The first thing I wanted to fix was the video display. I knew that my notebook computer had an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 video chip in it.
So, my immediate step was to go to the ATI web site to check for a Windows 7 video driver — I didn’t expect Dell to provide a Win7 driver for a 5.5 year old notebook. I’m sure Dell would rather sell me a new notebook (not yet…I’m thinking about the mobile Core i7 versions coming in early 2010).
I also knew that Windows 7 would often work with Windows Vista drivers when there was not a specific Windows 7 driver available. So, I looked at ATI’s site for the Windows 7 driver and couldn’t find it. I found their Vista driver for the ATI Radeon 9600 and downloaded the full "Catalyst" package (which included the driver and its control program).
Once I had it downloaded, I ran the program, which seemed to complete properly. I rebooted. Same dull display. So, I opened the Pesonalize > Display > Change display settings > Advanced Settings. Unfortunately, this told me that Windows 7 was still using the Generic VGA driver. It did not show me any alternatives to pick.
Back to the ATI web site, this time realizing that I had picked the standard Radeon 9600 and not the Mobility Radeon 9600. Unfortunately, ATI’s site said something to the effect of "we don’t have Mobility drivers here, go to your computer manufacturer’s web site."
So, this time I went to Dell. I still didn’t find any driver for Windows 7, but I did find a Windows Vista driver for the Inspiron 8600 with the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600. I downloaded the driver, unpacked it (Dell delivers its drivers as self-extracting EXE files), and ran the Setup.exe file.
It installed and made me reboot.
When Windows 7 opened again, I saw the same ugly desktop.
I opened the Display Settings again and found that it now showed the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 as the current adapter, but it had an 800×600 resolution selected. I changed that to notebook’s default resolution 1600×1050.
Instantly, I had the finer resolution on the screen. But, I still had the Standard, non-Aero interface.
Oh, well. On to the next problem.
I checked Dell’s web site for an update to the Inspiron 8600’s sound card. Again, I found one for Vista, but not for Windows 7. I downloaded and installed the Vista driver — and now had sound.
Finally, I checked Dell’s web site for the driver for the Broadcomm internal modem. No. No Windows 7 driver. Not even a Windows Vista driver.
I took a chance and downloaded the Windows XP driver from 2003. After all, what could go wrong?
What could go wrong? Well, drivers are installed at a very low-level, trusted level of the operating system. A malfunctioning driver can bring Windows to a screaming halt. Most of the time, when you have a Blue Screen of Death in Windows, it’s a driver (or the hardware related to it causing the driver to have problems) at fault.
I accepted that risk, since this was so early into my Windows 7 installation that I really would not be risking much if I lost the whole Win7 installation.
This was about the time that I noticed that, not only had my screen resolution changed to 1680×1050 like I expected, the Windows 7 "Standard" interface was no longer there. Now, the Windows 7 Aero was live and working! Hurray!
Anyway, I downloaded the Windows XP modem driver, unpacked it, and ran its setup.exe program. For a minute, it looked like it was going to work. Then, the program stopped with an error display from the program (not from Windows 7) that said the program only ran on Windows XP and Windows 2000, and so it was going to stop. Oh, well…
Imagine my surprise when it stopped…and another dialog box popped from Windows 7, which offered to run it with the settings Windows 7 suggested.
What would I lose? I told it to try — and it worked perfectly.
Now, when I checked Device Manager, the malfunction indicators on the Sound Card and the Modem were gone.