How to solve Linux Mint Wi-Fi problems – Updated

The modern Linux distributions have out of the box terrific support for most of the available hardware components, like graphics cards, printers and Wi-Fi adapters. And with HWE, or Hardware Enablement, it has become even more convenient catching up with the latest hardware technologies in your Ubuntu based Linux distro of choice. But it is always possible that the setup procedure, when installing the distro from scratch, doesn’t come up directly with the correct or most optimized drivers for your devices. In this tutorial I will show you how to install Wi-Fi drivers in Linux Mint or what you can do if there is no solution for your specific hardware.

Install driver for Wi-Fi adapters manually

When you install Linux Mint on a desktop or laptop with a build in Wi-Fi adapter, it is generally speaking to be expected that it will be recognized automatically, but there is also a chance that this adapter is not automatically being recognized during the installation process. So what can you do next?

A real life example
As you can read in my article “Bring your MacBook Aluminum Late 2008 back to life again with Linux“, I have been a very satisfied user of the OS X / macOS operating system for more than 10 years. But due to increasing hardware issues and lack of support by Apple, I looked for something different. One of the things I did was to swap OS X on my still working MacBook with Linux Mint, which was a great decision.

Bring your MacBook Aluminum Late 2008 back to life again with Linux

But there was a hurdle. The Broadcom BCM4322 Wireless Controller in the old Apple MacBook late 2008, is not automatically recognized by default during the Linux Mint installation process. But I knew from other websites that Linux Mint should work fine on this specific equipment. So the solution for me and probably for a lot of other devices is simple: if you have the opportunity to temporarily make a wired internet connection, then this issue can be solved within a few minutes by going through the below steps in Linux Mint.

1) Connect your computer via a network cable.
2) Open the applications menu in Linux Mint.
3) Choose Driver Manager under the Administration category and enter your password.

After a standard cache update takes place, Driver Manager displays an overview of device components that require a driver. Here hopefully a driver for your wireless adapter will be available. In the case of my macBook it did.

4) Under Broadcom Corporation, select bcmwl-kernel-source for the recommended option.

The operating system should now be restarted and Wi-Fi on this machine will then work perfectly.

Of course the above example is based on my old macBook and the hardware in it , so in your specific case the above steps will hopefully show the right driver for your device. But what if it doesn’t?

What if you still can’t bring your Wi-Fi back to life

The above approach should be working for a lot of other wireless adapters as well, as more and more adapters are supported out of the box by included driver software. But there is a chance that you have a wireless adapter in your system for which this approach is not working. This could be a kind of an issue as many articles on the internet proves that there are still a lot of problems with Wi-Fi adapters getting to work in Linux. Therefore it is almost impossible to come up with good generic advice to solve problems with respect to specific adapters. But my articles on this website are there to make your Linux life a bit simpler, so if you don’t want to search yourself for solutions for your current not working internal or external Wi-Fi adapter, I simply advise you to buy an external Wi-Fi adapter that has proven to work perfectly fine with Linux (as Wi-Fi USB adapters are very cheap these days).

The most important component of a wireless adapter that guarantees compatibility with Linux is the chipset in the wireless adapter. According to a great article on www.wirelesshack.org (this is a good source of news for electronic projects including Kali Linux, Wireless Security, KODI, SDR, Raspberry Pi, How-To- information, Reviews, Guides and Tutorials) on popular chipsets, called “Top Best Linux Compatible USB Wireless Adapters“, you have to look for Wi-Fi adapters with one of the following chipsets: Ralink 3070, Ralink RT5572, Atheros AR9271, and Realtek 8187.

Based on the analysis of the writer of the above mentioned article, and the analysis I did myself on lots of the reviews on Amazon and other websites, containing user experiences on some specific adapters, I can say that below adapters should be good options to solve your wireless problems.

Penguin wireless products

If you want to go for real Linux compatibility, have a look at some of the products of Penguin:

Penguin Wireless N USB Adapter for GNU / Linux, model TPE-N150USB

  • Chipset: Atheros AR9271
  • Supports Linux Mint 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14.1, 15, 16, 17, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 18, 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 19, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3
    For in depth information go to https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-wireless-n-usb-adapter-gnu-linux-tpe-n150usb

Penguin Wireless N USB Adapter /w External Antenna for GNU / Linux, Model TPE-N150USBL

  • Chipset: Atheros AR9271
  • Supports Linux Mint 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14.1, 15, 16, 17, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 18, 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 19, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3
    For in depth information go to https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-wireless-n-usb-adapter-w-external-antenna-gnu-linux-tpe-n150usbl

Panda wireless products

Another great brand that has Linux in mind is Panda.

Panda N600 Dual Band (2.4GHz & 5.0GHz) 300Mbps Wireless N USB Adapter w/WPS Button [<< Affiliate link]

  • Chipset: Ralink RT5572
  • Supports Linux Mint 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14.1, 15, 16, 17, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 18, 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 19, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3

Panda Wireless PAU09 N600 Dual Band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wireless N USB Adapter W/Dual 5dBi Antennas [<< Affiliate link]

  • Chipset: Ralink RT5572
  • Supports Linux Mint 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14.1, 15, 16, 17, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 18, 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 19, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3

BrosTrend wireless products

BrosTrend 1200Mbps Linux USB WiFi Adapter for Desktop, Laptop of Ubuntu, Mint, Kali, Debian, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Zorin, Raspbian, Raspberry Pi, Windows 10-XP, 5GHz / 2.4GHz, 2 X 5dBi Antennas, USB 3.0 [<< Affiliate link]

  • Chipset: Ralink RT5572
  • Supports Linux Mint 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14.1, 15, 16, 17, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 18, 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, 19, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3

Alternative hardware solutions

When you don’t want to or can use usb Wi-Fi dongles or when you have maybe a fixed working place for example at the attic, you have other alternatives as well that don’t require Linux drivers or Linux support. For myself and for family and friends I installed Wi-Fi range extenders with ethernet support, so you can connect the range extender to your Wi-Fi network and you connect your computer via an ethernet cable to the range extender. Another solution is a Passthrough Powerline Wi-Fi kit that runs data through your electrical lines and that connects with your computer via an ethernet cable.

Examples of products that I have great experience with are:

TP-Link | N300 WiFi Range Extender | Up to 300Mbps | WiFi Extender, Repeater, Wifi Signal Booster, Access Point (TL-WA855RE) [<< Affiliate link]

 

TP-Link AV2000 Powerline Adapter – Gigabit Port, Ethernet Over Power, Plug&Play, Power Saving, MU-MIMO, Noise Filtering(TL-PA9020P KIT) [<< Affiliate link]

 

Updating your kernel

Another option to have better driver support is probably not the first thing you’ve thought about, namely upgrading to a newer kernel. If you are already on a recent release of your distribution, you probably already have very up to date drivers, but if you are using for example Linux Mint 17, which was released in May 2014, it is based on an old kernel. When you use an old Linux Mint distribution you can upgrade to the most recent version. If you are already on the most recent version you can still upgrade the kernel, as new kernels are released frequently and often contain driver updates. Upgrading a kernel deserves a completely separate tutorial, so I mention it here for information only.

Final words

On my website and in my free Linux Mint course, I try to show you that Linux Mint is simple and works mostly perfectly fine with all of your hardware. Well, Wi-Fi could be one of those deviations that does not fully match my perfect picture of Linux. It is getting better and better, but if you have one of these problematic wireless adapters, it is probably better to skip solving the problem and just buy a cheap compatible adapter that works right away in your nice Linux Mint distribution, or install a Wi-Fi range extender with ethernet support, a Passthrough Powerline solution with ethernet. I hope this article helped to find a working solution.

About the affiliate links in this article

In this article you can find some clearly indicated affiliate links to products that I have actually used or investigated in and that I believe in. This means that, at no additional cost to you, this website will earn a small commission if you choose to click through and make some purchase via the linked website. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. To read more about affiliate links on this website, go to the Affiliate Disclaimer page.