Update 1: I COMPLETELY solved the HomeGroup issue. I am dumping my entire experience here in case anybody else has the same problem - my fix may work for you too!
Did some internet searches and came up with some new leads.
First, into command line to run "/sfc scannow". It checks the integrity of Windows components to see if they are the correct, but in my case, it came back with no errors.
Then I saw to delete any files contained in "C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\LocalService\AppData\Roaming\PeerNetworking". I noticed idstore.sst and idstore.sst.new with a date last modified of about 5 days ago, and then two another .sst and .sst.new, but with a huge string of numbers, and last modified in 2010. Deleted them all and restarted. No change. There weren't even any new files in there as I poked around.
I then decided to turn my attetion BACK to the two services. Usually I try to start services via the Task Manager, but this time i went to the Services window that gives you more options. I noticed that both HomeGroup services had their startup type on disabled. I changed them both to automatic, and then tried manually starting them. HomeGroup Provider worked! However when I went to start HomeGroup Listener, I received the following error: "Windows could not start the HomeGroup Listener on Local Computer. For more information, review the System Event Log. If this is a non-Microsoft service, contact the service vendor, and refer to service-specific error code -2147023143."
Even though there was an error, I checked the Network and Sharing Center again to see if anything changed. Yes! Now it says "HomeGroup: Ready to create", the section that was originally missing under "Access type: Internet". When I click on choose homegroup, it doesn't give me the yellow error and ask that I run the troubleshooter.
I then did a restart to see if that was the final thing needed to solve HomeGroup Listener. Nope. Same error when trying to start it. HomeGroup Provider was still working though. I then noticed that HomeGroup was now in the navigation panel too though, and I confirmed that HomeGroup Provider controls the navigation panel show up by turning it off/on again.
I checked my C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\LocalService\AppData\Roaming\PeerNetworking\ folder, but it was still empty. Somewhere along the way it automatically created new .sst .sst.new files (no idea why or how or when), but HomeGroup Listener STILL not working.
I did some more research and found the following link with people with similar problems: Cannot Join/Create HomeGroup
. First person suggests "When you open administrative tools>Services, right click the 2 services pertaining to Homegroups and select properties and on the dependencies tab ensure that all of those other services are running as well. The Homegroup listener and manager have a large list of dependant services which will not allow Homegroup to run if they are disabled." I didn't notice this the first time reading ths (only in hindsight did I notice this post), but I checked the dependecies for HomeGroup listener and they were already on. My account is already administrator too.
Then I noticed somebody said to turn on the Windows Firewall service. I had mine on disable, because I use a 3rd party firewall. Turned the service on (the Windows firewall was still off though) and then HomeGroup Listener was working! I haven't tested if HomeGroups actually work in use, but for now, the two services needed for it are functional. One person said they needed to also enable "Credential Manager". Mine is on manual and at this point I don't care. If I ever one day try HomeGroups, and they dont' work, I'll turn that on myself. I also saw to enable Peer Networking Identity Manager, Peer Name Resolution Protocol, and Peer Networking Grouping. Supposedly they are needed too or could help, but like I said, I'm not going any further down the rabbit hole. Same thing as before, if it doesn't work in actual use, I'll turn them on then (mine were stopped, in manual mode). UPDATE 2: I fixed the missing Network Map too! 100% unexpected because I was sure I was not going to solve this at all! In case anybody wonders as well, details below.
I went back to services, turning on some of the ones suggested for HomeGroups. None of them helped. Back to internet searches for help.
First topic I found was: Network Map wont load in Windows 7
. Suggests to disable anti-virus and firewall. Tried, no help. Double check if router supports LLTD. It does, no help again. One person says that putting his router into non-mixed mode worked (from B/G/N to G-only to B/G), but it did nothing for me. Checked for newer drivers
At this point, I had no idea what to try. I knew that my Grandpa's computer can successfully create a network map, so I took a list of all his enabled services and compared them against mine, checking to see if he had something enabled that I didn't. Nothing.
I decided to just go through the entire service list myself, turning things on that I thought would work, one by one. If it didn't, I turned it back off. The first thing I turned on (from manual) was "Wired AutoConfig" and OMG, the network map is now WORKING NOW. Holy ****, I just fixed it myself! There's a big blue "?" in it
, which usually is interpreted as an error, but in my case, I know it's supposed to be there. It's represents a pre-Vista modem (it doesn't display any info because it's so old it doesn't support that feature). I think everything everything is solved now. The only thing that looks weird is I thought the internet connected to the modem first, then router. Mine is showing my computer to ? to router to internet. I also I put the WLAN AutoConfig service on automatic as well. And odd, somehow my Grandpa's computer doesn't even have either service but generates a network map either way.
And to whoever is incharge of the "manual" startup type for services, and/or troubleshooters at Microsoft: you suck! I am pretty shocked that multiple problems were solved as "easily" as manually starting services. Why didn't the troubleshooter check this!? And if calls to services were actually intecepted in the first place while in manual startup, then I wouldln't have as many problems since they would just start when needed. Manual isn't supposed to mean disable (that's what disable is for), it's supposed to mean start when called to - but it was just functioning as disabled the entire time! I don't have Windows 8, but I really hope they implemented changes in these areas.