Dell Latitude C800 Display Problems with Ubuntu

My old and aged Dell Latitude C800 has just finished some needed maintenance.  For the most part, the laptop is being used by the proprietor of my local coffeehouse.  I received a frantic email from her last week complaining that Ubuntu’s updates had failed and she was unable to login to her machine.

I picked up the laptop this evening to resolve the problem, and when I booted the machine I was able to see what the problem was immediately.  I had not had the problem for some time, primarily since it had been a while since I had built the machine.  Essentially, when the machine is booted, the display looks similar to the image below:

The display is garbled and useless.  It took some bit of Googling to refresh my memory, but the problem had to do with a misconfiguration of the xorg.conf file that drives the xserver settings for my laptop.  My Googling turned up the following post: Help with screen resolution on Dell Inspiron 8000.  The problem has to do with how the graphics card in my laptop identifies the driver, an ATI Mobility M4.  Adding the lines in the above post helped correct my problem.

Finally, once I was able to successfully boot into my profile, I was able to easily adjust the resolution of the display panel to 1600×1200.  Nonetheless, I am including the xorg.conf I am using below that appears to be working just as expected.

[code]
# xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
#
# This file was generated by dexconf, the Debian X Configuration tool, using
# values from the debconf database.
#
# Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
# (Type “man xorg.conf” at the shell prompt.)
#
# This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
# if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
# package.
#
# If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
# again, run the following command:
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier “Generic Keyboard”
Driver “kbd”
Option “XkbRules” “xorg”
Option “XkbModel” “pc105”
Option “XkbLayout” “us”
EndSection

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier “Configured Mouse”
Driver “mouse”
Option “CorePointer”
EndSection

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier “Synaptics Touchpad”
Driver “synaptics”
Option “SendCoreEvents” “true”
Option “Device” “/dev/psaux”
Option “Protocol” “auto-dev”
Option “HorizEdgeScroll” “0”
EndSection

Section “Device”
Identifier “ATI Technologies, Inc. Rage Mobility M4 (AGP)”
Driver “ati”
BusID “PCI:1:0:0”
Option “AGPMode” “4”
Option “AGPSize” “32”
Option “EnablePageFlip” “true”
Option “Display” “BIOS”
Option “SWCursor” “true”
Option “CCEusecTimeout” “20000”
EndSection

Section “Monitor”
Identifier “Configured Monitor”
HorizSync 31-82
VertRefresh 40-110
EndSection

Section “Screen”
Identifier “Default Screen”
Monitor “Configured Monitor”
Device “Configured Video Device”
EndSection

Section “ServerLayout”
Identifier “Default Layout”
Screen “Default Screen”
InputDevice “Synaptics Touchpad”
EndSection
[/code]

I spent way too much time than I needed on this, so this should save my (and someone else’s) bacon in the future.

40 thoughts on “Dell Latitude C800 Display Problems with Ubuntu

  1. Rob says:

    This worked beautifully, thanks so much!

  2. Carol says:

    Yes, it did work beautifully, and I’m so glad you were able to fix it — I’m a pile of Linux FAIL.

  3. Paolo says:

    Thank you very much!!!
    It works on the same laptop model with Fluxbuntu 7.10, with the only difference:

    Device “ATI Technologies, Inc. Rage Mobility M4 (AGP)”

    instead of

    Device “Configured Video Device”

    into “Screen” section

  4. Jeroen says:

    Thanks a bunch for saving me a lot of time! It works smoothly with Ubuntu 8.04

  5. tom says:

    how do you get into your profile tho

  6. JJT says:

    @Paolo @Jeroen: Glad to help.

    @tom: What do you mean? Logging into your user account?

  7. Nitya says:

    Thanks a million .. works perfect

  8. Ian Ferguson says:

    Spot on! Thanks for taking the time to publish that.

  9. Jon Erlingsson says:

    Thanks for your input – It helped me alot – Of course there was some problems editing the xorg.conf because I dindnt hav the right to change it – but after som sudo exercises and some other stuff I got my old Dell Latidude C800 running on gOS – (Ubuntu 8.04) Thanks again

    /Jon Erlingsson

  10. JJT says:

    @Jon: I am very happy that this continues to be of use to everyone. One of the many reasons I continue to maintain this blog.

  11. kericoul says:

    Hi all, Kericoul, french.
    I have this laptop, Dell Latitude C800.
    I’ve trying your xorg.conf, it’s better than the original, , 1024×768 appears.
    But I’ve artefacts on the screens.
    Look Here : http://img5.hostingpics.net/pics/456434Ecran_Dell_C800.jpg
    Do you know how can I do for resolve the problem ?
    Thanks 😉
    Kericoul

  12. JJT says:

    @Kericoul: Your display resolution for a C800 is 1600×1200–its maximum resolution. The post above gets rid of the problem you are having. I can only presume that you have done something incorrectly in my post or the one I linked to.

  13. kericoul says:

    @ IIT : It’s strange because I’ve the same xorg.conf than yours.
    I don’t understand why. 🙁

  14. benny says:

    Hi. Thanks so much for posting the xorg.conf settings. I am now able to enjoy the use of my wife’s C800 with Ubuntu – she had retired it to the grave! I went through a number of incorrect settings before hitting your artcicle.

  15. Killercow says:

    your the greatest thanks, worked like a sharm

  16. Rampart says:

    Thank you very much! Got my old C800 working with ubuntu, thanks to your settings. Alltough
    my tft max resolution is 1400×1050. Maybe I have an older machine?

  17. Tony says:

    Thank you so much for this! I was having this problem with ZenWalk, Debian, Slackware, etc… i was thinking those distros were just too much for my crappy computer. Finally got to Xbuntu and figured it couldn’t be my machine. Well I actually took the time to search for a solution and this worked perfectly. Thanks again, from a Linux newbie.

  18. Rob Beard says:

    Thanks ever so much for posting this. I’ve had a real job with getting Debian on this laptop (Inspiron 8000 – DVD drive is knackered, it doesn’t have a network card so I can’t PXE boot, and I can’t find any Debian 5 boot floppies). This video problem was the final straw and the laptop was close to being used as a door stop.

    Anyway with your instructions it’s getting there. Just need to figure out the sound now 🙂

    Rob

  19. Alejandro Santizo says:

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

    After 5 days day and night tring to install 4 versions of ubuntu from 7.04 to 9.04 with your xorg.conf I resolve the problem that my screen was split in two.

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

  20. theo says:

    I tried to install Ubuntu 9.10 on my Dell C800. After install my Gnome desktop was garbled just like the screen shot above. Also, it did not have an xorg.conf file to edit. After many hours of research here’s the solution I found to fix my garbled video.

    1) CTRL+ALT+F1 to get to a tty, and login with your username and password.
    2) Stop the current gdm session by running the command: >sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop
    3) Create the xorg.conf file by running the following command: >sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg
    4) After xorg.conf was created, I then edited it by adding the following lines under the Section “Monitor”:
    HorizSync 31-82
    VertRefresh 40-110
    5) Save and exit the file.
    6) Start gdm again by running the command: > sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start

    That did it. Now my video is working great, not only in Ubuntu but Mint as well.
    Whew. That only took about 5 hours for a newb like me to figure out. It was a damn good thing I had a Windows box around to do the research with.

  21. JJT says:

    @theo: Admittedly, I am not running Ubuntu 9.10. The C800 is in the hands of a friend, so I have not had the opportunity to upgrade. Glad to hear of a work-around.

  22. Alan says:

    I’m thrilled to have found this post. Still have problems at 1024×768 and below, but I won’t be using those resolutions.

    Thanks!

  23. Marcos says:

    Thanks man!

    Solved my problem!

    After the welcome screen I went to my video settings and changed to 1400×1050.

    Perfect!

    Helped me a lot!

  24. bekor says:

    Hello friends. Can someone explain to me being a newbe,How do i install my ati mobility 4 with ubuntu 10.4.What is x.org and how do i get it and use it?thanks

  25. Julien says:

    Hello bekor,
    with Lucid, the xorg.conf file is no more mandatory, so it is not even created when installing.
    Follow the instructions given in the following link to have it re-created. Works fine on my Dell C800. Thanks for the help from this post !
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1428788

  26. sean says:

    Sorry, but I’m new to Linux and I’m having the same problem on an old dell Inspiron 4000. If someone could post a step by step walkthrough of how to edit the xorg.conf file I’d really appreciate it. Thanks in advance. (video card is the ATI M3)

  27. JJT says:

    @sean: You should be able to Google the location of the xorg.conf file. In order to edit it, though, you will need to do so as root. Also, for command-line editing, use the package installer to install nano. You will thank me later.

  28. Jopo says:

    Hello all
    With Lucid (10.04 LTS), the xorg.conf file is no more mandatory and doesn’t exist.
    I created this file in /etc/ with the following data, and all works fine. I’ve got the high resolution I expected (1600 x 1200).
    Hope that’s help you.
    ——-
    Section “Device”
    Identifier “ATI Technologies, Inc. Rage Mobility M4 (AGP)”
    Driver “ati”
    BusID “PCI:1:0:0”
    Option “AGPMode” “4”
    Option “AGPSize” “32”
    Option “EnablePageFlip” “true”
    Option “Display” “BIOS”
    Option “SWCursor” “true”
    Option “CCEusecTimeout” “20000”
    EndSection

    Section “Monitor”
    Identifier “Configured Monitor”
    HorizSync 31-82
    VertRefresh 40-110
    EndSection

    Section “Screen”
    Identifier “Default Screen”
    Monitor “Configured Monitor”
    Device “Configured Video Device”
    EndSection

    Section “ServerLayout”
    Identifier “Default Layout”
    Screen “Default Screen”
    EndSection
    ——-

  29. Allan says:

    Am so pleased with the information about the Xorg.conf file. I am using an old Dell C800 with Ubuntu 10.04 and with the Xorg file the display has the resolution now as I wanted it to be. You have no idea how much time I had invested into this subject. Many thanks from Germany for this great information

  30. Paul Downie says:

    Will this work on a Dell Latitude c800, running 10.10 … ?

  31. JJT says:

    @Paul: It should work. Give it a shot. The difference is you may not have an xorg.conf file, and you may need to create one.

  32. JT says:

    FYI, It worked great on 11.04 that I just installed with the alternate CD. Thanks for saving me hours and hours!

  33. remo says:

    Ubuntu 11.10 is running well on a 10+yrs old Dell Latitude C800 model No:PP01X
    512 GB RAM, 20GB. A vintage Xircom 56Kb modem/Ethernet PC Card from my “junk box” is used to connect to the Ethernet and was detected and functions without a glitch.
    During the installation from a CD no problems were reported, but after installation I had the same difficulties as experienced by Baltimore Mick. The display was garbled and useless.
    Opening a terminal with Ctrl/Alt/F1 no problem.
    The first problem I encountered was with “gedit” I didn’t wanted to try to sort this problem out, so I switched to “nano” as my editor.
    As expected there was no “xorg.conf ” file in /etc/X11/
    With nano I created the “xorg.conf” and typed the content related to the Monitor/Screen (cfr JOPO) into that “xorg.conf ” file and copied the file to /X11 with cp.
    I started Ubuntu, but still had the blurred screen. But now I could change the resolution by clicking the “Sytem Settings” and “Displays”. Had to drag the “Displays” icon out of the garbled zone. The max resolution I could get is 1400×1050. I also toggled between “lightDM” and “GDM” as a test, but remained with “lightDM”. Thanks to all for the useful info.

  34. Biggdadd73 says:

    Linux Newb here,
    After installing Lubuntu 11.10 I had the same problem of a “garbled” screen, after several searches I came across this page and man it was a life saver (had to search for every command I used – mv, rm, cp, cd – – really new to Linux) but I am glad to say that after creating and editing xorg.conf on my desktop I then copied the file to “/etc/X11/” and everything worked out great…thanks a ton. Like I always say “Google is your friend”
    Thanks again for the great post

  35. chris says:

    I’m using Crunchbang 10 and this worked like a charm! I had to take paolo’s advice on replacing “Configured Video Display” with “ATI Technologies, Inc. Rage Mobility M4 (AGP)” in the “Screen” section. Thanks so much guys,

  36. Dan says:

    Oh my gucking fod!! It worked! Thank you! I’ve spent days trying to figure this out. Even though I’ve seen the xorg.conf before it took me quite a while to figure out how to change ro mode to rw mode when booting into recovery mode, how to download and install Lubuntu instead of Ubuntu or Kubuntu (which were too slow), how to use sudo, not to use disk encryption with Lubuntu because it doesn’t work, how to do X -configure to create the xorg.conf file, how to take my laptop apart to re-connect the mousepad cable, how to use Knoppix to blow away the partitions that somehow got damaged by constantly forcibly turning the laptop off.

    The real eye opener was when you told us that we could do man xorg.conf (which never occurred to me) which was what finally cleared up the confusion about where to put the xorg.conf file.

    Also, I also had to specify

    Device “ATI Technologies, Inc. Rage Mobility M4 (AGP)”

    instead of

    Device “Configured Video Devic

    in the “screen” section.

    Thanks again!! 🙂

  37. Dave Gibson says:

    Ok, tried eveything everybody here has and still doesn’t work. I’m new, Using version 11.10. When I create the xorg.conf file it looks nothing like the file you have. Tried replacing parts of it with yours with no luck. Mine shows Device “Card0” and “Card1” and “card2”, same for screens. Replace Card0 with your files and also replaced the Synaptics parts, system stalls on reboot just prio to the Ubuntu splash screen although on one try I did actually get the splash screen. About to give up. Only reason I’m using this is I have a couple C800 laptops to donate to kids that need them and I got them with invalid Windows XP keys. Any help appreciated, especially from those with Ubuntu 11.10. Maybe a copy of your xorg.config file?

    Thanks Dave

  38. BullShark says:

    Which package contains the ati driver? This must be referring to a different driver than flgrx.

  39. Satan's warrior says:

    As always in my experience, Xorg is useless and this did me no good.

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