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I ran into a persistent STOP error message that would always be in RTL8185.SYS on a client’s computer today. He had a TrendNet TEW-421PC (the PCMCIA variant of the TEW-423PI PCI card) based on a Realtek RTL8185 chip. He uses an older Dell Inspiron 2600 laptop, and you couldn’t remove the card or browse for too long without a crash. Even updating the drivers with the card inserted would crash the system.
TrendNet’s “latest drivers” are old as dirt for this chip, and it turned out the solution was only a little bit further away: hit up realtek.com and search for RTL8185! Downloading the latest drivers straight from Realtek and installing them solves the problem quite nicely.
But how do we update drivers when the card isn’t inserted to avoid the imminent crash? There are a few ways to do it. The least complicated way is to delete the file RTL8185.SYS from the “drivers” folder under the “system32” folder (the majority of systems store this at “C:\WINDOWS\System32\drivers” and insert the card. The driver doesn’t load until the card is inserted, so deleting it before inserting the card will allow you to change out the driver without the crash.
For more advanced users, adding DEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES = 1 to the system-wide environment variables under the System control panel, then starting Device Manager and going to View -> Show Hidden Devices will let you manipulate hardware that’s not plugged in, but the deletion is easier for most people.
If you need help with this process, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.