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Windows 7: Network Adapter Missing after installing Windows 7

23 Aug 2016   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Network Adapter Missing after installing Windows 7

I'm trying to fix the WiFi on my Dell Inspiron 15-3521. My WiFi stopped working shortly after upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. I've tried different drivers, power schemes, and fresh installs of Windows 7, 8, 8.1 & 10. There are no signs of a network adapter in device manager or network connections.

My guess is that the initial problem was driver related. The computer manufacturers probably saw little reason to spend time and money testing older models that were out of warranty for driver compatibility when Windows 10 was released, so they didn't. That being said, I don't think my issue is driver related anymore. Something happened when I downgraded to Windows 7 that caused my system to stop seeing my network adapter, and here's why I say that.

After all else failed I took the hard drive from another computer that originally came with Windows 7, wiped it using diskpart, and did a fresh install of Windows 7 on the Dell. I opened device manager after installation and there waiting for drivers was my network controller and Bluetooth. I used the browse feature and installed my WiFi drivers, but not the Bluetooth. I created a restore point, rebooted, and was about to install the Bluetooth, when POOF....the WiFi and Bluetooth links in device manager disappeared. I tried installing the network driver package, but the installation stopped and told me to "Activate Bluetooth Using Wireless Switch." I tried Fn+F2, Fn+PrntScr, looked in BIOS and on the side of my laptop for a switch, and installed six different QuickSet packages....nothing worked. The restore point didn't work. A fresh install including a full wipe with diskpart didn't work.

1. I have the event log table and the log with details from just after installing the WiFi drivers and rebooting to when the listings disappeared in device manager, but I have no clue what to look for.
2. KB958488 and one other update installed on their own while I was offline during this time. Uninstalling them made no difference.
3. I looked at the event logs for a computer with working WiFi and the following updates stood out as missing from the Dell's start-up:
Information 8/22/2016 11:46:24 PM Kernel-Power 84 (81)
Information 8/22/2016 11:46:24 PM Kernel-Power 89 (86)
Information 8/22/2016 11:46:24 PM Kernel-Power 89 (86)
Information 8/22/2016 11:46:30 PM Microsoft Windows security auditing. 5056 System Integrity
Information 8/22/2016 11:46:31 PM WLAN-AutoConfig 4000 None
4. I ran Autoruns after the links in device manager disappeared and that program saw the drivers, but it listed them, and many more drivers, as unsigned. I tried logging in with driver verification disabled but that didn't help.
5. SFC and chkdsk scans come back fine.

I've read hundreds of posts on dozens of forums by people who all share the same problem. Everyone started with Windows 8.1, lost the ability to connect after upgrading to Windows 10, went back down to Windows 7, and the network adapters disappeared. While my problem is specific to my computer, I am hoping to find a solution that everyone can use. So I guess the question is what could cause your system to stop recognizing your network adapter after downgrading to Windows 7?

*Link to event logs in case anyone wants to take a look:!Au-gT5_7FmGal6xh31MR8P_VYfbXnA

My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 Aug 2016   #2

win 8 32 bit

Have you been on Dell site entered your tag to get the correct driver. In the BIOS is there an option to deactivate the card try removing power and CMOS battery
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 Aug 2016   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

I have been to the Dell site and checked my tag service tag. Interestingly, the site says the original system configuration shipped my computer with the 1703/1705 model, but the current driver list says I need the 1704. I popped it open to check and the adapter itself says 1704. I have tried every driver on and on the ftp site. The 1703/1705 versions all produce an error and all the 1704 drivers say to "Activate Bluetooth Using Wireless Switch."

I have tried resetting and replacing the CMOS battery. I've done hard resets, completely drained the battery, ran every diagnostic test on the Dell site, and used both the Dell and Intel Update tools. I installed the chipset drivers first on every installation, except one time when I installed the Dell System software first. My BIOS is current (A14) and it doesn't have a setting to deactivate the card or anything related to WiFi or Bluetooth.

I don't think the problem is with the drivers. The hard drive from my other computer recognized the network adapter and installed the drivers just fine. It wasn't until after the network controller was updated that I ran into problems.

1. Booted the computer to USB, ran DISKPART, and then installed Windows 7. On the first boot the network controller had a yellow question mark in device manager.
2. I installed the chipset driver package (rebooted), installed the display/video adapter package (rebooted), and then updated the network controller (rebooted).
3. After the reboot I opened the device manager and it showed the Dell Wireless 1704 802.11b/g/n was installed and working. A couple minutes later, the device manager updated two times in a row on its own, and afterwards the network controller and Bluetooth were gone. I checked hidden devices (nothing). I wasn't online and the computer was essentially idle from a user perspective.

I get that the driver update triggered something that caused the system to not recognize the network adapter. I don't know what happened, but it seems logical. What baffles me though (and I think is key), is why didn't system restore correct the problem? I created the restore point before the reboot, when the network controller was updated and working. And why was the problem still not corrected after I ran DISKPART and re-installed Windows a second time?
My System SpecsSystem Spec


 Network Adapter Missing after installing Windows 7

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