I've installed a couple of Windows
XP Professional operating systems. All went well. They were new
computers, and from inserting the CD to the final boot up desktop,
all went well. However it's always with some trepidation that
I wipe a hard drive and install a new operating system on an
older machine. After all the owner delivered the computer in
a decent state and expected it back in at least as good a condition
as he left it. One wouldn't expect to take a car to have a new
gearbox fitted and find the engine had fallen out when you went
to collect it.
On this occasion the owner delivered the computer late on a Sunday
and wanted it back to take to work the next morning. I was a
little apprehensive as there wasn't really time to sort out any
problems, if any materialised.
Some files were copied to CD and I was then given the go-ahead
to wipe the hard drive and install a pristine Windows XP Professional
The first problem was the machine wouldn't boot up. Why? The
CD was in the top drive and this was Drive D, or at least it
had been. After a few minutes I'd established it was now drive
E and the lower drive was in fact Drive D. I switched the disk,
XP going into the lower drive and the computer dutifully booted
into the installation procedure. I selected FAT32 because the
NT format gives me problems when I try to read it in my workshop
computer and you never know when that's going to be necessary,
what with all these viruses around.
After a very long time the hard drive was reformatted and we
were ploughing onwards with reassuring screens and prompts.
Eventually all was completed and the computer booted up for its
what had gone wrong? It looks odd. With difficulty
I managed to type in the password to get to the desktop and then
calamity. The screen had gone very very dark. I could just pick
out what seemed to be a message but I couldn't read it. It was
very dark blue writing on a black background. I shone my angle-poise
on the screen. That didn't help. I fished out my jeweller's eyeglass
and peered intently at the writing with my nose against the screen.
Something about there being only 8 colours and click the bubble.
I clicked the bubble and nothing much of interest happened. Some
of the dark colours changed to a sickly very, very dark green.
I started prodding around with the mouse but to no avail. Sometimes,
just for a fraction of a second a green field appeared with some
sky. Utmost clarity. But then the sun went in and it relapsed
into shades of night. It was like reading a book in an unlit
coal cellar (if anyone remembers what they were like!)
Eventually I booted up whilst fiddling with the F8 key.
I selected VGA mode. Clearly this isn't the first time someone
had experienced a graphics problem. In Windows 98 it's an easy
matter to enter Safe Mode and resolve a problem such as this.
Up came a pleasant green field with blue sky and a message telling
me to depend on XP sorting out the graphics problem. At least
it knew what was wrong; which is a good start.
I clicked my affirmation and
. back to the coal cellar.
I tried many, many times flipping into safe mode and back again
until I decided to download new drivers for the S3 Savage 4 AGP
card. XP had been very positive about what it thought it was
doing, and the name of the driver did seem to relate to the name
on the card, but to be sure I got the right ones, I loaded a
special detection program. This would, it said in the accompanying
blurb, detect, down to the minute, no doubt, it had been born.
It worked (in safe mode) and armed with the information I downloaded
the latest driver. It didn't actually say "XP".. it
was for "2000" but then again it also said that they,
"weren't going to produce any more drivers
so what choice did I have?
This time I didn't let XP have its own way. I told it I wanted
this new driver. It did raise some objections but clearly it
didn't know what it was talking about. Stupid programmer! The
new drivers were discovered and in they went. A few moments later
after a fresh reboot
. back to the coal cellar. True there
were tinges of slightly different shades of black but absolutely
no use at all.
I managed to decipher something about "acceleration may
be the problem", and I was to reset this to a lower position.
After much messing around this was done and.. I was back in the
coal cellar again.
Time for decision making. I found my box of spare cards and plugged
them in one after another. This wasn't to be my day, as most
wouldn't let the computer even illuminate the screen with basic
information. They didn't let me even get to the CMOS page!
I remembered I'd bought a Voodoo card on "special offer".
I unpacked it and plugged it in place and switched on. Up came
XP with almost proper colours. The picture was shaky and pre-disposed
to losing lock, but after putting in the driver CD and a flurry
of activity I was informed that XP drivers were in place and
a few moments later I was looking at a nice green field with
Sometime I'll have to investigate this S3 card. After all it's
now in the junk box and I may want to call on its services sooner