How-To Geek

How to Install a Wireless Card in Linux Using Windows Drivers

Linux has come a long way with hardware support, but if you have a wireless card that still does not have native Linux drivers you might be able to get the card working with a Windows driver and ndiswrapper.

Using a Windows driver inside of Linux may also give you faster transfer rates or better encryption support depending on your wireless card.

If your wireless card is working, it is not recommended to install the Windows driver just for fun because it could cause a conflict with the native Linux driver.

Download Wireless Card Driver

The first thing you need to do is figure out what wireless card you have. There are a couple ways to do this and some involve finding the device chipset and others involve scouring through system logs.

The easiest method is to just look at the device itself, if you have an external wireless card, or search your manufactures website for what wireless card came with your computer, if you have an internal wireless card.

Once you know what wireless adapter you are trying to install, go to the manufacturer’s website to download the Windows drivers for the device.

If at all possible, you should try to download the 32-bit Windows XP drivers in .zip format rather than .exe. If you don’t have an option, select the latest Windows driver that your manufacturer provides.

Extract Wireless Driver

To extract the files, browse to the .exe or .zip file, right click on it, and select open with archive manager.

Note: Although archive manager can extract both .exe and .zip files, sometimes the files within the .exe may not work with ndiswrapper.

Click extract at the top and copy all the files to an easy to find location.

Install Ndiswrapper

Ndiswrapper is the tool that allows Linux to use Windows drivers for wireless card support.

To install it in Ubuntu go to the Software Center and search for ndisgtk.

Note: Linux Mint comes with ndiswrapper installed.

Install Windows Driver

Now that you have your wireless driver extracted and ndiswrapper installed, open Windows Wireless Drivers from the System -> Administration menu.

In the window that opens, click on install new driver and browse to where you extracted the driver.

Sometimes the .inf files will be in sub-folders inside the driver so you may need to dig around to locate the right file to use.

After you select the .inf file for your wireless card click install. It will take a couple minutes to install the driver so be patient while it works.

After the driver is installed the main window will indicate if you selected the right .inf file by telling you if the hardware is present or not. If you selected the wrong driver the first time you can try installing a different .inf file that was extracted from the driver.

If none of the .inf files work you may want to try the driver for the same card for a different version of Windows (e.g. XP, Vista, 7).

After you get the right driver installed click configure network to open Ubuntu network connections and connect to your wireless network.

If you are still having trouble you may want to check out the ndiswrapper wiki to see if others have had success with the wireless card.

Justin Garrison is a Linux and HTPC enthusiast who loves to try new projects. He isn't scared of bricking a cell phone in the name of freedom.

  • Published 02/21/11

Comments (23)

  1. idaintme

    what linux distro is it?

  2. Santo

    From the screen shots it is confirmed that it is Ubuntu.

    Is there similar kind of software for Bluetooth adapter? Because Bluetooth works fine with Windows but in Ubuntu 10.10, it does not work.

  3. Duckbrain

    I know this one will be a little harder, but I have a Hanvon graphics tablet. Is there any way you can install any/most/possibly this one Windows driver in Linux?
    By the way, Thanks, I have noticed the proprietary drivers seem to be really slow. I will try this out on a separate install to see if it is any faster.

  4. Marty

    I’m interested in a Bluetooth adapter as well, any info would be great.

  5. Arthur

    Do you know if this works for 3G cards? I have a Cr-48 running Ubuntu 10.10, but can’t get the 3G Card working.

  6. Justin Garrison

    @Santo NDIS is a driver specification made by 3-com and Microsoft. The specification is not used solely by 3-com and Microsoft, they were just the ones to make the spec. Any NDIS compliant network adapter should be able to use this. Technically bluetooth adapters are network adapters but I think they rarely follow NDIS guidelines so I would be surprised if this method works.

    @Arthur It depends on your 3G card. RNDIS adapters should work without any problems (I know mine have always worked in Ubuntu) but other 3G cards like the Qualcomm Gobi needs a special firmware in order for it to work. It isn’t impossible, just not as easy as the method described above.

    @Duckbrain the NDISwrapper only applies to NDIS compliant network adapters.

  7. Arthur

    Okay the 3G card is a Gobi 2000. Thank you though.

  8. Justin Garrison

    @Arthur I have a Gobi chip in mine too and if I ever figure out a 100% successful way to get it working you can look for a write up here.

  9. UUUnicorn

    Please, would this work for an external USB wireless adapter–Rokland Technologies’ BearExtender N3?

    Thank you.



  10. Joseph

    cool like a breeze

  11. Rafofcron

    Great stuff! Thanks!

  12. vonvon

    not work with RTL8187b Wireless 802.11b/g

  13. fdsa-nahc
  14. fdsa-nahc

  15. Vanya

    Guys, talkin’ about making external hardware work with Linux;

    Do you have any idea how to install any printer drivers to Linux (it is ASUS Eee 7″ 4 netbook).

    The best I succeeded was to get this little bugger to recognize printer (canon iP 4500) and even it starts printing, but then it just takes paper and draws is throug the printer, without activating moving of the head or applying colors.

    And this netbook was bought primarily for purpose of printing – it is some strange version of Linux – just says GNU and nothing else – it is ver well prepared for multimedia, Internet and office use – very easy to USE for someone who turned any comp for first time – but tweaking it is almost impossible!!!!

    Do you have any idea – I spent last 3 days trying numbers of printers and nothing!

    Hope you’ll have some idea….

    I did find some Linux drivers for printers, but lacking any unzipp program, I was unable to install it. And when I download .exe file, I am asked which program I wanna use to run it… There is none that is ment do do something like that :(


  16. fdsa-nahc


    Read about CUPS and SAMBA

  17. arabiantxn

    You guys are my new hero ,

  18. RAjAN

    I am new forum reader…. i wants to give you a good concept……

  19. stxh

    Maybe this trick can work on MacOS or not?

  20. mac

    What about Broadcomm drivers & network cards on laptops!!??

  21. andrew

    will this work for aswu36nh card into back track monitor mode?any help welcome.

  22. supachai samanjit


  23. Leon

    I have used it to install à broadcom driver on my HP laptop. Everything worked except my wireless Card:
    Adapter: broadom BCM4311
    Driver: HP wireless driver for Windows XP Professional
    OS: Pinguy OS running on Ubuntu 11.04

    The Wireless Card runs very well on this driver.

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