Ok, here's the senario:
My "friend" has a cruddy Dixon's / PCWorld laptop she got a few years ago. It came with Windows Vista installed on it. (She bought it before I knew her, otherwise I might have intervened before she got it, but too late for that.)
The Windows Vista installation chugged along on the thing, took up nearly the whole of the hard drive, and gave the processor fan such an arduous task that whenever the laptop was switched on it was almost always screeching like an animal in its death throws, and making me wonder if it was about to burst spontaneously into flames. (Although, it did not.) Oh and the other thing ... the internet connection would randomly die - sometimes after going to a couple of pages sometimes after as much as an hour's use. But once it had done its thing, it would not work again until the machine had been restarted... how annoying.
The obviously thing to do was to wipe the hard drive and put WindowsXP on it. (If you are a linux geek, you can shut up.)
So I did. And everything was running smoothly, until it came to the graphics drivers. Windows Update managed to identify every little bit of hardware in the box for me, and install a driver for it, apart from the graphics driver. (Why couldn't it sort out the graphics driver like everything else!?!) The basic VGA driver was livable with ... video still streamed ok. But no Direct3D. (Run box -> dxdiag showed this.) ... What to do?
Well go and search for drivers for the laptop video controller, right?
So let me see what is the name of the laptop?
Looking on the under-side of the laptop I see a small label that says it is an "E-System 3212" - at least that's what I think it says... although as I start trawling google looking for a driver, it gradually dawns on me that the funky hyphen between the "E" and the "System" is actually supposed to be a cute way of writing "i"... in other words what I should actually be searching for is graphics drivers for an "Ei System" laptop. (Or some people write it as "EiSystem" - just to be additionally confusing.)
So I searched under "E-System" and I searched under "EiSystem" and I searched under "Ei System", and could I find any drivers? What do you think?
Mostly all I find is a few sites like www.techsupportforum.com with deceptive links on them that lead to pages of advert links.
I did manage to discover that Dixons / PC World have "support" web site / "service" which used to be called "TheTechGuys" http://www.bitterwallet.com/dsgi-know-how-to-kill-off-the-tech-guys-doll-up-off-site-repairs/34464 and now is called http://www.knowhow.com/
So, let's think. What could a retailer called "PC World" that sells laptops do on its support web site to make that web site useful for its customers... hey I've got an idea, how about a driver database. Is there a driver database? ... Er. No.
The closest that knowhow.com gets to a driver database is this: http://knowhow.com/information-article-listing.dhtml?categoryReference=105&sortOn=lastModified&country=uk ... a bulletin board that has "articles" a few of which have driver downloads. Nowhere I can look up an Ei System 3212.
So what now? Give up?
Not quite. First off, what video controller does the laptop have. Well CPU-Z (http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html) tells me that the "chipset" is i943/940GML.
940GML is one of Intel's infamous "on-board" graphics controllers.
So lets go to the source... Intel! http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Default.aspx?lang=eng
So I search under
Product family: Graphics
Product line: Laptop graphics controllers
Product name: Mobile Intel® 945GM Express Chipset Family
And there it is! An XP driver that explicitly covers the 940GML onboard graphics... Problem solved.
So here we are. Running Windows XP, the hard drive has a respectable 70% free, everything works fine. The internet doesn't keep dying. The CPU fan has about half the decibels coming out of it... and YES even the 3D graphics works! (Well done me!) :-)