Can't use USB RT232R and CH340

I reinstalled WinXP; why can't I install and use my USB UART/Com port adapters, like I have countless times.

I just reloaded XP on my toughbook and so had to set up everything again. I know what I'm doing there. I've used this model (4 different actual units, but the same model/hardware) for over 6 years (and 2 others for relatives). I've set up USB uart/com ports on this setup before with no problem.

After reinstalling the the factory image XP and tweaking everything how I always do, I installed the CH340 driver (which is what my Nano's use).

I then tried to flash an HC05 module with RN42 firmware through the LPT port, as per this video, but the BlueFlash didn't see the module hooked to the LPT. SO I put that off until another day.

Today, I tried to access my ESC's using BLheli with the same RT232R 1 wire interface I've used a 100X. I installed the FTDI drivers (2.12.24) and then plugged in my module, but it didn't use those drivers automatically. I have to point it to the folder with the inf. But it throws a code 39 "can't install the device drivers" "may be corrupt or missing", even after reboot.

When I check in Device Manager, it shows that it is using the 2.12.24 driver (still with error code 39)
So i uninstall the device in device manager. I then try the .exe version of the FTDI driver (2.12.24), it installs and says it's ready to use. Plug in the board, and it goes through new hardware dialog, search and install, it finds the drivers on my pc, installs them, and throws a code 39, again. I don't know what version driver I was using on this XP machine before, but I *have used that FTDI board on Win10, so i'm pretty sure it isn't a clone because Win10/FTDI drivers didn't kill the chip before today.

I uninstall all the FTDI stuff and device, and then try to plug in a ch340 board (one I've used countless times with the driver package I have, that I already had installed), run through the prompts, it makes me reboot (not sure why), and then it throws a code 31 anyway (cannot load drivers for this device).

I've even rolled back to a restore point before I installed the BlueFlash suite and tried all of that again.

I can't figure out what the hell is going on. There are built in com ports that do work (I have internal NMEA gps hooked up), and also a host of virtual com ports for the BT toshiba stack I have installed.

I just tried a CH340 (1 wire programmer on one of my ESC's) on a hotel computer and it worked perfectly.