Using the NVIDIA GeForce2 MX400 on 32-bit Windows Vista / Windows 7

January 8, 2011

The GeForce2 MX400 is an older NVIDIA graphics card which is no longer supported in Windows Vista or later versions of Windows (including Windows 7).

Windows Vista introduced a new display driver model (WDDM) which offers significant changes and improvements over the previous model (XPDM) used in Windows XP/2000/2003. WDDM requires advanced GPU features which are not available on many older graphics cards. Windows Vista can use XPDM drivers which means you can install versions of drivers which vendors have provided for Windows XP, but there are a lot of stability issues with most of them. Vista includes updated XPDM drivers for a limited number of legacy cards which are installed automatically work properly. For most legacy display adapters it will simply install the “Standard VGA Adapter” driver. This driver works fine for many things, but it ignores the extra features supported by many adapters (like multiple displays, larger screen resolutions, configurable CRT monitor refresh rate, and DirectX/OpenGL hardware acceleration).

The GeForce2 MX400 has decent enough features to be useful for regular users who don’t need a lot of GPU power (for gaming etc.). The problem is that the XPDM drivers for legacy NVIDIA display adapters included with Windows Vista only support the GeForce4 series or newer.  The GeForce2 MX400 is installed as a standard VGA adapter which cripples many of it’s capabilities.

Luckily, the Windows 2000/XP drivers provided by NVIDIA (version 91.31) work flawlessly in Windows Vista and Windows 7 without any modifications. Download the driver package here. The installation will fail if you try and run it, but you can extract the contents of the exe package to a directory using WinRAR. Open Device Manager (devmgmt.msc) and  expand the “Display Adapters” section, then update the driver for the “Standard VGA Adapter” (right click on it and select “Update Driver Software…”). Choose to manually select the device driver and then browse to the location where you extracted the NVIDIA driver files (you should see the ‘nv4_disp.inf’ file within the directory). Windows should find the correctly matching “NVIDIA GeForce2 MX/MX 400” driver and allow you to install it. Once you reboot the system the driver should work properly and support all of the adapter’s additional features. You can confirm that they are working correctly by running ‘dxdiag’ and checking under the ‘Display’ tab. All of the features listed under the “DirectX Features” section should be “Enabled”.

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Install Windows Messenger 5.1 on Windows Vista or Windows 7

October 19, 2010

Windows Messenger was an instant messaging client from Microsoft which could connect to Microsoft .NET Passport (now Windows Live ID), SIP (session initiation protocol) communication services, and Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging. Windows Messenger 5.1 was included with Windows XP but was not released for any newer versions of Windows (it has been replaced by newer products like Windows Live Messenger and Office Communicator). You can obtain more information about Windows Messenger from the Windows Messenger How-To Center on Microsoft’s web site.

Windows Messenger is fairly out-dated and does not have many of the features included in newer versions of MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger (see this Microsoft document for some details). It can still can be useful (or even necessary) for some things. It is especially handy because it works alongside MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger and is not affected by their installations. If Windows Live Messenger is broken or unable to connect you can use Windows Messenger as a backup. Windows Live Messenger also cannot connect to SIP communication services or Exchange instant messaging.

You can download the installer for Windows Messenger 5.1.0701 from here.

When you run the “Messenger.msi” installation file under Windows Vista or Windows 7 it fails partway through the installation process, reporting that the installation was interrupted. The problem is caused by a compatibility issue between the MSI package and UAC. You cannot simply adjust compatibility modes or elevated privileges for standalone MSI packages like you can for setup executables because they are handled by the Windows Installer service.

To get it to install properly, open an elevated command prompt (right click the “Command Prompt” shortcut under the start menu and select “Run as Administrator”). From the administrative command prompt enter the commands:

msiexec /a <path>
msiexec /i <path>

Where <path> is the location of the messenger.msi file. So if I saved it to my desktop, the commands would be:

msiexec /a C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi
msiexec /i C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi

The installation will run and should be able to complete successfully.


File Copy Between Local Drives Hangs in Vista

July 25, 2010

Recently I have run into a strange issue on my Windows Vista machine. When copying movie files between my local hard drives the file copy process gets stuck and never completes.  The dialogs will remain there forever at the same spot unless you end the explorer.exe process which hosts them or use the Cancel button and then the close box (described further below).

There was a popular Vista file copy problem that was patched a long time ago related to copying from mapped network drives. The problem on my system occurs when copying between hard drives.

I have been trying to troubleshoot the issue and have found a workaround but no solution for the problem so far.

Details

The file copy or move process starts and hangs at a random point within the process. Some files are successfully copied or moved but the rest of the operation will never be completed. The file copy dialog is responsive and doesn’t lock up. It just get’s stuck and reads the same file, speed and time remaining until the explorer process ends. If you hit the “Cancel” button on the file copy dialog, it will remain stuck on the “Cancelling…” operation.

If you check the destination there may be files copied or many not be, depending on how far it got before it gets stuck. If you try to perform another file copy after, it will also get stuck. Often a problem will reoccur with the same file if you just try to copy it again afterward. If you try to delete those files afterwards that may also get stuck.

Vista also usually has a thread I/O request timeout error that occurs when a file copy gets stuck, but for some reason it doesn’t appear when this issue occurs and the copy dialog will remain until the explorer.exe process ends or it is cancelled and then closed.

Troubleshooting

When you check the explorer.exe process under task manager, there is no significant change in I/O reads or writes after it gets stuck. It’s committed memory size and number of page faults do not significantly change either.

At first I thought it may be a problem with the hard drives. I ran a full chkdsk /r (locate bad sectors and attempt recovery) on all my drives and there were no problems found at all.

I had a similar problem when Vista first came out with Symantec Antivirus severely slowing my network file copies because it was scanning huge RAR and ISO files. I tried stopping the Microsoft Security Essentials service and turning off real time protection, but it didn’t affect the issue at all.

I also tried stopping the Windows Search service in case they may be attempting to index the file (and perhaps a bad iFilter) was causing the stall. But there also was no effect on the issue.

Since I often had the problem while copying video files, I thought it could possibly be Explorer’s thumbnail generator causing the stall (maybe in combination with a bad DirectShow Filter). Usually when there’s a problem with a DS filter it ends up crashing the app it is running in but I have seen other things happen, like a splitter causing Windows Live Photo Gallery to stall on the first frame of video. I unregistered (regsvr32 /u) most of the DirectShow components I had installed except for a basic few (DivX, ffdshow, XVid,  Ogg DS) which I also made sure were up to date. I tried disabling explorer’s thumbnail generator (by unchecking “Always Show Icons, Never Thumbnails” in the Advanced Folder options), but there was no effect on the problem.

I will have to do some further investigating with Process Explorer when I have some more time this week. For now I haven’t found the cause, just a way to work around the issue.

Workaround

I tried performing the copy operation from an Administrative command prompt and found that you could successfully copy the files without any problem using the “copy” command. Even while 3 or 4 hung explorer file copy windows are present and supposedly copying the same file.

Strangely, using the “move” command has the same problem as explorer and will just hang until you break out of it with CTRL-C. I don’t know why “move” has trouble because you can use manually use the “copy” command to copy the files and then “del” to delete them afterwards without any problems.

You can also cancel the hung file copy dialogs by pressing the “Cancel” button and then the close button on the dialog afterwards. Just hitting cancel will not work. Sometimes explorer will maintain a lock on the file it was stuck on (preventing you from moving or deleting the file) even after you have cancelled the copy dialog. You have to kill the explorer.exe process from Task Manager and restart it to remove the file lock.