Nothing about this should be this difficult here.
First things first are the questions that should have been asked.
1. Are all computers connected to the router directly or through a switch/hub?
2. Matching MAC addresses are impossible. If you actually have those, then one of the cards is defective and you need to return it. MAC addresses are basically the serial number of the card and is unique to the card. The set of first 3 pairs is the manufacturer ID number, while the next 3 pairs are the device ID number.
3. What kind of cables are you using? You should be using straight-throughs for pretty much everything, as cross-overs/roll-overs would not be needed in a home environment. Switches/hubs are cheap enough that you can get those to make things simpler.
4. What brand router are you using?
The routers you buy at the store come pretty much ready to use out of the box. All you have to do is plug everything in and it will work. Any tweaking done after that is simply preferences, such as firewalls, opening ports for applications if needed, etc. OS's/hard drives have nothing to do with networking and simply do not apply. The only thing you need to worry about is network connections.
With the confusion of the 169 ip number that Windows assigns, it is simply a default network address that windows assigns when it is unable to get a DHCP number. Any computers with those ips will still be able to connect to each other, which is the whole point of it. So right now, I would say to put everything at factory default, set your network connection to automatic and then restart the computers. Regardless if the computers get a dhcp from the router, they should still be able to connect to each other. If they do not, then you are having other problems, such as twitchy cables, bad ports, bad nics, etc. The possibilities are endless.
As for the whole OS has to be the same on primary HD, that is simply false and has no bearing on anything. OS's and hard drives have nothing to do with networking. It is the protocol that is installed on the machine that determines how well it connects to networks and which networks it can connect to, with TCP/IP being the internet protocol.
Regardless of any of this information, you should basically start from the beginning. Set all nics to automatic. Reset the router to factory default. Then see if you can connect from there. If you are unable to, then come back with ipconfig information for each other machines and you can go from there. It's easier to walk through basic steps than to try and come in the middle guessing at what you've done and such.