I've been using NetGear stuff for quite a while now. From an old WPN-511 RangeMax PCMCIA wireless card in an elderly Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop, to a much more recent WNA3100M USB mini-adapter. I found the same thing as you, when I used to use the RangeMax with XP in my old Dell. there was a driver-only option, which was not recommended....so I opted, initially, for the full install. The NetGear software connected happily for the first few days.....then insisted it could no longer find the network. Nothing had changed. It would keep on popping up at boot, even though the Windows utility had already connected it.....and the two used to 'squabble' over who was running it! Nightmare. I uninstalled it all, then re-installed just the driver. Ever after, it would connect flawlessly using the built-in Windows wireless connection software.
With the WNA3100M, I found the same problem as JohnC; differing chipsets, depending on the version. Currently, I'm Linux-only, having given Windows the heave-ho about 3 yrs ago. Even though the Linux kernel contains thousands of drivers, you still have the hassle of needing to swap kernels if you've got something new, which older kernels don't support!
Luckily, the chipset in mine has had kernel support for several years.....and just connects straight-away, with no probs. But I'll re-iterate what JohnC has told you; with wifi adapters, it's all down to the specific chipset used by your adapter. No getting away from that.....and manufacturers have a disturbing tendency to change chipsets without telling anybody what they've done.!
By & large, I like NetGear stuff; it just does what it's supposed to. That, and TP-Link gear, too.
I've just tried doing the same as you, extracting from the .exe file. No soap. I suspect NetGear have 'locked' it in such a way that only the installer can 'unlock' it.....probably via a built-in digital 'signature'.
Edited by Mike_Walsh, 10 October 2016 - 07:02 PM.
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