Had a breakthrough... I did some investigating into that 169. ip a bit more, and I cant recall the forum I found it on now, but one of the replies specifically said that he believed a 169. IP was indicative a hardware issue. He cited ethernet cable being a likely source, but I ruled that out already, he also noted a few other hardware issues it coulda been. I chose to go down and add an Netword Card and that did the trick. Not sure what was with the on board networking on the mobo, but maybe a short circuit somewhere? In any case, hope this helps people in the future. I truly did exhaust all free options on this and it ended up costing me 25 dollars.
Thanks for your help, good luck.
glad you got it fixed (strong possibility that we would have gone that route anyway). given the tests that were done it's possible that the onboard NIC is dead, however i can't state a solid level of probability on that...
if i were sitting in front of the machine i'd probably keep plugging away to try to figure the thing out conclusively, but, that's not required here
device manager will only really report HORRENDOUS errors with hardware. some little errors that aren't big enough to throw a red flag won't get reported, but they'll be important enough to make something not work.
Great news that you managed to fix it by yourself.
I am quite amazed though that even though the Device Manager showed no errors with the network card, it was still the cause of the errors.
Thank you for posting back with your solution to your problem. I am sure it will help some people in the future.