Weird wireless adapter stuff: lesson learned – get the right drivers

My work laptop is a Dell Latitude D630 which I’ve set up to dual boot between Windows XP and Windows Server 2008 x64. I got it fairly recently so I am still “tweaking” it, trying to get everything working smoothly. The wireless adapter is an Intel 3945ABG (or so I’d thought) and although it appeared to work under XP it had this weird problem whereby it would not see any of the usual wireless networks I would expect it to see at home (it saw the ones at work ok) – mine, my neighbours etc for anything up to 20 minutes after a clean boot!!

I’d downloaded the drivers from the Dell support site which is usually pretty good but I hadn’t found Vista x64 drivers So I went to the Intel site and pulled down the latest ones for the 3945ABG and installed them and it all worked like a dream first time, saw all the networks and everything. Curious thing was though that this time the adapter listed itself as the 4965AGN in device manager. The Dell site lists one download for 3965ABG and 4965AGN. But on my laptop the device came up as 3965ABG after installation under XP using the Dell package.

Hmm I thought. I noticed that the same driver package from Intel included both the x86 and x64 drivers so I went back and downloaded their package for XP as well and installed the x86 XP drivers on my XP installation. This time I got connectivity straight away again and again the adapter was now listed as 4965AGN in device manager.

So all that time I had an apparently working adapter but was probably using the wrong driver (even though the adapter claimed to be working correctly) and getting that weird failure to see the wireless networks until some random length of time elapsed.

If I run Intel’s Wireless LAN identification utility it tells me it is the 4965AGN but I’m not sure whether that is interrogating the hardware or just the new driver I’ve installed.

Lesson learned: if you’re getting weird stuff going on with hardware, double and triple check you’ve got the right drivers and go direct to the component vendor rather than the OEM that supplied your machine.



(1) If you can find drivers that are compatible with Vista SP1 then you effectively have drivers for Windows Server 2008.

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