-screen. The irony was that the blue-screen was on the TV display - it had crashed immediately after switching from the VGA output to the TV. Man things were getting better, but still a ways to go. Well after uninstalling, rebooting with SafeOS, deleting old DLLs, and removing suspicious entries from the registry, I still couldn't boot with the TV connected. However if I removed the TV connection the BookPC would boot with the monitor output just fine. If I then plugged in a video cable, the machine hung hard.

Call me mad, but I wondered if my troubles were caused by the myriad of different drivers I had installed previously on the machine. To prove this, I switched to SafeOS and got it to install the same new driver from WindowsUpate. My theory was correct - SafeOS booted fine on the TV, and I even had UI to control which screen was the current one. This was risky, as I could have wrecked SafeOS in the process, but I was pretty desperate by 11:55pm that night.


The drivers on WindowsUpdate have been through the WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Lab) and they work very well on a clean-ish system. However if you machine has been through video driver hell, as RealOS has, then it may not work, as something that has been left behind by my previous attempts will forever thwart my attempts to get decent TV output. My only solution is to re-format and start again, which I really don't want to do.


  • Always have a Safe OS to boot to when things go wrong
  • If Windows 2000 says the driver is not compatible, do not ignore the warning!
  • Only use drivers that have been WHQL certified (and therefore will be signed by Microsoft)
  • Backup your configuration before updating your drivers so you can easily undo if things go wrong
  • Make sure there are Windows 2000 drivers available (and that they work exactly as you require) before buying your PC


Places I have got Intel 810 video drivers from, and my other BookPC drivers too (sound and network) in some cases:


ControlAV is a trademark of Andy Pennell.