ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide

[Page 4] Tidying Up



Before we move on to tweaking the Catalysts, let's do some cleaning up and optimization of the system in preparation for more specific tweaking. These steps are important so try to do each and every one of them each time you install a new version of the Catalysts.


Delete Installation Files


When the new Catalysts have installed, and you've rebooted your system, it is now perfectly safe for you to delete the temporary installation files which were created in the directory you specified during installation. These are simply the unzipped contents of the Catalyst installation package which were used to install the drivers elsewhere on your system - they are not the actual driver files being used by Windows. If you didn't specify a new directory for them, these files are usually held under the \ATI directory. Delete them all.


Remember to also delete or backup the latest Catalyst package which you downloaded earlier. You probably won't need to use it again given ATI are releasing new Catalysts regularly, but if you know you may need to do a reformat/reinstall of Windows soon, it may be worth saving them somewhere for future use. Try not to keep lots of older Catalysts however, as these are readily available for download around the net.



Disable Unnecessary Services & Startup Items


When the Catalyst drivers and the Catalyst Control Center install on your system, they install new Services and startup items. Some of these can be removed or disabled, depending on your circumstances. If you're unfamiliar with how to disable a Service, or how to find and temporarily or permanently remove startup items, see the Services and Startup Programs chapters of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion.


  • ATI Hotkey Poller (ati2evxx.exe) - Also called the ATI External Event Utility, this service is primarily needed if you use the ATI Hotkey settings available in the ATI Catalyst Control Center. However, before disabling this service note the following: If you use a third party overclocking utility, you must disable this service otherwise the utility may not work; if you have an XT, X1X00 or newer graphics card, disabling this service can also disable the OverDrive section in the Control Center, and can also prevent correct clock speeds being applied in 3D mode; if you run a laptop with an ATI graphics card, you may need to keep this service enabled to allow your LCD screen to switch off properly when the laptop is closed; if you use Fast User Switching then disabling this service may also cause problems with that. If none of the conditions above apply to you, I recommend that you disable this service.

  • ATI Smart (ati2sgag.exe) - This service is a bit more vague, as it is not needed for the ATI SmartGart settings to work on AGP cards. It seems to continually detect system conditions at boot time and adjust SmartGart settings if needed to maintain stability, but in effect it's just a useless resource hog. I highly recommend disabling this service - I have experienced no negative impacts by doing so. You should still be able to adjust SmartGart settings without any problems, however if you find your SmartGart changes won't "stick", set this service to Automatic, change your SmartGart settings, reboot and then disable this service.

  • You will also have the following startup item which you can disable depending on your circumstances:


  • CLIStart/StartCCC (CLIStart.exe) - This item preloads the required processes to make the Catalyst Control Center functional. It is not required for your graphics drivers or settings to function properly. Fortunately, with the latest version of the Catalyst Control Center, even if you remove this startup item (which is recommended) or manually close the CCC.exe, MOM.exe and CLIStart.exe processes in Task Manager, whenever the CCC is launched it will automatically restart the required processes as needed. So you don't need to have it loaded up at Windows startup - you can safely disable this item. Note that the MOM.exe process is a normal ATI CCC process, and is not spyware. It takes the place of previous CLI.exe processes and is harmless.

  • If you want to remove the ATI Catalyst Control Center System Tray, then you can disable it from loading up each time you restart Windows by opening the ATI Catalyst Control Center, click on the Preferences button and untick the 'Enable System Tray Menu' item. You should also go to Start>All Programs>Startup and delete any ATI entries there. Obviously if you want to use this system tray tool, you can skip this step.


    If you want to remove the 'ATI Catalyst Control Center' entry which appears in your context menu (i.e. when you right-click on the Windows Desktop), follow the procedure below. Note that I find this is a handy way to access the CCC, so it's not vital that you remove it. However if you still want to remove it:


    1. Start the Windows Registry Editor by going to Start>Run and typing "Regedit" (without quotes).

    2. In the Registry Editor, go to the following key:


    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers


    3. Delete the 'ACE' entry (and any other ATI-related entries) by right-clicking on its folder and selecting Delete to remove the entire folder and its contents.


    You can now check the effects of this immediately by going back to your desktop and right-clicking to check the context menu. The ATI Catalyst Control Center entry will be gone, but note that this cannot be "undone", so either backup using System Restore if you're not sure about this modification, or simply reinstall the ATI Catalysts and the entry will be recreated.


    If you have any doubts, or experience any issues, reset all of the above back to their defaults. If you've permanently removed a startup item, you can get it back by reinstalling the graphics driver. It is not critical that you disable or remove these items if you don't feel confident in doing so.



    Remove Unused Devices


    This is a slightly trickier procedure, but it won't be harmful if you follow the instructions here. If you have had several Catalysts installed on your system in the past, or even an Nvidia card installed previously on the same Windows install, not to mention any other previous items of hardware which you no longer use, then this tip lets you remove them from the registry.


    To view unused devices in Device Manager, do the following:


    1. Open a Command Prompt by going to Start>Run and typing "cmd" (without quotes). Once the Command Prompt is open, type the following lines, pressing return after each:


    Set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1


    Devmgmt.msc


    2. In the Device Manager window that opens, go to the View menu and select 'Show Hidden Devices' - this is very important if you want to see the unused devices. Now expand each of your devices and look through all the sub-components listed. You will see that some of the devices are shown in a lighter grey color.


    3. For the purposes of this guide, what we need to look for are entries under the Monitor and Display Adapter device categories. Under Monitor there should be at least one darker monitor entry for each monitor on your system. If there are any greyed out entries, you can remove them by right-clicking on the entry and selecting 'Uninstall'. Do this for all greyed out entries under the Monitor device.


    4. Under the Display Adapter device, if you find two entries - a main one, and another one which has 'Secondary' next to it - these just indicate that your graphics card is capable of two separate outputs to two different display devices. You should keep both of these. Do not attempt to uninstall the dark entries under here. You can however uninstall all other greyed out entries under the Display Adapter device list, especially those which relate to previous graphics cards you had on this system.


    5. If you're feeling game, you can go through some of your other device entries and delete greyed out devices which you know for certain are no longer connected to your machine, or are traces of a device which has been moved around a few times. For example, under Human Interface Devices you may find multiple greyed out entries for a mouse which you may have moved from one port to another. As long as there is a solid entry for the device when it is still connected to your system, you can uninstall the greyed out ones. However I do not recommend uninstalling devices which you are not sure about. Most importantly, do not uninstall any greyed out Microsoft (or other Codec) entries under the Sound, Video and Game Controller device, and be extremely careful about entries under the Non Plug and Play Drivers, and Network Adapters device list. If in doubt, do not uninstall a device.


    If you do happen to uninstall a device which is still connected to your system, it's not the end of the world. Windows will usually re-detect it upon reboot and look for drivers to reinstall it. If not, then remove and reconnect the device, and/or reinstall its drivers.



    Refresh Rate Fix


    Windows XP and Windows 2000 have an issue in which the screen Refresh Rate the number of times per second your monitor redraws the image on the screen - resets to 60Hz (60 times per second) for every resolution by default whenever you install a new graphics driver. This is far too low for CRT monitors, as most of them 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 very unhealthy for your eyes (which can detect differences up to 200Hz or more) to view for long periods. Note that this does not apply to LCD monitors which use a different refresh method, and so are fine at 60Hz.


    Each time you install a new Catalyst driver, you will have to override this tendency for Windows to default to 60Hz. There are two simple ways you can do this, and the choice is up to you as to which you use:


    In the ATI Catalyst Control Center instead, select the 'Displays Manager' item, and then at the bottom of the page you can select a refresh rate higher than 60Hz (if supported) for particular resolutions. Make sure you don't select a refresh rate beyond your monitor's capabilities as this will result in an 'out of frequency' error and can damage your monitor. Alternatively you can use the '3D Refresh Rate Override' option under Display Options - see the Catalyst Control Center section for details.


    However the best method is to use a Refresh Rate fix, such as Refresh Force. Download this small utility and run it (launch ReForce.exe). This is the foolproof method. Just click the 'Auto Populate' button and it will detect the correct maximum possible refresh rates for each supported resolution on your monitor. You can also view and manually change the refresh rate for any resolution (be careful to make sure your monitor supports the new refresh rate entered though!), and even specify additional display resolutions. Click the Apply button and the fix is done. It won't run again at startup, or sit in the background, it just changes some registry settings. You will need to use this utility again every time you install a new driver, so keep it handy.



    Defragment


    This is a simple but important step which should never be skipped. You should defragment your hard drive each time after installing/copying/deleting/patching any application, game, driver or large file. Any time files, particularly game files and system files (like drivers) are added to or deleted from your hard drive they can become 'fragmented' meaning portions of them may be spread over several physical areas of your hard drive. This fragmentation increases loading times and more importantly often results in greater stuttering, especially during games. Details of both the built-in defragmenting utility in Windows XP and Vista, as well as third-party defragmenters, is in the Drive Optimization chapter of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion. Defragmentation can make a substantial difference to stuttering in games in particular, so it should not be overlooked.



    Advanced SmartGart (Control Panel users & AGP Graphics Cards)


    For legacy ATI Control Panel users you can check upon - and if necessary change - some of the "Advanced" SmartGart settings for your ATI graphics card by following the steps in this section. Note if you use the ATI Control Center instead, you can access these settings under the SmartGart section of the Control Center. The advice below also applies to the ATI Control Center settings of the same name. PCI-E users don't need to worry about SmartGart settings as they don't apply to such cards, only AGP cards.


    To access these advanced settings, go to Start>Run and type "SmartGart" (without quotes). This will bring up the Advanced SmartGart properties box. There are two sets of settings here, PCI Settings and AGP Settings. If you have an AGP graphics card (which almost all recent graphics cards are), then you can ignore the PCI section, and vice versa.


    The main purpose of going into the Advanced SmartGart properties is not so much to change anything, but to make sure that under the relevant section the Write and Read settings are set to 'On'. For example, if you have an AGP graphics card, the AGP Write and AGP Read settings should both say On in the 'Current' box next to them. This provides optimal performance, and there should be no reason either or both of them should ever be set to Off.


    If you find that one or both are set to Off, set them both to On and click Apply at the bottom of the box. Reboot your system, and go back into Advanced SmartGart and check to see if they are now On. If they are then everything is fine.However, if they won't remain On, then typically you will need to install/re-install the latest Motherboard AGP drivers, and also check and change your BIOS settings as covered in the relevant sections of this guide above. You can also try re-enabling the 'ATI Smart' service if you disabled it previously.



    The next section looks at all the settings in the generic Windows Graphics Control Panel.