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So I just installed Windows from a retail disc, everything is running nice and fast. But I noticed something I had not (but I should have) expected:

One of my devices isn't working, but what's worse, my internet isn't working either! Drivers are missing for devices, including my ethernet and/or WiFi card. How can I get the drivers? Am I trapped?

After a Windows 7 install from a retail disk, the following types of devices may have missing drivers (because Microsoft doesn't include drivers for the billions of devices that have ever been made on one DVD):

  • Ethernet/Wifi Card drivers
  • USB Hub drivers
  • USB Devices
  • Graphics Cards
  • Chipsets
  • Storage devices
  • And many more...

Here are some similar example questions I've seen so far:

  • How can I get my graphics card working if I can't download it, because my ethernet card is not working?

  • How can I get my USB devices working if my Wifi card won't work, and I can't get on the internet to download them?

  • How can I get drivers for my ethernet card if my ethernet card is what I use to get drivers?!

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This is an interesting question, and one that I feel was fairly well put together. However, please refrain from commenting via your post ("please don't read this and downvote"). I've updated your question to better fit what I think you're trying to accomplish, but feel free to roll back if you disagree. – KronoS Aug 27 '13 at 21:03
so you asked a question, commented it and answered it? Pity you can't vote it up – Lynob Aug 27 '13 at 21:05
@Fischer Answering your own question is completely normal and acceptable here, and even encouraged sometimes:… – That Brazilian Guy Aug 27 '13 at 21:22
@ThatBrazilianGuy I know that, I even sometimes answer my own questions. But not within 5 minutes of asking! he should at least wait for someone to answer, if there was no answer or if the answer didn't solve the problem, then one should answer, one should not ask a question with the intend of answering... that's called point farming – Lynob Aug 27 '13 at 21:34
@Fischer You obviously don't understand the functionality and purpose of the "Answer your own question" feature in the "Ask a question" page, given your accusation of point farming, which is just silly. I would recommend reading the post that ThatBrazilianGuy shared. It covers the topic quite well, and gives an example of someone answering their question while simultaneously asking it. Rather than continue to argue about how Stackexchange works in comments, I'd be open to moving this discussion to chat instead. – Moses Aug 27 '13 at 21:52
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This the first problem most new technicians run into when first getting involved in working with installations of Windows OS.

Retail Windows installation discs (not OEM discs) don't include every driver ever made, which includes some drivers for the hardware on your particular system. OEM discs (like one from HP or Dell) includes all the drivers for your particular system, and many times includes the Windows product key, so activation and installation is very simple. If you have an OEM disk specific to your model, use it.

If not:

You can do one of two things:

  • Download all the missing drivers from another computer with an internet connection, and transfer them over with a USB drive (or a CD).
  • Download only the network adapter drivers to a USB drive (or CD) and once you have an internet connection on the PC you're working on, download the remaining missing drivers.

Most experienced technicians download the ethernet drivers before doing the reinstall, that way getting the rest of the drivers is just a matter of a Google search.

If you're not sure of which drivers to download:

Go to the manufacturer's website. Search by your model number, Windows version, and it will list all the current drivers for your hardware.

If the manufacturer's website doesn't work there are other methods for finding drivers:

Sometimes Windows can automatically search for drivers and install them on its own. In my experience, this is rare.

For graphics cards, if you know the model of the card (sometimes it is written on a label physically on the card), you can go to the manufacturer's website and download the latest driver.

For mostly every other device, I use to search by the vendor and device ID. To find the vendor and device ID:

Open Device Manager, right click the device with the missing driver (usually marked in yellow), then click Properties. Click the Details tab, then click the dropdown and select the Hardware ID property. The value will have the terms VID followed by four characters (this is the vendor ID), and PID followed by four characters (this is the product or device ID). You can search on for the device name, and it usually includes a download link to drivers.

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I have noticed that most laptops and desktops have working NIC's (not wireless) right after a fresh install. If ever I need to connect, and can't due to lacking wirelss nic drivers, I hardwire my PC and then connect. – KronoS Aug 27 '13 at 21:05
True, but when a user has a newer PC and an older retail disk (especially one without a service pack, or with an older one), this may happen. I know I have a few older Windows 7 retail disks lying about and the newer PCs I install on have newer hardware that the disk doesn't cover. – Moses Aug 27 '13 at 21:26

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