There are some loose ends which need to be tied up after all of the previous information. These are outlined below:
Step 1: Disabling ATI Services - This step involves disabling the somewhat useless Service entries that the ATi drivers activate. To see what I mean, go to Start>Run and type "Services.msc" (without quotes). Now look at the list of Services and two new entries have been added - ATI Hotkey Poller and ATI Smart.
The ATI Hotkey Poller service is only needed if you use the ATI Hotkey settings available in the ATI Control Panel. If you don't use these (and most don't) you can safely double-click on this service and select Disabled under the Startup Type box. Note: I've been told by 9800XT owners that disabling this service can also disable the Overdrive tab in the ATI Control Panel. If you run an XT card, and you can't see the Overdrive tab then re-enable this service.
The ATI Smart service is a bit more vague, as it is not needed for ATI SmartGart settings (in the Control Panel) to work. It seems to continually detect system conditions and adjust settings if needed to maintain stability, but in effect it's just a useless resource hog. I highly recommend disabling this service as well - I have experienced no negative impacts by doing so.
These services will be removed from memory after the next reboot.
Step 2: Refresh Rate Fix - Windows XP and Windows 2000 have an issue in which the screen refresh rate - the number of times your monitor can redraw images per second - is locked at 60Hz for every resolution. This is far too low, as most monitors can easily exceed this refresh rate, especially at lower resolutions. Most people notice a flickering effect with a 60Hz refresh rate, and it is indeed unhealthy for your eyes (which can detect differences up to 200Hz or more) to view for long periods.
Strangely, neither Microsoft nor the graphics card manufacturers have resolved this problem. The best solution is to manually force Windows to use the highest possible refresh rate at every resolution your monitor supports.
The surest way to do this is with a Refresh Rate fix, such as Refresh Force. Download this small utility and run it (launch ReForce.exe). Just click the Auto Populate button and it will detect the correct maximum possible refresh rates for each supported resolution on your monitor. Click the Apply button and the fix is done! You need to use this utility again every time you install a new driver, so keep it handy.
Another method for manually overriding the 60Hz lock on refresh rates is to use the Refresh Rate Override feature available under the Displays>Attributes tab of the ATI Control Panel. I personally recommend Refresh Force rather than this method, but the choice is yours.
Step 3: Defragment - A final step which is often overlooked is the need to defragment your hard drive after installing/copying/deleting an application, game, driver, large file - you name it. Any time files are added or deleted your hard drive can become "fragmented" meaning portions of the one program may be spread over several physical areas of your hard drive. This reduces drive speed and is unnecessary. So once you're done with all the driver deletion/installation/tweaking, go to Start>Run and type "Dfrg.msc" (without quotes). Then click Defragment and leave it to steadily defragment all your files. Do this regularly, but especially after driver changes and game installations.
There you go; I somehow managed to pull four pages out of my hat on what seems like a simple topic. The need for so many instructions is quite simply because if you follow these procedures, along with reading my XP guide and updating all your drivers in general, you should have virtually no problems with your ATi hardware. As I said, my personal experience has been literally no reboots, crashes or freezes since Catalyst 3.4, and both great performance and image quality. Take the extra 10 minutes each time you want to change Catalysts and it will reward many times over.
Of course if your system is not well maintained, you overclock components a great deal without proper stress testing, you simply install various versions of drivers over each other, or switch graphics cards without a reformat/reinstall than quite honestly be prepared for problems.
Hope you found this guide useful, and if you have any feedback as always just click my name at the top of the guide and shoot me an email!
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