Some notes we've thrown together.

Here are a few articles we've prepared on technical topics which other people may find helpful.

Using the Apple 30" Cinema Display in Windows XP :

What follows below are my continuing notes and experiences in regards to installing and configuring the Apple Cinema Display (30" model) under Windows XP. This information may also work for Windows Vista, but we wouldn't recommend it.

This huge screen has a native resolution of 2560 pixels x 1600 pixels. It is ideal for CAD, 3D, graphic design, and other high resolution graphic work. Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of real-world information on the web about getting this screen working fully under Windows XP. After getting this screen working the hard way, here are some lessons learned from direct experience.

Dual-Link DVI Output

In order to make this screen display the full high resolution image (2560x1600), you must connect it to a video card possessing a feature called "Dual-Link DVI". Many video cards DO NOT have this feature, so if in doubt, only buy a video card if you are confident it will support this. Having two DVI ports on a video card does not necessarily mean it is "Dual-Link DVI"-capable. Without this feature, your video card will not be able to drive this screen above 1280 pixels x 800 pixels in Windows XP. That resolution looks fine, but your purchase of this screen includes a much higher level of detail, so you might as well take advantage of it.

We selected the ATI Radeon 9600 Pro "PC and Mac Edition" video card to power this screen. This particular video card had the Dual-Link DVI feature we needed, but also was touted as being Windows compatible, and was listed as specifically being a great match for the Apple 30" Cinema Display. The box for this video card even showed a photo of the Apple Cinema display, so we were confident it was a good choice. We also needed a video card with an AGP 8X interface in order to operate in the computer it was intended for, so this card also fit the bill in that respect.

This video card has now passed the end of its product life. It looks to have been available for at least a year or two, so they'll probably be replacing it with a newer model soon. ATI's own website no longer lists this card for sale, but you can probably pick one up on eBay or from somewhere else.

Video Drivers

ATI includes a note in the box with the video card insisting that you install v5.9 or higher of their Catalyst video drivers if you wish to use the Apple 30" Cinema Display with this video card. We installed v6.9 of these drivers, which were the current release available at the time of this writing.

Please be aware that YOU MUST install the Microsoft .NET Framework v1.1, and the Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0 BEFORE installing the ATI drivers for this video card. This is critical in order to have fully working Catalyst drivers. Even if you uninstall the ATI video drivers, reinstall the .NET Runtime files, or do any other magic tricks, the drivers do not work properly if installed without .NET Runtime modules installed during that first time you run them. We tried various driver utilities designed to clean up after the official ATI uninstaller, but with little success. We were only able to get the drivers working properly by reinstalling Windows XP again, and starting the process fresh from the start.

Having said all of this, there is nothing in the Catalyst driver options that assists in getting Dual-DVI working. There are no options mentioning anything like this in the settings, so it would seem this feature is just operational all the time, awaiting a device supporting it.

Trying Both DVI Connectors on the Video Card

Some websites have mentioned that on video cards with two DVI connectors supporting the Dual-DVI feature, the connector closest to the motherboard is the correct one to use. You should know that often only ONE of the two DVI connectors on these video cards actually can output this Dual-DVI signal. In the case of this ATI Radeon 9600 Pro, the connector furthest from the motherboard (towards the top of the AGP 8X card) is the one to use. If you use the "wrong" DVI connector, everything will seem to work fine, except you will be unable to get the resolution to the 2560x1600 level on this screen.

Monitor Information Files (.INF's)

What little information we did find on the web indicated that Windows XP should detect the Apple Cinema Display as a plug and play monitor, and then you can use it from there. This is partially correct, in that it did detect the screen as such; however, it listed a maximum resolution of 2048 pixels x 1536 pixels, which is incorrect. We know the screen can do a higher resolution, we just have to help it remember how.

The best way to update the list of resolutions supported is to install a custom monitor information file, detailing the resolutions this screen is capable of. A free utility called PowerStrip is available on the internet to help you accomplish this. Upon installing PowerStrip, you can use the tools inside to generate a custom .INF file for your screen. This is also a good way to learn the serial number of your screen (stored electronically inside of it), or when it was manufactured. You can also safely remove PowerStrip from your computer when you have generated the monitor INF file. Once this INF file is installed into Windows as the driver for your Monitor (replacing the existing plug and play driver which was automatically assigned), you will finally be able to set the screen resolution to the 2560 pixels x 1600 pixels.

Because of popular demand, we dug up a copy of the custom monitor .INF file we created using PowerStrip. You can download it here. This file was exported from PowerStrip on a working setup with this display, but we're not responsible if you screw up your computer, etc.

Morals of the story

  • Installing the ATI Catalyst drivers without FIRST having the Microsoft .NET Framework installed will permanently screw up your ability to use the drivers properly.
  • You can use the free PowerStrip utility to generate a custom INF monitor driver, letting you use the full screen resolution possible.
  • Many times only one of the two DVI interfaces can actually provide the needed Dual-link DVI output signal. If in doubt, try installing your screen on each port at least once during your testing to determine which of the two DVI ports is correct for your video card.

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