One thing that Windows has got better at over the years is offering more driver support out of the box. Installing compatible drivers for many components in a system without having to go online is mostly automatic. Windows XP didn’t have great driver support from the CD although it did a fair job for the time. The number of drivers available on the Windows install disk improved greatly with Windows Vista and 7.
Nowadays, Windows 10 can usually install the majority of the most important drivers on a system without having to connect to the internet first. After a visit to Windows Update, there will probably be one or two drivers at the most which need to be downloaded from a third party. There is a driver though which is one of the most important of all, and that is the network adapter driver.
If you have no wired or wireless network driver installed, you have no internet connection. And if you have no internet connection you can’t install other drivers from Windows Update, use any driver scanning software to download drivers automatically, and you can’t download drivers from a manufacturer’s website.
Installing Windows and finding a network driver that hasn’t been detected and installed can be frustrating. If you’re lucky you have the driver files backed up somewhere or an install CD, but many users won’t have those things to hand. If you have access to another computer there are ways around this issue to get your network driver installed even though you don’t have a driver for it. Here we have six solutions that can help.
1. 3DP Net
3DP Net has been around for several years and is a dedicated network adapter driver installer that supports a wide array of ethernet and Wifi adapters for offline installation. Although several websites list it just as an ethernet driver installer, 3DP Net does actually detect and install wireless drivers as well.
It’s loosely based on Driver packs so the around 100MB executable file you download needs to be extracted first before the detection and updating program can run. When you run the downloaded EXE it will ask for a location to extract the files, make sure the target has at least 1GB of free space.
The updater program will run and popup a small user interface with a list of network adapters on the system. If there is already a driver installed it will show the version number and date. To switch between multiple adapters, click the plus button and a selectable list will show on the right. Click on the network adapter in the main part of the window to begin the install.
3DP Net uses the standard Microsoft Driver Package installer to install the driver so it’s just a case of clicking Next and then Finish. For some reason, 3DP Net was unable to install either the Intel WiFi or Ethernet drivers on our test machine, an Intel driver was installed on another system. Therefore, success appears to be hit and miss which is a shame as 3DP Net has worked well for us in the past.
2. Snappy Driver Installer
Snappy Driver Installer (SDI) is developed by a former coder of Driverpack Solution that became unhappy with the direction it was going. The result is a program that’s small, fast, and supposedly has one of the most accurate driver detection algorithms around. It relies on Driver packs similar to those at Driverpacks.net although a downloading tool is included that uses BitTorrent to download the archives in the background.
To get the ethernet or Wifi driver for your offline computer SDI has to be run on a computer with an internet connection first. Extract the downloaded zip and run the executable. On the first launch, you will be given the option to download some driver packs to get started. The middle option is “Download Network Drivers Only”. Click it and SDI will download all its network driver packs (currently ~800MB).
Once that’s done and the new driver packs have been indexed, close the program and take the SDI folder to the offline computer and run Snappy Driver Installer again. Within a few seconds your network adapter should appear along with the option to install the ethernet and/or wireless driver. Simply check the required driver and press the Install button, a restore point is optional.
Being based on driver packs, you can download all the packs you require to create your own complete offline driver package and let Snappy install all of your missing or outdated drivers. Snappy Driver Installer should be quite good when it comes to correctly identifying more tricky drivers. A complete 20GB+ package is available via torrent on the product download page.
3. Driver Talent for Network Card
Driver Talent is from DriveTheLife, which in turn is part of a company called OSToto. The software used to be called DriveTheLife for Network Card but was renamed to Driver Talent for Network Card. There are two different versions, one is the standard cloud based version that will go online to detect and download the drivers. The second is the network edition that includes common ethernet and Wifi drivers in the download package for offline usage.
Download the setup file of around 170MB and install the program. Launch Driver Talent, click Scan and it should inform you the network drivers are not working. Click on the “Repair it with Driver Talent for Network Card” link to launch a subprogram that detects and installs the network driver. Alternatively, you can just go into the Program Files (x86)\OSTotoSoft\DriverTalent folder and run Dtl_NetInstall.exe directly.
We’re not quite sure whether it’s a detection issue or by design, but our test system had both ethernet and WiFi drivers missing and Driver Talent only detected and installed the ethernet driver. However, that’s still a result because it would be enough to get the system online to download other drivers. Make sure to download driver-talent-for-network-card.exe and not DriverTalent_net_x.x.x.x_setup.exe found at drivethelife.com.
DriverEasy is one of a number of cloud based driver updating solutions. What makes DriverEasy more useful is it has an offline mode that allows you to scan the computer without a network driver, then read the scan log on a computer with an internet connection to download the required driver. DriverEasy is free to use but has some restrictions unless you upgrade, one being the download speed limit of up to 80KB/s.
A drawback is the DriverEasy program has to be installed on both offline and online computers. First, install on the offline computer and run the program, click the Tools section, and then select “Offline Scan”. Click Continue then the Browse button to choose a save name and location such as a USB flash drive. Finally, click “Offline Scan”. The saved .deos file will be ready to load into DriverEasy on the other computer.
To do that, install and run DriverEasy on the internet enabled computer. Go to Tools > Offline Scan and choose “Upload Offline Scan File”. Click Continue, browse for the .deos file, and click Continue again. The program will list any missing drivers found in the scan file.
Download the Ethernet or wireless driver, if you are going to download more than one, they can be downloaded in turn. The resulting driver file will likely be a setup executable or a zip containing a setup file or a batch script. Copy/extract the file(s) to the target computer and execute to install the driver. Both our missing drivers were found which would have been a big help to getting online.
5. DriverPack Solution Offline Network Version
DriverPack Solution used to be quite similar to Snappy Driver installer and was a simple to use and effective driver updater. Sadly, these days it’s become a bit of a bloated mess with loads of unnecessary extras such as third party software installs, toolbar installs, software cleanup, monitoring, and more. It will also likely get flagged by your security software as malicious or a potentially unwanted program.
None of the pre-selected software will be installed because it’s not included in the 600MB+ offline network version. Run the self extracting archive, then launch Driverpack.exe. After a short scan, you should be notified at the top right that at least one network driver will be installed. Close the scan window to reveal the driver list to install. Alternatively, press “Install all automatically” to just install all missing drivers.
Make sure only the network drivers are selected and click “Install all”. It shouldn’t matter but as a precautionary measure, you could first go to the Software tab and uncheck the entries listed for install. The DriverPack Solution Offline Network Version detected and installed both our ethernet and WiFi adapter. Of course. mileage will vary from system to system but it should be more successful than not.
Note the Offline network version download is not visible on the webpage until you click “Other DriverPack versions”. It’s also possible to download the full 20GB+ offline suite that includes all drivers, not just network drivers.
6. Driver Identifier
Driver Identifier is a little more tricky than some of the options above. This is because it doesn’t automatically download the exact driver you need but will present you with a list of several options from its vast database. A little knowledge of which driver will likely be optimal for your system will come in handy. The Driver Identifier software itself is very easy to use and only requires a few mouse clicks.
Download (~4MB), install, and launch the Driver Identifier program. All you have to do is check the “I do not have internet connection” box and click “Scan now”. After a few seconds, you will be asked where to save the resulting drivers.html file. Simply take that HTML file to a computer with an internet connection and launch it. On the webpage that opens, you will see the listed devices of the offline machine.
The network adapter(s) should appear on the page and have a “Download” button available. Click the button and you will be taken to a download page that will probably have dozens of available drivers. Choose the option that best matches your system as OEM drivers from the likes of Asus, HP, or Lenovo will be in the same list.
Download the file, copy it to the offline system, and install the network driver. If it doesn’t work, you can always try a different or older version. Make sure it is for the correct operating system.
Final Note: While the above methods are useful if you have a system without a network driver installed, you can obviously choose to backup your driver first if you are still using the operating system before a reinstall. Something like Double Driver or Driver Backup! would be good programs to try. Another option is trying a Windows PE distro which might have compatible network drivers already integrated allowing you to go online and download third party network drivers or even one of the tools above without needing another internet enabled computer.