Catalyst Removal & Cleanup
Any time you're about to install a new driver or make a major system change, unless you feel 100% confident in your own abilities (or you like to gamble Vegas-style) then use System Restore if it's available to you. Making a restore point prior to installation of a driver or new application means that if things go haywire, you can simply use the restore function and everything is back in one piece. I also urge you to use System Restore if you're going to use one of the more "tricky" tweaks in this guide like editing the registry or removing old devices from Device Manager. Pretend you're a Boy Scout and be prepared.
Before Going Further
If you previously had another brand of video card in your system on the current installation of Windows, it is strongly recommended that you reformat your drive and reinstall Windows for optimal performance and stability. Many people have had issues which resulted from switching from nVidia to ATi, and vice versa, on an existing installation of Windows. There are tips in here to help remove traces of old devices such as previous graphics cards from your system, but nothing beats a clean install of Windows.
Another common source of problems which is often overlooked is not installing the latest motherboard chipset drivers. Whether the Intel INF drivers, VIA Hyperion 4-in-1's, or SiS AGP Drivers, these chipset drivers control the way in which your AGP port "talks" to your graphics card. The correct recent chipset driver will resolve a great many of problems, especially where your AGP speed is set below optimal or is Off altogether.
Finally many, many problems you may have with your ATi graphics card are actually related to your settings in Windows. You need to optimize such settings to make sure everything is being used efficiently and correctly. Read my walkthrough Windows guide WinXP Tweaking: From Reformat to Relax to make sure everything is in top shape in that department.
Ok I can feel your A.D.D kicking in, let's move on quickly.
Remove Old Drivers
The simple act of continually installing various versions of Catalysts back and forth on many systems has probably left a mess in the registry and on your hard drive - the most common source of problems. Below are the steps necessary to clean out all traces of the Catalysts and get ready for a "clean install" of the latest drivers:
Step 1: Uninstall Catalysts - As of the 3.8 Catalysts onwards, ATi has included a nifty utility call the ATI Software Uninstall Utility. This should remove all traces of ATi drivers and software on your system, but unfortunately it doesn't quite do the full job. However it is still worth using as the first step in your "clean install" preparations.
Go to Control Panel>Add or Remove Programs and look for the entry "ATI - Software Uninstall Utility". Click on it and select the Change/Remove button. You will be presented with a prompt which asks you if you want to remove all ATI software. If you choose OK it will commence uninstallation of everything related to ATI. This should get rid of the bulk of ATI driver and control panel software, but note that it will also attempt to remove any ATI demos you have installed. Pay careful attention to the prompts presented during this process if you want to keep the demos on your system. Once the utility is done, reboot as requested.
Alternatively, if you have an older version of the Catalysts, simply go to Control Panel>Add or Remove Programs and first click on the ATI Control Panel entry (if it exists) and click the Change/Remove button and select Remove in the next screen. Once it's uninstalled, reboot as requested and go through the same procedure for the ATI Display Driver entry and reboot.
Note that on reboot your Windows may detect your graphics card as a new device and attempt to look for drivers to install. Make sure you cancel all such attempts.
Step 2: Delete Leftover Files - You may have seen utilities which claim to clean up driver residue - the leftover components of previous drivers. Well that would be perfect, except that often the graphics companies change the architecture of their drivers, which in effect means the driver cleaner can miss new portions of drivers. The best way to clean up driver residue is to get in and get your hands dirty and do it manually.
To physically remove any remaining ATI files, go to Windows Explorer and look for entries beginning with "ATI..." under your \Windows\System32 and \Windows\System32\Drivers directories and delete them. You may notice that certain files keep recreating themselves. Don't worry, these are just the default XP drivers which are protected and can't be permanently deleted. Just delete all the ATI driver files and let XP decide which default files the system should keep. Do not delete the files under the \ServicePackFiles directory, or under game or application specific directories (e.g. \Program Files\UT2003\Textures). Just stick to the two directories mentioned above.
Next delete the entire program folder(s) where you installed the Catalysts. The default install location is C:\ATI\... and/or C:\ATI Technologies\... but if you chose another location when installing, go there and delete the folder and all its contents.
Step 3: Remove Registry Entries - This is the part which the ATI Uninstall utility often misses (likely on purpose) - removing ATI registry entries. There are two ways to remove these entries: using Windows Registry Editor or RegCleaner. The most thorough method is to use RegCleaner.
- RegCleaner is a free small utility which can be downloaded from here. Once installed, run it and look under the Software tab. Scroll down to all entries related to "ATI Technologies" and place a tick in the box next to each entry. Then click the Remove Selected button and they'll be removed from your registry. For more details on the many other useful features of RegCleaner see my WinXP: From Reformat to Relax guide.
- To remove the entries using the built in Windows Registry Editor, go to Start>Run and type "Regedt32" (without quotes) and press return. Next, click on the + sign next to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and then the Software subentry, and scroll down to the "ATI Technologies" and "ATI Technologies Inc". entries. Right-Click on each folder and select Delete to remove them. Note that this method is not as thorough as using RegCleaner, which finds other hidden ATI-related entries.
Step 4: Remove Old Unused Devices - This is a trickier step and can be skipped if you don't feel comfortable doing it. If you had several Catalysts installed on your system, or even an nVidia card installed previously on the same Windows install (not recommended), not to mention any other previous items of hardware which you no longer use, then this tip lets you remove them from the registry.
To view unused devices in Device Manager, do the following:
- First open a Command Prompt by going to Start>Run and typing "cmd" (without quotes). Once the MS DOS prompt is open, type the following lines, pressing return after each:
- In the Device Manager window that opens go to the View menu and select "Show Hidden Devices". Now start looking through all the devices. Devices in grey are usually old/unused and safe to remove by right clicking on each one and selecting "Uninstall".
- In particular, you might find several entries under the Monitors section. You can typically delete all the greyed out entries but at least one un-greyed entry should remain. You may also find old entries for previous graphics cards under the Display Adapters section which again can be removed. Remember that even with only 1 monitor connected there are usually two entries for Radeons, one of which is the Secondary. This is normal.
Again you should make absolutely certain the device is no longer physically on the system, and that you should not remove any Microsoft devices such as those under the Sound section. Use this tip with great caution. Use System Restore and ideally, if you've switched graphics cards you should have done a full reformat/reinstall of Windows in any case.
With all the registry changes and file alterations, a reboot is a good idea. Now you should be ready for the next section which is the correct installation and optimal setup of your Catalyst drivers.
How much for a high-end Radeon graphics card?