Windows loads wrong NIC driver

By pataz
Jan 27, 2008
  1. I reinstalled WinXP Home (I know POS but it's all I got) on and older Dell Inspiron 8100 laptop and it automatically installs my NIC as an Intel PCI adapter and it's not, it's a 3com. It will not connect to the internet-- no blinking lights on the NIC, popup say a network cable is unplugged even though it is plugged in.

    I can't get the driver to update even though I copied the driver file from the restore CD and from Dell's website. The installer says the location does not contain information about your hardware.

    Checked cable, works fine with my other laptop. Tried disabling/uninstalling NIC in Dev Mgr, reboot, BIOS update, OS reinstall but it's still not working.

    Any other ideas would be appreciated.
  2. grimesy69

    grimesy69 TS Rookie Posts: 52

  3. pataz

    pataz TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    Because it sees the current NIC as an Intel NIC it says "The location does not contain information about your hardware."

    And yes, I know, I've been to that Dell webpage several times trying different driver files from Network and Communiccations.

    The problem is that Windows loads the driver without prompting for me to load my own. I've tried uninstalling and disabling but I can't figure out how to tell windows to leave it alone and let me install my own driver BEFORE it detects and installs the wrong one.
  4. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Here's a few things
    • What device is Windows seeing? In Device Manager click the Details tab for your NIC card. What is the device ID?
      • fyi.. You will find you can't copy the loooong Device Id string (why the heck XP doesn't make it easy to copy i don't know). BUT here's a handy tool to have for these type situations. Download Sysexporter. It grabs data displayed in standard windows views and allows you to copy the data using Sysexporter.
    • See why Windows keeps selecting the driver it's choosing. Download the Devcon utility from microsoft. It is incredibly useful in debugging driver issues. You can use the command devcon drivernodes to see all the driver choices Windows finds on your computer, evaluates, and assigns each driver candidate a score. You'll see the score assigned each which determines Windows' final choice.
    • If you want to make certain Windows stops using the driver it's selecting, find the driver's install file in WINDOWS/INF (Use devcon command to determine the file name). Then, rename both the .inf and .pnf driver install files to a different extension. And remember your file options must be set to Show Hidden Folders or you won't see the INF directory
  5. pataz

    pataz TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    Device Mgr is seeing this:
    Intel 8255x-based PCI Ethernet Adapter (10/100)

    The device ID?.... there is no details tab in device mgr for the NIC. Do you mean the MAC address?
  6. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Set Device Manager to show details per this link

    Just noticed the link just sets the environment variable within the command shell. You can make it persistent by setting the Environment Variable using My Computer -> Advanced. Click Environment Variables and add it as a system variable
  7. pataz

    pataz TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    OK, that worked to view the Details tab.
    Device Instance ID-- I see it. Do you need to know what it is?
  8. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    The Device ID is reported by the NIC and tells windows what it is. Windows first tries to find a suitable driver for the Device ID (it will try other IDs reported by the NIC if not successfull). I believe devcon utility i mentioned before should show you that whole process as well.

    VEN_xxxx&DEV_yyyy in the device ID identify the h/w vendor as xxxx (one ID is assigned to each h/w supplier) and the vendor's product as yyyy (the h/w suppliers control their own device ids).

    You should be able to look them up here and know for certain what the device is reporting itself as. And follow Windows search for drivers and which ones it finds and how it scores each of them using devcon utility.

    This can explain cases (i've found for myself) where Windows ALWAYS picks its own driver rather then the h/w provider no matter what you do because it always scores a signed driver as better then an unsigned driver. Again, use devcon to see what driver's it is finding. And, again, to stop Windows from using the other driver uninstall it and then rename the driver install files.

    You may also find this kb from microsoft helpful How Windows determines the most suitable device driver to install during Setup
  9. pataz

    pataz TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    Nice. A lot of great info. Thanks.

    I'm going to try the full reinstall once more and see where that gets me. I may have screwed something up as I wasn't paying too much attention to it while it was running... other laptop and Half Life Episode 2 had most of my attention at the time =)

    If the reinstall doesn't work I will surely put your advice to good use and let you know how it went. Thanks
  10. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    you bet. and good luck.

    keep me updated. am curious how it goes.

    oh, and another helpful bookmark i found i had tucked away on the subject How Setup Selects Drivers
  11. pataz

    pataz TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    Well I cut out the middle-man and bought a new wireless card. Found one for less than 20 bucks. It's only a 802.1b but it works and this laptop isn't going to be used for more than email and Internet access so we should be all set for now.

    I do want to check out your suggestions though so I'll let you know when I have the time to try them.

    Thanks again for your help. I really appreciate it!

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