How to install wireless USB drivers for Ubuntu – on 4th January, 2009

Ubuntu simply did not see my wireless adapter, and there appeared to be no way of actually installing it.

Problem: Wireless USB  adapter doesn’t work on Ubuntu. Belkin and Dynamode wireless adapters

Background: Since I can neither afford the luxury of an Apple OS or stand any longer the bloated and slow Windows I thought it was about time to try out Linux on a computer at home. Since the majority of use of this home computer will be browser based (and since soon I believe a great deal of applications will be browser based) I figured that there was nothing to stop me giving it a go.

Well I have to say that once I got the installation complete I was most pleased with myself, and very happy with my zippy new computer.

What you will need
– Your Ubuntu installation CD
– Your windows drivers/hardware drivers cd

It is just fabulous the way that Ubuntu automatically detects all hardware and everything just works automatically – that is – everything except my wireless USB and thus my connection to the internet.

My wife and I both have a deep seated hate of wires and that combined with a quirky house means that wireless is the only way to go for us.

Unfortunately Ubuntu simply did not see my wireless adapter, and there appeared to be no way of actually installing it.

In a flustered state I managed to get our other computer online and tried to look up how to get ubuntu to work with a wireless usb and found a wealth of articles, and forum posts, most of which seemed to involve going to the command line and writing an essay in code.

Of course everything I tried threw errors and exceptions and to this day I have no idea of how to login as ‘root’.

But having looked a little further I found out the solution was fairly simple, so I thought I would write a post on it in the hope it will save somebody a lot of time.

It might not work for everybody but could be a good place to start before you get your handy dirty in the Terminal window.

The solution

You will need to get a few programs running to get your adater working. One is a program which I think controls and ‘helps’ wireless networking run and the second is a graphical user interface which converses with the first program without the user having to use the command line. Follow these steps

  1. Go to: System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager
  2. Search there for: ndiswrapper-utils, ndiswrapper-common and ndisgtk
  3. If nothing is found then Insert your Ubuntu CD
  4. You will now need to add the CD to your ‘Souces’. In administration ‘Manage Sources’ and add your cd/dvd
  5. Now in Synaptic Package Manager click on “Source” (This means the Ubuntu Source CD I think!?)
  6. Again search for ndiswrapper-utils, ndiswrapper-common and ndisgtk
  7. You should now be able to tick these items and save the Package Manager, which will then install the three programs
  8. Go to System > Administration > Windows Wireless devices (This is the new program you’ve just installed ndiskgt thanks to Sam Pohlenz)
  9. Now Click on Insert New Driver
  10. Insert your cd which came with your wireless device
  11. Browse to the cd and look for the .inf files.
  12. Select the .inf file
    Note: Normally these will be in a config forlder or an inf folder and will probably be oranised by Windows Operating System. I chose Vista driver as this was most recent but with one adapter this didn’t work. I think it will probably be a case of ‘if at first you don’t succeed’
  13. Install

Voila, you should see an icon appear next to your volume control which is your Network Manager. This will allow you to select a Network, and tweak your wireless settings.

If you are at this stage and still Ubuntu des not see your wireless USB it is time to either try another driver, or look for alternative solutions.

I could now see the wireless Networks but still could not connect?

Grr, I was trying to connect to a Secured network using the default WPA/WPA2 connection which worked fine under Windows. I found that by disabling Security on the actual Router (which makes the network unsecure and no passsword is required) I was able to connect.

This can be done by

  1. creating a wired ethernet connection to your router
  2. Logging into your router in your browser (mine was at http://192.168.1.1)
  3. Changing the wireless security option to ‘Disabled’

This is highly unsatisfactory since it means that not only can anyone use my network, but also everything I do online can potentially be detected and intercepted and that in theory someone listening in could get my credit card details.

I spent a day messing around with the WPA settings and WEP and others but have not yet managed to connect using these protocols.

So at the moment I have just decided to risk it. I will however be looking for a solution to this asap. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to know.

That said I am now connected wirelessly and writing this article on my shiny new Ubuntu OS – lifes good!

  1. Al Stevens says:

    Update! I have now got Ubuntu connecting using WEP, which works both for my version of Windows Vista and Ubuntu.
    To get it working you need to set the security setting on your router to WEP, Shared and use a 128 bit HEX key.

    To create a key google WEP key generator or follow this link.http://www.andrewscompanies.com/tools/wep.asp

    (NB. I think my original issue with WEP was that I was not using a properly generated key.)

  2. DrWig says:

    Great guide….got my very cheap Tenda wireless USB stick up and running with it in no time….many, many, many thanks!

  3. Al Stevens says:

    Update 2 – Yay, I have now got WPA2 working perfectly. It seemed the WPA key supplied by the manufacturer Ubuntu wasn’t keen on. So I visited this WPA key generator website
    http://www.yellowpipe.com/yis/tools/WPA_key/generator.php
    and generated my own.

    Works like a treat

  4. Ade says:

    Great stuff I’m new to Ubuntu and haven’t even got a wireless usb device yet, I’m just researching to find out if loading Ubuntu on to a laptop and using a wireless usb device will work.. With a little help from Al Stevens, sounds like it will!

    Thanks for the simple time saver, saves me “root”ing around.

    Can’t wait to try it out.

  5. Mel says:

    Awesome. I find this great post after a lot of search on the net for a step-by-step solution to connect ubuntu pc with hawking 54g wireless network adaptor on WEP 128 bit password and it worked like a charm.

    Thank you very much for this information.

  6. Andy says:

    Thank you!!
    My experiences are identical to those you describe having had; Ubuntu recognizes & installs anything I plugged in, with the exception of my usb wireless device!
    Apparently no way to install it, help facility on my machine no use at all – looked online for help – luckily I could get online as long as I was connected direct via ethernet cable…..
    After struggling with various very complicated ( for me anyway ) help pages I came across yours.
    I followed your instructions and everything now works!
    No trouble entering my WPA passphrase I was very relieved to discover, after reading some of the other feedback.
    Thank you again – my only problem now is:
    What am I going to do every evening when I get back from work, now that I won’t have to do battle with Ubuntu not wanting to install my Device!
    Andy :-)
    New to Ubuntu as of a week ago.

  7. Lee says:

    Just wanted to say thanks! I’m pretty new to Ubuntu and just had to talk him through this on the phone.
    Worked great! After adding the USB (.inf) drivers, everything seems to be working great.
    Thanks again,

  8. Boyko says:

    I am complete novice to Ubuntu and followed the above instructions point by point.
    The Edimax USB adapter installed fine, the network was detected, password entered and here we were online. Perfect!

    Thanks again for the input, great!

  9. David says:

    tried ubuntu install on pc some time ago , no wireless usb drivers. nothing works.
    tried ndiswrapper etc., no luck too.
    I just thought , well if drivers are so much of a problem , how can we trust our pcs or servers to it.
    Well , your article looks easy enough , I’ll try it soon.
    Please tell me how to login to ‘root’ , cannot find the password .
    Trying to learn this Linux thingy.
    Thanks again

  10. Until I found this page I was unsure how I would get my Belkin USB wifi dongle working, now it is!!

    All the other pages I found were mumbo jumbo this was just perfect.

    Thankyou very much indeed for taking the time to put this info up

    Cheers

    Gary

  11. shane says:

    thanks!
    i can now get a wifi signal in my barn using ubuntu!

    the true spirit of ubuntu!

  12. Randolph says:

    Brilliant….! After trawling through countless pages of what was frankly a load of geek B.S. This actually worked. Thank you! I wish I was as clecer as you :-)

  13. Alix says:

    Hi, Great guide!

    Just so you know, to log in as root, you’ll need to set a root password. you can do this by going to the user mangement (or similar) program, located in your system tools menu. You’ll need to go into administrator mode which requires your password and also tick the ‘show system accounts’ box. You can then find the root account and set a passoword. You may find it easier to simply find your own user account and add it to the root group, which will give you the same priviliges as the root account.

    A word of advise though, it isn’t advised to use the root account unless absolutly necessary as being logged in as root opens up numerous vulnerablitlies. Because of the access rights that the root account has, anyone who can gain access to your computer via an external connection (i.e. the internet) would be able to do some serious damage to your machine.

  14. Andy says:

    Hey, Great post, it worked a treat. I wish I had come across your link sooner!!!

  15. kervin says:

    Didnt work for me. I hit the brick wall after installing the ndiswrapper. Yes the program “windows wireless drivers” did show up on administration tab… but trying to install 3 different wireless devices only brought up the message, “could not find network configuration tool”.
    There was also no network manager ICON.

  16. ryan says:

    everything went well up until i put my tenda w311u cd in and the only inf. file is the autorun. so i download the drivers online. 4 folders 3 drivers 1 was repeated. 1 worked but said no hardware or something installed, 2 of the 3 didnt work. so i just loaded ubuntu and im completely stuck on it now with no internet see’ing how i only have wireless…. any help would be appreciated!!

  17. Al Stevens says:

    Hi Ryan. I have seen that error of hardware not present before. It normallyeans you’ve installed the wrong driver. I have to say since struggling a while ago installing these things on windows I now only go for well known brands as the drivers se to be far more reliable and rhobust.

  18. Al Stevens says:

    Kervin. Are you still stuck?

  19. andy says:

    Great little tip. Ive been struggling to get to grips with this issue also. Unfortunately, there are no .inf files on the CD, so bit of a none starter there. There is a linux install folder, but ye gods…5 pages of gobbledygook instructions for an ubuntu novice like me are just too much!

    Good share, Al. Wish there were more easy step tutorials for Windows refugees like this one! :)

  20. David M says:

    How to get root access on Ubuntu.

    As mentioned above by Alix, being permanently logged in as ‘root’ or another admin user is potentially harmfull to your pc.

    Ubuntu uses a system call ‘sudo’ (which is used by Debian and most of it’s derivatives, of which ubuntu is one of many).

    if you really need to run a command as root, most often when trying to install software via the command line, you would simply place the word ‘sudo’ (without the quotes) before the required command.

    The terminal will then ask for your password. This gives you access to the power of being an administrator on a temporary basis.

    As an example.

    I personally have multiple users with access to my pc, normally when I log in under my ‘normal’ user name (davem) I cannot view or access the information in the other user’s home directory.

    however if I really need to with ubuntu (or other debian based systems) I can use the default file browser to view all areas of the system, to do this I would have to open a terminal (which requires a conscious effort and hence stops me doing it very often ;) and type in the following…..

    gksudo nautilus

    the terminal will ask for my usual password (as my users is part of the admin users group), and I will be given a file manager with full access to open, edit, remove, etc any part of the system. Danger yes, useful often.

    you may now ask why I was talking about ‘sudo’ and in the above command I used ‘gksudo’ well the gksudo command is used when you need to open a ‘graphical’ system such as the file manager or perhaps a web browser (so as to find, download and install the anoyingly missing plugging) – bear in mind that when you do this you add these things in the root of the system, so if you aren’t sure they are bug free and contain no worms, trojans or other nasties my advice is don’t do it!

    When you access synaptic (as al has done in his instructions) you will be asked to for your password, this is essentially the same process that is going on behind the scenes specific to installing new software.

    I hope that snippit of information helps someone out, if you want to read more about the security idea behind sudo the following page on the ubuntu wiki should explain in more detail why it is used.

    https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RootSudo

    David

  21. Ted says:

    Like your other replies I was struggling with my cheapie USB wireless dongle.
    Followed your directions and they worked a treat. Carry on with the good work.
    Many Thanks Ted Williams

  22. akbo sam says:

    Hi all

    I also tried this but My D-link wireless usb doesn’t support ubuntu 10 desktop version (It support only xp / vista)

    Anyone can recommend me a Good wireless usb which should compatible with ubuntu 10

    Thanks

  23. Al Stevens says:

    @akbo I used a Belkin which had no problems. It’s probably just a good idea to avoid the absolute cheapest and try and pick a trusted name. That said if you have xp drivers for you Dlink then it should work using this method.

  24. Marco says:

    I followed all the above instructions and I have now the wireless option within the network settings so I can configure the WLAN. After enabling the roaming mode in the wireless connection properties I can select my network name, password type (WPA2 personal) and of course provide the password.

    After this I get “Changing inteface configuration” waiting dialog once done the Wireless icon is not gray out but still I cannot connect to internet. Is anything else that I need to do? for example setting the DNS?

  25. Al Stevens says:

    Marco – what options do you get when you click on the wireless icon?

  26. Marco says:

    From Network Manager I select Manual Settings (no other options). From there I can select the wireless icon and then set the properties: see http://www.lucidtips.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/ubuntu-804-lts-hardy-heron-on-compaq-evo-n610c_network-settings.png
    Once I enable the roaming mode in the wireless connection properties I can select my network name, password type (WPA2 personal) and of course provide the password.

  27. now i'm happy says:

    People like me, that know programming but know NOTHING about Linux, need post like this.
    Ubuntu isn’t just another OS it is a completly different OS and i think a good online-free book for real newbies (Ubuntu for retarded if u want) is needed.
    Theres is a lot of really useless information on Internet that make you lost your time… so again thank you for this!
    (people can youtube ‘USB wireless Ubuntu’ you will find also good explanations)

  28. Alan says:

    Hi. Thanks for the excellent “how to do it”. I’m on Ubuntu 9.04. I can get my Belkin to work with no security but it does not connect when I add WPA, even with the generated password. Are there a particular number of characters required as with WEP? I notice that whenever I enter a password into Connection Manager that it coverts it to a longer series of numbers and letters. Thanks for any advice. Alan

  29. admin says:

    Hi Alan, I do seem to recall having a similar problem. I solved it by googling generate WPA key which resulted in visiting a website which seemed to generate a key of the standard length.