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Linux and The Broadcom Wireless Card

Updated: 06-May-2008

Most wireless network cards are recognized automatically by today's most popular Linux distributions. This normally happens while you are installing the distribution onto your computer, so that when you setup your wireless security (we hope you are using WPA, or at least WEP) your wireless card is already there, ready for setup. This is possible because the makers of those wireless cards either provide Linux drivers, or provide access to their sourcecode and/or protocols so that the Linux community can develop Linux drivers for their cards.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular wireless cards used in notebook/laptop computers are made by Broadcom. Broadcom is notorious for not providing Linux drivers -- and for not making it easy for the Linux community to write drivers for their cards. This does not mean that notebooks that use the Broadcom cards can not be used with Linux; it just means that Linux users have to use the proprietary drivers designed for use under Windows.

NDIS Wrapper

The secret to getting any wireless card working when it's not supported by Linux, is software called NDIS Wrapper. This article is a description of how I used that software to get the Broadcom wireless network card in my new HP dv6000 Series notebook computer to work. In the forums of various Linux distributions, there are similar posts regarding other computers, and other submissions describing the generic steps for using NDIS Wrapper. There are, however, none that address this particular model of computer together with the latest version of Ubuntu, Hardy Heron 8.04.

Here are the specs on this computer:

The Ubuntu support document available at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/Driver/Ndiswrapper is very helpful in describing how to ensure that the necessary NDIS Wrapper packages are installed, but you also need the Windows drivers in order to get the Broadcom card working. In my case, the Windows drivers provided by HP were already available in a directory on the Windows partition. (/media/disk-1/SWSetup/Drivers/WLAN/) That's where I started. Although both the 32-bit and 64-bit drivers were present, installing them (bcmwl6.inf) using Ubuntu's Ndiswrapper driver installation tool (available in the repositories and from Add/Remove Programs) did not work.

Next, an often-referenced thread at http://www.linuxant.com/driverloader/drivers.php yielded Broadcom drivers for similar models, but not the dv6830. After tryng the drivers from there, and from other sites suggested in various threads, I still had no luck.

Then I came across this forum thread searching for alternative drivers for the BCM4310: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=650729 Knowing that Dell has recently begun supporting Ubuntu, I thought I would try Dell's driver for my wireless card on the off-chance that they would have made it compatible with Linux as well as with Windows. Success! The Dell driver worked on my HP computer. You can find it where I did, at: http://ftp.us.dell.com/network/R174291.exe. I opened the R174291.exe file with the Ubuntu Archive Manager, extracted it to a directory that I named DRIVER_US, and installed it (bcmwl5.inf) using the Ndiswrapper driver installation tool I had tried earlier. My wireless card has been working perfectly ever since. Thank you Dell, for supporting Linux!


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