Fixing Control Panel crash on Dell (Win 7)

Ever since I got my new laptop, I’ve had this annoying problem that whenever I start the control panel for the first time, explorer crashes. In fact it happened the very first day. I didn’t think much of this at the time since I never did visit it that often and I had created a shortcut to Services on the start menu.

But I just figured out it’s a utility called the DW WLAN utility (talk about redundant) that was the cause. Fairly simple to discern as I took a screenshot of the control panel pre and post crash. Only the DW WLAN utility and the Intel Graphics icons are missing. Note : The icons on the control panel are arranged from left to right in classic view.

I knew it couldn’t be Intel Graphics as the utility was already running in the system tray and I never used DW WLAN.

How to fix it?

First make sure you have a directory called C:\Drivers\network. If you do and see a couple of release folders already, then you’re all set. But first download the latest BIOS and Application utility updates but don’t install them yet. This will be a painful experience.

As a safety net, you may also want to have a wired connection to the Internet.

Then, go into Programs and Features (after the crash, of course) and uninstall the DW WLAN utility. Now in the Device Manager, you’ll see the Network Controller is unidentified. Install all those BIOS and Application utility updates, reboot and come back to the Device Manager. Right click on the Network controller, select “Update Driver Software” and then navigate to the above C:\Drivers\network folder for the search location.

If everything went right, you can now use your wireless connection without DW WLAN and still be able open the Control Panel without crashing.

RIP My Acer

Well, this time I actually had a technical hiccup that kept me from updating rather than the usual Me vs. Humanity ordeal that I’m so used to.

After 5 years of faithful service, the hard drive finally failed on my Aspire 9300. Well, actually it’s been failing for quite some time with clicking, gridning and stuttering noises so it wasn’t really a surprise when it went. I’ve usually had good luck with Acer products in the past and I think this was a result of a lot of abuse. I took this thing practically everywhere all this time and it was pretty much a desktop replacement in every sense of the term. I can imagine the drive took quite a few shocks during this time.

I could have simply replaced it with a drive, but it was starting to show its age. Besides, it was time to move on to something that I could enjoy as a media machine from time to time rather than just a work computer.

After what might seem a hypocritical move on my part after one particular previous post, I went again with a Dell. But I did make sure this system comes with a full recovery CD, so not entirely a 180° in that regard.

The good news is that the Studio 15 (1558) pretty decent system and, for $649  + tax and shipping, not a bank breaker. The bad news is that I don’t like the keyboard at all, which is too clicky and noisy, and it doesn’t have a number pad because the screen size won’t allow it. But those are minor complaints. Considering the screen quality is very nice, and it’s quite a bit lighter than my old Acer (no more aching shoulders), I’m pretty happy with it so far. And the Speakers are OK.

The Dell Dock is basically a Mac OS X dock clone, but not quite. I took out the preinstalled McAfee suite, put on Avast instead and toned down Aero.

Oh, and Windows 7 is still Windows…

Explorer Frozen

Windows Explorer is not responding... Like my ex girlfriend.

Dell has made it near impossible to download drivers

Well, this hellspawn is earning nothing but abject ire on their own support forums. I know now that download managers are supposed to help download drivers, but not make it actively impossible to get anything to your system. There are some wonderful quotes there, even on the posts that helpfully suggest bypassing that option.

BTW, bypassing this new thingamajig is virtually a bullet dodging experience as the download manager will pretty much surreptitiously install itself if you don’t pay close attention.

How do I get my bloody drivers?!

First, you need to get rid of the DDM completely. Close your browser and go into Add/Remove programs to uninstall the download manager. Then startup your browser and completely delete all your cookies. I strongly recommend using Firefox for the next step…

Visit the driver download page again and choose the bottom download button on the prompt (the one where you choose your own browser to download the files instead of the DDM drop kick to the testicles).  As of this post, the U.S. mirror seems to be broken (lovely eh?), so you’ll need to visit their FTP page for global downloads for each file. I had to download the network utilities first, so I went to the /network folder. When you click on the inevitably broken link on the driver download page, you just need to remove the “.us” portion and the rest of the URL should work.

I would invite any veterinarians out there to volunteer their services to spade or neuter anyone involved in the creation of this abomination.

Note to Dell

Your download manager does not work. Period.

Not because the user is missing another patch or they need .Net 3.5 or any of that nonsense. It doesn’t work because to use it, there is an extra layer of aggravation to an already exasperating experience recovering from a fresh install. This is basically the opposite of customer service as there should be the fewest number of steps between a clean drive and fully up-to-date system. And you have oh-so-helpfully removed the driver CDs on many of your newer systems, so swapping out a hard drive is basically an invitation to have Godzilla stomp on your neck.

If anyone from Dell happens to come across this page, please do yourself, your company and the world a favour… Go choke on something.

I learned my lesson with Dell long ago. My old Inspiron 8200, which I still use to this day and has given me no issues, was my last Dell system. With their decision to include the recovery partion, they’ve made it plainly clear that few people of influence at Dell really know or care about the failure rate for hard drives. Which is why I’m on an Acer right now.