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Zero Display Service Error on ATI hardware

Supreme Cmdr

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This is not game related, but since it seems to be happening a lot recently, I decided to post this for you folks. Especially seeing that a search on Google reveals nothing but complaints and no resolution.

This is simple. It is not HW related.

Basically those folks at ATI conveniently forget that once in a while, files get removed from the OS by a variety of software tools, installers etc.

So, in their infinite wisdom, the more recent ATI drivers, fail to copy some needed files and just conveniently assume that they already exist.

The end result of this?

Sometimes you will get a Zero Display Service Error when installing drivers. Even though the drivers do eventually install, you may experience all manner of problems, especially when running 3D games.

Yesterday I decided to install the Catalyst 6.9 drivers. And for the first time, I got this error.

A quick search on Google revealed solutions ranging from the absurb to the you-gotta-be-on-crack-to-think-that-works solutions.

So, I decided to go tinkering to find the cause. After almost two hours of screwing around with the machine, I finally found how to get around it.

...and it ain't pretty.

As always, your mileage may vary. And if you try this and screw it up, you're on your own because not even a Rabi will be able to help you.

  1. Download Driver Cleaner Pro and install it.
  2. Download the latest Catalyst drivers and install them. Make a note of where the installer copies the files. You will get this error. Just ignore it and continue.
  3. Do not reboot when prompted
  4. Fire up MSCONFIG (start/run then type msconfig). Go to startup and disable everything. Go to services, then hide all MS services and disable everything. This will disable all except for the MS services. Click OK
  5. Reboot when prompted.
  6. Back at the desktop, just ignore the message from MSCONFIG or close it (without rebooting!!) if it bothers you.
  7. Go to Control Panel/Add Remove Programs and remove the ATI stuff in this order. (1) drivers (2) Control Panel (3) uninstall utility. Do NOT reboot until ALL THREE have been uninstalled.
  8. Boot into Safe mode (F8). Be sure to click Yes when prompted.
  9. Fire up Driver Cleaner and run it. Remove ALL the ATI related stuff; even if you don't have it. You can do it all in one shot as well by selecting the multiple option. Do NOT reboot.
  10. Fire up Windows Explorer and go to C:Windowssystem32. Do a search (enable the advanced options and tick every option) for ati*.dll. Here is where you're going to have a heart attack. You can either delete all these files or move them to a temp location. The idea is that you want to remove these files. Backing them up first is entirely up to you; which - at this point - is a wasted effort.
  11. Still in Explorer, search in *.inf files for the
    text ATI Technologies Inc. You might find one or two (e.g. OEM2.INF, OEM13.INF etc.). Delete both the .inf and the .pnf file. You can also move them to a backup folder if you want.

  12. Go to the properties of My Computer, over to hardware/device manager, left-click on the display adapters and uninstall it. If you have more than one, remove both.
  13. Reboot. Once again, ignore the MSCONFIG warning
  14. When Windows boots up and says that it has found new hardware, do NOT let it search online for a driver. Instead, tell it that you want to search for your own driver at a known location. Browse to this folder C:ATI6-9_xp-2k_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_35774Driver or wherever the driver was previously installed by the ATI installer in step #2. Windows will do this twice, depending on if your ATI video card installs a secondary display adapter or not. Since you already told it where to find a driver for the primary display device, it will use that same driver for the secondary display device. So you don't have to do anything else at this point. Except maybe pray?
  15. Reboot whether or not you were prompted to do.
  16. Browse to C:ATI6-9_xp-2k_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_35774WDM_ALL and run the setup.exe program. Do NOT reboot.
  17. Browse to C:ATI6-9_xp-2k_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_35774ACE and run the setup.exe program IF you want the ATI Control Panel as well.
  18. Reboot
  19. After you've checked that everything is fine. Go into MSCONFIG, re-enable everything and reboot as normal.

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