Starting up an older computer you find hiding at the back of a closet is quite exciting, but it can also leave you feeling frustrated. A Windows XP computer without the appropriate drivers can’t connect to the Internet. Ethernet ports are unlikely to respond if the system relies on a controller for the service, while the same is true for on-board wireless cards or even old-fashioned modems. Most users turn to the Internet to hunt down the drivers they need. If you are stuck with a computer that can’t access the web due to a missing network driver, try one of these four tricks for getting back into the loop.
Using Another Computer
Accessing another computer that you have downloading privileges on is the easiest and fastest way to solve your driver problems. This could be a friend’s laptop, a work computer without limited access, or another PC in the home. The computer you use to download the drivers doesn’t necessarily need to use the Windows XP system. You can use a Windows 7 or 8 device, even a tablet if it has built-in or flash storage, to retrieve the files and transfer them to the older system in need of help.Just be sure you know where you are downloading the driver files so you can find them for the transfer. Remember to download network driver files appropriate to the Windows XP computer and not the ones recommended for the system you are borrowing for the download.
Once you have your driver files ready to go, use a transfer medium to get them on the disconnect computer. A USB flash drive is the best option for most users because it is simple and works with systems of all kinds. Driver files are rarely larger than a few megabytes, so a one gigabyte drive will hold hundreds of files. A blank CD also works, but it is a waste of space to burn an entire disc just for one small network driver. Double-male USB cables are available to create a continuous link between two systems for file transfer without the internet or a local network. However, many users report problems with these cables when the two computers have different operating systems.
Try The Boot CD
It’s not always possible to borrow another computer for the recovery work. Hunting down a copy of the original boot CD for the system may give you a chance to load crucial system drivers like the network support files. Take care not to accidentally reinstall your operating system when using a boot CD. Navigate to options for restoring or repairing drivers and consider making a backup of your files before trying this method. Boot CDs are far less likely to contain the files you need than a system recovery disc, so look for that kind of support software first in the original paperwork provided by the manufacturer. This method will only work for hardware that came with the system – later additions require their own installation CDs.
You may be able to prevent the loss of network driver files by making your own boot CD with your driver files before doing a fresh install to deal with a virus or other problem. Selective backup of your network files aids the recovery process when you won’t have access to the Internet. Using a program to build install packages from your drivers or collecting the download files before going offline ensures you can save the files for both original and aftermarket hardware at the same time. Don’t wipe your hard drives until you have a plan for restoring the drivers after the system is recovered.
Invest In New Equipment
Working with outdated network cards or wi-fi adapters makes it even harder to get the driver files you need when you can’t get online. Ordering a new piece of equipment means you get a fresh driver installation. However, you will need to verify that any PCI cards or USB devices include drivers compatible with Windows XP. Many newer models only support Windows 7 and up. Plug and play devices designed to work with generic drivers give you the highest chance of success without further installation or download issues.
Contact Customer Support
Finally, don’t forget to contact the customer support line of the manufacturer of both the computer itself and the network device. If you are struggling to locate older drivers for a Linksys wireless card, a few minutes on the phone could mean an installation CD is on its way to you. Some manufacturers will happily provide these discs for free or a small fee to cover shipping. It is often possible to locate drivers that are no longer available for download by getting in contact with customer support. Get in touch with your IT administrator if you are experiencing these kinds of problems with a piece of leased or company loaned equipment – they can get direct resources from the manufacturer to solve the issue.
Waiting for a disc from the support team will still take much longer than buying a new device locally or using a friend’s computer. The support line may also be automated and offer no help with drivers, advising you to visit the website instead. In these cases, you will need to choose another option.
A Quick Guide To Determining Which Drivers You Need
Opening the Device Manager is the fastest way to find out if your computer needs new network drivers.
- Navigate to the Desktop on your Windows XP computer. Right click the My Computer icon found there, and select the Properties option. Select the Hardware tab at the top, towards the right.
- Click on the Device Manager button at the top. Let the list of hardware load, then look for any immediate caution signs in the form of yellow warning icons. Look for the Network Adapters heading and click on the plus sign next to it to see all of the devices installed on the computer.
- If you are only finding generic listings for your Ethernet or wireless devices, you may need to consult your owner’s manual or call customer service to find out what the computer contains.