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Tl;dr- how can I get Windows 10 to recognize my IoT boards?

I bought a Heltec ESP32, installed the Arduino IDE, loaded a demo program to the board, ran it, edited it, loaded the new version and ran it.

The I decided to try PlatformIO and repeated the process. Everything ran smoothly.

Then "something happened" - I don't know what ("I didn't change anything" ;-) and suddenly PLatformIO would not load a program.

I looked at the Windows device manager and saw two COM port devices. Perhaps stupidly, I removed them and detected new devices. Nothing. Then I attached my ESP32 and saw only one COM port device. enter image description here

I uninstalled the Arduino IDE and reinstalled it,but, even though I set preferences to COM3 in c:\users\<me>\AppData\Arduino15\preferences.txt :

serial.databits=8
serial.debug_rate=115200
serial.line_ending=1
serial.parity=N
serial.port=COM3
serial.port.file=COM3
serial.port.iserial=null
serial.show_timestamp=true
serial.stopbits=1

I get

the selected serial port Failed to execute script esptool
 does not exist or your board is not connected
Board at COM3 is not available

And, in PlattformIO, my platformio.ini contains

[env:heltec_wifi_kit_32]
platform = espressif32
board = heltec_wifi_kit_32
framework = espidf
upload_protocol = esptool

; COM3 or COM3
upload_port = COM[34]

I tried a different ESP32, of the same model; even attached a BBC Micro:bit, but nothing changed in device manager, even when scanned for hardware changes.

Question (finally): how can I get Windows 10 to recognize my IoT boards?

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My first thought was to delete this question in shame.

Then I thought that I had better answer it, to help anyone else who makes the same silly mistake in future.

To save on manufacturing costs, some USB cables have only two wires, rather than four, and are good only for powering devices, but not for transmitting data.

I had bought some cheap ($1.49) USB cables with power on/off switch from AliExpress and attached one of those to my ESP32. Switched back to the previous cable and all is well.

Exit, stage left, with burning face.

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