[FIX] Windows 10 Upgrade: Cisco VPN Client Incompatibility

Windows 10

Now that Windows 10 has been released to the public, particularly as a free upgrade for many of us, there has been an influx of updates taking place the last few days. One could be sure that this pace will only intensify over the next several weeks. However, if your experience was less than palatable like mine was, you may have encountered a nasty bug where you have no network connections available after updating! I'll explain the problem and provide a solution that worked for me without having to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch.

TL;DR: For the impatient, skip ahead to the The Solution section below.

The Problem

The first thing you may notice is that your network icon in the task bar has an ugly red x, signifying that you're not connected to a network. If you have a WiFi adapter, clicking on this icon would typically yield a popup where you can select which access point to connect to. However, this popup may be completely blank. Clearly the network adapter(s) are not working properly.

Digging Deeper

The next thought may be to look around in the Network and Sharing Center, but you'd be disappointed to learn that clicking Change adapter settings on the left column yields a window with absolutely no adapters. Your next stop may be to check the Device Manager to see what Windows shows for your adapters. Shocking thing is, all your network adapters may show up and may not be reporting any driver or device errors. The next thought may be, "d'oh, I forgot to install the latest drivers for Windows 10. No wonder this doesn't work right!"

While this may very well be true, you may find that even after installing the updated drivers you end up in the same boat. No errors, but no network connections. I know that around this time, I was getting irate and brought out my book of Microsoft insults for releasing such a buggy build into the public. Free update? More like free headache. But fear not! I was (to some extent) wrong about Windows 10, the issue has been staring me in the face this whole time!

The Culprit

Staring at the Device Manager screen hoping for some magic to happen, it dawned on me: My Cisco VPN Adapter is missing!

Suddenly the planets aligned and it made sense. The Cisco VPN client I use for work must be highly incompatible with Windows 10, or it's corrupt, or both. Windows won't even show the adapter, and anyone with a fair amount of experience with virtual network adapters will confirm that they tend to hose up the whole machine when they act up. The solution would normally be a breeze: uninstall the Cisco VPN client software and life should go on. Naturally, this proved to be impossible.

During the uninstall process, I would get an Error 27850: Unable to manage networking component. Operating system corruption may be preventing installation. Joy. The uninstaller may not be able to handle Windows 10, or we really do have a corrupted virtual adapter installed.

Trying to think outside the box, I discovered that you can downgrade to Windows 8.1 for a month after the Windows 10 update, so I immediately jumped on that for two reasons:
1. I wanted a computer that worked again; and
2. Perhaps the uninstaller would work when in a Windows 8 environment so I can take the update again. No dice, as the same error would persist.

The Solution

While I'd love to proclaim that either I'm a run-of-the-mill genius or divine intervention took place, the truth of the matter is that the solution was just a case of dumb luck -- mere trial and error.

I was trawling some of the forums about similar issues with Cisco VPN clients and saw some unrelated posts about installing the Deterministic Network Enhancer from Citrix. Willing to roll the dice one more time rather than have to do a fresh install of Windows 10, I decided to try installing it -- and voila -- the Cisco uninstaller finally worked! I took the Windows 10 update again, and sure enough network connections came back right away.

At least for now, my misgivings against Microsoft were unfounded and instead I'm channeling those bad thoughts toward Cisco. Oh well, lesson learned.


January 4, 2016

After updating to Windows 10 Version 1511, I was notified that the Cisco VPN Client was removed due to incompatibility issues. I found a fix for this and detail it in this post.

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About Rich Dunajewski

Hello! I’m Rich, a web developer from New Jersey. I primarily develop web applications for mobile and desktop devices using such frameworks as Sails.js, Cordova, jQuery, and Twitter Bootstrap.

  • Lives in New Jersey, USA