Just yesterday, I sat down at my 5-year-old Dell XPS 2720 to install an Insider Preview Fast + Skip upgrade, and noticed the Wi-Fi icon sitting in the notification area. “Hmmm” I said to myself “I thought I had a Cat5 cable plugged in.” I did indeed, but the status lights on the unit’s built-in RealTek PCIe GbE controller were blinking red and orange instead of the more customary green and orange that indicates things are working. Wondering if I had a bad or missing driver, thanks to the upgrade — this is not an unfamiliar upgrade outcome in the Insider Preview world — I checked on status in Device Manager. Instead of the usual “This device is working properly” in the General tab, I saw a message that read “No drivers are installed for this device.”
Not the kind of device status you want to see in Device Manager, when you’re checking to see it things are working. They can’t without a driver!
Doing the Troubleshooting Dance
So, I started monkeying around with the RealTek GbE Driver. I found myself able to (re)install either of the drivers present on the PC itself (available through Device Manager’s right-click Update driver menu). But I was unable to uninstall any GbE driver, and the device acted like it wasn’t there. It certainly isn’t working properly, as the color scheme on the status lights so clearly indicates
Now, I’m stuck with the unit’s Killer Wireless-N 1202 Wi-Fi adapter as the sole built-in means of network connectivity. 802.11n offers a max throughput of 450 Mbps, with typical rates in the 100 Mbps range. Ookla Speedtest says I’m getting a pretty dismal 35 Mbps upstream, and 21 Mbps downstream on the XPS 2720’s built-in Wi-Fi. Not really acceptable, for a machine on which I download a 2-4 Gigabyte Insider Preview upgrade on a more-or-less weekly basis.
If I insert my ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to GbE Adapter, Ookla jumps to a totally respectable 941 Mbps upstream, and 47 Mbps downstream (that’s about as good as I can do with a built-in GbE adapter on most of my PCs). So I guess I’ll switch over to the ASIX for the time being.
Where Does the XPS 2720 Go From Here?
The short answer to the preceding question is “somewhere else.” Let me explain. The built-in Nvidia 750GT mobile graphics quit working about a year ago. The power switch is hanging out of the case, because the original quit working at about the same time, and I didn’t want to disassemble the entire unit to mount the new one. I don’t know if the built-in camera ever worked (I never even tried to use it until last year, at which point I discovered it was MIA). All of this is telling me this system is ready for immanent retirement. So I’ll keep using it for Insider Preview testing until something else breaks. But when that happens, this machine will either go to my friends at ReGlue (a local charity that takes older PCs, installs Linux on them, and gives them to underserved, low-income students to use for schoolwork and basic Internet access) — if they want it, that is — or to Goodwill (my best local resource for proper disposal of ewaste, including computers).
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.