I have an IBM X31 running Windows 7. I recently tried to connect to it to a 17" LCD monitor, but the screen looked odd. When I looked at the settings, it seemed to be set at a rather odd resolution, and I couldn't set it to the native resolution, 1280 by 1024. How might I be able to gain more screen resolution options?
As I understand, your laptop normally works well on its own, but gets into trouble when connected to the monitor?
First, I'd try to download the relevant video drivers from here. I don't expect Windows 7 to have drivers for a laptop that old. Don't use the installer to install the drivers, however; unzip the drivers (for one or all of the OS-optimized drivers), and go to Device Manager and try to update the driver whilst pointing Windows to the destination of your unzipped drivers.
Try this and report back.
I would first check that the driver for that particular monitor is installed, and that the monitor is properly recognized, if the external monitor comes up as 'generic 17" monitor' that tells you the system is making certain assumptions. Usually you can find / select the proper monitor.
Thats probably the best route to troubleshoot. Otherwise update your video card drivers to the latest.