Have you ever installed Linux on your laptop, restarted it and found that it can’t see your Wi-Fi card? It’s pretty deflationary. Try these tips. One or more of them could work.
Linux and Wi-Fi: It’s a matter of love and hate
Historically, Linux has had a somewhat strained relationship with Wi-Fi cards. The situation has changed considerably in recent years – and for the better – but it’s still possible to boot into your new Linux installation and get a sense of sinking when you realize you don’t have Wi-Fi.
The installation routines identify the various components of the target computer very well and are configured to work with this hardware. But problems can occur.
Hardware troubleshooting is difficult, especially if the only computer you have on hand is a broken device. Obviously, not everything listed here will be applicable to all cases. But hopefully something below will either solve your problem or point you in the right direction.
Do some research. Most distributions have a list of supported hardware. Ask on their forum if anyone else uses the same make and model of laptop that you intend to use. Did they have any problems, and if so, how did they solve them?
To get a good idea of what you’re going to face, boot your laptop from the Live USB or Live CD of the latest version of the intended distribution. Then you can make sure it works the way you would expect without having to believe in the installation.
Check things like screen resolution and graphics, mouse pad and gestures, and your Wi-Fi connection. If they work in a live environment, they should work when you install the distribution. If any of these options don’t work, try a Live CD from another distribution. You can get different results. If so, can you determine why? They may be using a newer kernel or adding drivers to their installation.
Use the commands we’ll show you in this article to identify the Wi-Fi hardware inside your laptop. With this knowledge, you can do some web searches. If you’re lucky, your Wi-Fi card will be the one that just works. If not, you will probably need to use some of the techniques we describe in this article.
Locate the key combination you need to interrupt the boot sequence and enter the notebook BIOS. You may not need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you found out in advance. This is often one of the following: Esc, F2, F5, or F10. For many laptops, you will need to hold down the “Fn” key at the same time. Make sure you know what the keys are to get into the BIOS on your laptop.
Plan what you’ll do if Wi-Fi doesn’t show up right away. Can you use a wired connection to connect your laptop to the internet? If not, do you have access to another computer? Can you connect to your mobile phone and use it to access the Internet?
Look for Simple Gotchas
It’s easy to jump straight to the deep end and start researching the complex root causes, but don’t overlook simple things.
Some laptops have physical external switches – usually sliding – that disable Wi-Fi. These are often well camouflaged and designed to fit into the body of a laptop. Accidentally moving one of them to the “off” position will prevent Wi-Fi from working no matter what you do in the operating system.
It is also possible to disable Wi-Fi from the BIOS. Restart the notebook and enter the BIOS. Find part of the network or Wi-Fi and make sure Wi-Fi is enabled.
Let the boot sequence continue. Log in and open the system menu by clicking on the right end of the GNOME status bar (or anywhere in your desktop). If there is an item in the menu called “Wi-Fi off”, click on it.
Select “On” from the expanded menu options.
The menu closes. Open it again and select “Settings”.
In the Settings app, select Wi-Fi in the sidebar and make sure the top bar slider is “on” and the airplane mode slider is “off.” Then select the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to.
If you do not see any of these options, the operating system does not recognize your network card.
Work through problems
Now that we’re sure we haven’t missed any basic fixes, let’s get to the most basic solution to Wi-Fi card issues.
Is any type of network working?
If you have an Ethernet connection on your laptop and you can connect using a wired connection, then the network is working on your laptop. Only Wi-Fi does not work. If you don’t have an Ethernet port, you can still hope with an Ethernet adapter.
If you can’t connect through a wired connection, then there’s something wrong with your computer’s networking capability, period. Try to ping your laptop yourself.
If neither of these works, your network administrator may be missing or corrupt. Try to install it again. This will either install it or replace it if it is already installed.
On Ubuntu type:
sudo apt install network-manager
When using Fedora:
sudo dnf install network-manager
The Manjaro command is:
sudo pacman -Sy network-manager
Restart to see if this improves the situation.
Wi-Fi card hardware identification
If you still don’t have Wi-Fi, we need to identify the Wi-Fi card hardware. The
lspci the command displays a list of all your PCI devices.
Look for an item with “wireless” or “wi-fi” in its description.
This laptop has a Realtek RTL8723BE. We can also see this information using
nmcli command, including the network interface identifier.
Our wireless interface
wlan0 appears to be unavailable, but still identifies us hardware.
This item appears as “software disabled” because we turned off the Wi-Fi card to mimic the failure. In a real-world scenario, this report can give you a clue as to what the problem is or what it may be related to.
Attempt to bring the card online
iw the command can sometimes be useful. Spare
wlan0 for the appropriate interface on your computer.
iw dev wlan0 link
We were told that the interface was not connected. Let’s try to state it.
sudo ip link set wlan0 up
We were told that the network connection could not be established
rfkill . It is a tool for forcibly preventing the operation of high-frequency network interfaces. We can get him to show us what’s blocking.
And we can tell him to unblock everything that’s blocked. Note that if the card is listed as permanently locked, it means that there is a physical switch on the notebook that needs to be set to the “on” position. We will delete the software block.
rfkill unblock wifi
In our case, this seems to have solved the problem. If your problem persists, it’s probably a driver module issue.
We can check the drivers used using
lspci command, p
-k (kernel drivers).
Our wireless card uses the “rtl8723be” driver and kernel module.
We can check if it is loading by searching the system logs with
grep . Replace “rtl8723be” with the name of your computer module.
sudo dmesg | grep rtl8723be
If you don’t see a positive signal that a driver is loaded, check the website and online help for your distribution for instructions on how to download drivers from your distribution. Distributions often include common driver packages that you can use, and may have distribution-specific applications that make it easier to load new drivers.
If you can’t find a way to get drivers from your distribution’s package manager or on the web, you can look at the list of supported wireless cards and find your card’s hardware in the list.
Clicking on a Wi-Fi card model – or nearest match – will take you to a specific card page. This page lists all the cards in this family of hardware releases. See if your card is listed there.
In our case, we clicked on the link “rtl8723ae”, which gave us a page with the specified rtl8723be.
At the bottom of the page is a link called “firmware”.
This will take you to the git repository page for the firmware. Use
git clone and one of the locations listed at the bottom of the download page. We used:
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/firmware/linux-firmware.git
You should find the appropriate driver file for your hardware in the (large) downloaded directory tree.
See your distribution’s instructions on how best to retrieve it.
Use your community
Communities associated with Linux distributions are one of the biggest strengths of Linux. Ask for help in the distribution community of your choice. Chances are that someone else has gone through the same thing you are fighting.