Ask Dave Taylor: Tech and Business


Fixing Windows display driver glitches?

I am trying to fix a friends Dell laptop (Inspiron 3800/Windows? 98) for him. The screen resolution is set to the lowest settings (can't change it) and 16 bit color is the only option given. It's using the systems default display driver. When I use the Dell driver disk to change to the ATI Rage driver that it calls for, it installs the driver then tells you to reboot for changes to take. When I reboot, I get the bios screen, the Windows 98 welcome screen follows then a blank screen with the hour glass and that's where it hangs. It won't finish loading windows. When you reboot it tells you to boot using safe mode.

I have gotten it to finally boot normal but when you go to display settings it offers 256 color and will let you change the resolution settings BUT when you reboot to take effect it goes right back to the lowest settings and 16 bit color.

Any ideas on what the problem can be? I have formatted the thing using the Dell restore disk several times as well. I can even get online and update windows BUT the screen resolution won't change. HELP!!!

This is a complex problem, as is obvious from how long your question ended up being. Nonetheless, the answer is relatively straightforward and is true not just for this specific situation but for any situation where hardware is being "weird" or otherwise glitching as you describe:

Download and reinstall the driver

In this case, I'd go to and search for your specific laptop model (the Inspiron 3800). Download the latest BIOS update and latest ATI Rage driver. If you do not know how to flash a BIOS, Dell provides instructions at the download site.

Be very careful when flashing a BIOS. If anything goes wrong you are probably up a creek and your lovely Inspiron will be transformed into an expensive paperweight!

As far as I can tell, the specific driver you'll need is...