15.4 Configuring Video Under Windows 98/Me/2000/XP

Windows 98/Me/2000/XP video is configured from the Display Properties Settings dialog, shown in Figure 15-2, and the Display Properties Settings Advanced dialog, one page of which is shown in Figure 15-3. To view Display Properties, run the Display applet from the Control Panel or right-click a vacant area of the desktop and choose Properties. The following sections describe how to use Display Properties to configure Window 98/Me video settings. Windows 2000/XP is similar, with minor differences in the appearance, names, and functions of the dialogs.

Figure 15-2. The Display Properties Settings page, where you configure hardware settings for your video adapter and monitor
Figure 15-3. The Advanced Settings dialog, where you configure specific settings for the adapter and monitor, enable or disable video acceleration settings, and choose Color Management options (the exact pages in this dialog vary according to the video adapter and driver installed)

15.4.1 Installing or Changing Video Drivers

Windows 98/Me does reasonably well at detecting common video adapters and installing the proper drivers for them. However, you may need to install a video driver manually in one of the following circumstances:

  • Windows 98/Me does not have a driver for your adapter. This situation is more common than you might expect. For example, Windows 98/Me does not provide a driver for the ubiquitous Intel i740 video adapter. This situation may also arise if you install a new video adapter in an existing Windows 98/Me system.

  • Windows 98/Me has a driver for your adapter and recognizes the hardware, but you have a more recent driver supplied by the adapter manufacturer. Manufacturers often provide enhanced drivers that are faster or support more features than the vanilla drivers included with Windows 98/Me.

  • Windows 98/Me has a driver for your adapter, but fails to autodetect the presence of the adapter, or autodetects the adapter as a different model than is actually present. This situation also arises more often than it should.

To install a new or updated video adapter, first visit the video adapter manufacturer's web site and download the latest Windows 98/Me drivers for your adapter. Get the most recent release version of the driver, avoiding beta or unsupported versions. To install the driver, display the Settings page, click Advanced, choose the Adapter tab, and click Change to start the Update Device Driver Wizard.

Also use this dialog to set refresh rate. Available options depend on the combination of monitor, adapter, and driver being used. When using a Plug-and-Play monitor, the usual choices are Optimal?which selects the highest refresh rate supported by both the monitor and adapter at the current resolution?and Adapter default, which simply uses the (usually low) refresh rate that the adapter defaults to. Some configurations allow you to specify actual refresh rates?e.g., 60, 70, 72, 75, and 85 Hz. Before you specify a refresh rate manually, make sure your monitor supports that refresh rate at the resolution and color depth you have selected. Some configurations do not allow changing refresh rate, in which case the refresh rate drop-down list does not appear.

Some manufacturers supply video drivers as executable files. Running the program installs the driver and may add a custom tab to the Display Properties dialog that allows you to set properties for that driver and adapter. Such drivers also often put a video management utility in the system tray, which you can use to change settings on the fly.

When you change resolution or refresh rate, some monitors automatically adjust to the new settings and display a properly centered image. Others require changing vertical and horizontal size and centering adjustments on the monitor to display the image properly. If you select a resolution and refresh rate that the monitor cannot display, the screen may be blank or filled with wavy lines. To correct this problem, restart the computer in Safe Mode by pressing F8 during boot and choosing Safe Mode. Choose the Standard VGA driver, restart the system normally, use Display Properties to select the proper driver and display settings that your monitor supports, and then restart the system normally.

Choosing a Video Driver

Deciding which video driver to use is nontrivial. If Windows 98/Me supplies a driver for your video card, you can assume that it is at least stable and provides the basic functions, although it may well be slower or have fewer features than the latest driver from the video card manufacturer. The alternative is using a driver from the adapter manufacturer, which may or may not be a good idea.

Some manufacturers have become famous for the "driver of the week." Each new release adds features, improves speed, kills old bugs, and (usually) introduces new bugs. Use such drivers at your own risk, and be prepared for a lot of crashes. Other manufacturers, notably Matrox and ATi, treat video drivers with the seriousness they deserve.

Our advice: choose a video card from a manufacturer that treats drivers with respect. For clients and standalone PCs, use the latest release driver certified by the adapter maker. For servers and other critical systems, use either the vanilla Microsoft driver or a later Microsoft-certified driver supplied by the adapter manufacturer. In either case, avoid subsequently upgrading video drivers unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Avoid beta and other bleeding-edge drivers unless you enjoy having your system crash unpredictably.

In particular, avoid using unreleased or beta nVIDIA video drivers, which nVIDIA itself says should be avoided. nVIDIA's business model requires it to provide early versions of drivers to its OEMs, and those drivers somehow always escape onto the Internet despite the efforts of nVIDIA to prevent that from happening. Gamers trying to wring the last drop of performance from their video cards download and install these unfinished drivers, and then wonder why their systems crash. Sometimes nVIDIA releases official drivers that aren't yet certified by Microsoft, and not all adapter vendors keep up with nVIDIA's release schedule. If you're using an nVIDIA-based card, never install anything other than the latest official drivers for it. The safest method is to wait until the adapter manufacturer has tested the drivers and released an installer. You have been warned.

15.4.2 Changing the Screen Area Setting

The screen area setting determines how much information is displayed on the screen by specifying the resolution of the image that the video adapter delivers to the monitor. The default resolution installed by Setup will be within the capabilities of your video adapter and monitor, but may not be optimum. Use the Screen area slider in Display Properties Settings to change resolution. Note that the selection range is not continuous. If your monitor is Plug-N-Play-compliant and recognized by Windows 98/Me, Windows allows you to select only those discrete values that are supported by both the video adapter and monitor.

Although Windows 98/Me itself supports changing resolution on the fly, doing so requires that the video adapter and driver support that feature. Changing resolution with some older video adapters and drivers requires shutting down and restarting Windows. If this is the case with your system, Windows notifies you that a shutdown is required to put the change into effect and allows you to shutdown immediately or defer doing so. If you choose the latter, configuration changes do not take effect until you later restart the system manually.

If the monitor type is not recognized by Windows, be careful when changing resolution settings. Depending on the default monitor setting, Windows may allow you to select a resolution setting higher than the monitor actually supports. At best, this results in an unreadable display. At worst, it may overdrive and damage the monitor. A seriously overdriven monitor may begin whining like a Star Trek phaser about to self-destruct, with similarly catastrophic results likely. If this happens, turn off the monitor immediately. More than a few seconds of this abuse may turn a monitor into scrap.

If you find yourself with Windows set to a resolution that the monitor cannot display, shut down and restart Windows in Safe Mode. Use the procedure described at the end of the preceding section to reconfigure Windows to use a video driver and display settings that are supported by your hardware.

15.4.3 Enabling and Using QuickRes

If you frequently need to change resolution or color depths, the preceding procedure gets old fast. Enabling the Windows 98/Me QuickRes utility allows you to change resolution and color depth on the fly. To enable QuickRes, choose Display Properties Settings Advanced. On the General page of that dialog, mark the Show settings icon on task bar checkbox. With QuickRes enabled, clicking its icon in the system tray displays a menu that displays all combinations of resolution and color depth supported by the video adapter and monitor, and marks the active settings with a check mark. Change resolution or color depth by clicking the combination you want to use. The Adjust Display Properties menu item provides a one-click method for invoking Display Properties when you need to change properties other than those shown on the QuickRes menu.

QuickRes was first released as one of the unsupported Windows 95 Power Toys utilities, but is integral to Windows 98/Me. If you installed QuickRes under Windows 95 and then upgraded to Windows 98/Me, the Windows 95 version of QuickRes may still appear in your system tray. If so, you can continue to use it. If you prefer to remove the older version and install the Windows 98/Me version, you'll have to edit the Registry. To do so, start the Registry Editor and open the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run Double-click the value entry Taskbar Display Controls to edit the entry. Change the value entry, which should be RunDLL deskcp16.dll, QUICKRES_RUNDLLENTRY to RunDLL deskcp16.dll, and save the change. You can then enable QuickRes 98 by marking the checkbox as described previously.

15.4.4 Changing Performance Setting

By default, Windows 98/Me configures the video driver it installs to use all accelerator functions. Ordinarily, this setting works properly and can be left as is. If you experience video problems, including a mouse pointer that is jerky (check that your mouse is clean first) or disappears entirely, odd video artifacts, or program crashes, Windows 98/Me permits you to selectively disable some video acceleration functions (Display Properties Settings Advanced Performance). Before you use this feature, first attempt to locate and install an updated video driver. Otherwise, choose an accelerator setting as follows:


All accelerator functions enabled.


Most accelerator functions enabled. Use this setting if you experience minor video or mouse problems. Performance will be degraded somewhat but may be acceptable, particularly for simple 2D applications such as word processing.


Most accelerator functions disabled. Use this setting if you experience severe video problems or have one or more programs that routinely hang. With this setting enabled, performance may be marginally acceptable for text applications, but little else. Make getting a better video card a high priority.


All accelerator functions disabled. Use this setting only if it is required to allow your system to run without crashing. When this setting is enabled, your video card is acting as a simple frame grabber, and its performance will almost certainly be unacceptable even for text applications. If you find this setting is required, replace your video card as soon as possible.

Windows 2000/XP uses a slider bar to offer similar performance settings in the Display Properties Settings Advanced Troubleshooting dialog. The slider bar allows the following settings:

First position (None)

Disables all accelerations. Use this setting only if your computer frequently stops responding or has other severe problems.

Second position

Disables all but basic accelerations. Use this setting to connect more severe problems.

Third position

Disables all DirectDraw and Direct3D accelerations, and all cursor and advanced drawing accelerations. Use this setting to correct severe problems with DirectX-accelerated applications.

Fourth position

Disables all cursor and advanced drawing accelerations. Use this setting to correct drawing problems.

Fifth position

Disables cursor and bitmap accelerations. Use this setting if you experience mouse problems (jerky or disappearing pointer) or image corruption.

Sixth position (Full)

Enables all accelerations. This is the default setting for most recent Windows versions (Windows Server 2003 defaults to None) and the recommended setting unless you are experiencing video problems.

These descriptions of problems and recommended settings are based on Microsoft's advice. We recommend using settings other than Full only as temporary measures for troubleshooting. Your video adapter and driver should support Full acceleration. If they don't, something is wrong. Try updating the video driver to the latest stable version offered by the video adapter manufacturer. If that doesn't work, use a different video adapter.

15.4.5 Setting Font Size

Windows uses Small Fonts by default, but allows you to select predefined Large Fonts, or to specify a custom font size by choosing Other. The font size setting you select provides a "baseline" value from which the size of vector-based fonts used in applications is calculated. Choosing one of the predefined settings also installs a set of raster fonts that are used for such things as icon labels. A common reason for using Large Fonts is when you run higher than standard resolution?e.g., 1024x768 on a 15-inch monitor, where using Large Fonts or a custom font size allows you to make the text large enough to be readable. Be cautious, however. Many applications do not display properly using anything except Small Fonts. Note that instead of changing font size directly (Display Properties Settings Advanced General), you can achieve similar results by selecting a different Scheme in the Appearance page of the Display Properties dialog.

15.4.6 Using Color Management

Getting consistent color across a wide range of peripherals, including monitors, scanners, and printers, is nontrivial, a task made more difficult by the diverse means used for producing color. Monitors produce color by illuminating phosphors. Printers may produce output that uses transmitted or reflected light to produce color by means of dyes or pigments. Scanners may capture either transmitted or reflected images. The color temperature of the lighting used to produce or view an image differs according to its source, and the gamma (in simple terms, contrast) varies with the device. With so many variables in play, the colors on your monitor are likely to be only an approximation of the original colors you scanned, and printed output is likely to differ substantially from both the original and the image on your monitor.

The different methods used to produce color mean that it is impossible to render color with complete consistency. A printed copy, for example, simply does not have the dynamic range that a transparency or monitor image has. But for those doing prepress work, some means of minimizing those differences is needed. To address this problem, Microsoft introduced Image Color Management (ICM) with Windows 95. ICM organizes the characteristics of each device (e.g., for a scanner, the color temperature of the light source and the gamma of the image sensor; for a printer, the reflectivity characteristics of its various inks) and uses those stored characteristics to make color reproduction as consistent as possible across different devices.

Windows 98/Me includes the ICM V 2.0 API, which improves on the limited capabilities of ICM V 1.0. Previously, you had to define color characteristics for each combination of application and device. Windows 98/Me allows you to define color management profiles which take into account the specific imaging color characteristics of each input and output device and allow all installed applications to use that shared profile to maintain color consistency. ICM characteristics for scanners and printers are set in the drivers for those applications. Those for monitors are set in Display Properties Settings Advanced Color Management.

Color management is an extremely complex issue. For more information, search the Microsoft web site for "Integrated Color Management" or ICM.