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This page describes how to install NDISwrapper on Debian systems. ?TableOfContents(3)


Some vendors do not release hardware specifications and do not provide a Linux driver for their devices.

The [http://ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/ NDISwrapper] project provides a Linux kernel module that loads and runs Windows kernel API and NDIS ([wiki:Network_Driver_Interface_Specification Network Driver Interface Specification]) API drivers supplied by the vendors within the Linux kernel. A Windows driver is then linked to this implementation so that the driver runs natively, as though it is in Windows, without binary emulation.

NDISwrapper uses Windows XP driver files - which may have been supplied with your hardware - to operate your device. This driver wrapper is only available for use on the x86 and x86-64 architectures (Debian ["i386"] and [:DebianAMD64:AMD64] ports respectively).

While NDISwrapper is intended for use with ["WiFi"] devices, it may alternatively be used for other hardware classes, such as Ethernet adapters or USB-to-serial converters. This page assumes use of a wireless LAN device.

<!> 16-bit PC Card (PCMCIA) devices are not supported. Cardbus devices are supported.

Module Installation

Debian Packages

  1. Install the module-assistant and wireless-tools packages:

    aptitude install module-assistant wireless-tools
  2. Build and install a ndiswrapper-modules-* package for your system:

    m-a prepare
    m-a a-i ndiswrapper
  3. Add ndiswrapper to the list of kernel modules to load at boot:

    echo ndiswrapper >> /etc/modules
  4. Insert the NDISwrapper module into the kernel:

    modprobe ndiswrapper

More information on building the NDISwrapper kernel module is described within /usr/share/doc/ndiswrapper-source/README.Debian.

Once the module is loaded, [#ndis_driver install a NDIS driver] and [#configure configure your wireless interface].

From Source

<!> The following procedure is only necessary for [:DebianEtch:Etch] systems which require a version of NDISwrapper greater than 1.28.

  1. Install necessary development packages, along with wireless-tools:

    aptitude install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r) wireless-tools
  2. Download and compile the NDISwrapper [http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=93482 source code]. For example, to acquire and build NDISwrapper version 1.53:

    wget http://superb-east.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/ndiswrapper/ndiswrapper-1.53.tar.gz
    tar xvf ndiswrapper-1.53.tar.gz
    cd ndiswrapper-1.53
    make install
  3. Add ndiswrapper to the list of kernel modules to load at boot:

    echo ndiswrapper >> /etc/modules
  4. Insert the NDISwrapper module into the kernel:

    modprobe ndiswrapper

Once the module is loaded, [#ndis_driver install a NDIS driver] and [#configure configure your wireless interface].


NDIS Driver

{i} Windows XP drivers are required to be used. NDISwrapper does not support [wiki:Network_Driver_Interface_Specification NDIS] 6 (Windows Vista) at this time.

You are required to provide the appropriate driver for your device. The first place you should check is the [http://ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/joomla/index.php?/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,33/id,list/ NDISwrapper compatibility list] ([http://burnthesorbonne.com/?page_id=32 archive 1], [http://web.archive.org/web/20080113194857/ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/joomla/index.php?/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,33/id,list/ archive 2]). It lists many models of wireless devices that are usable with NDISwrapper and the driver that works best.

If you can't find it there, the [http://www.linuxant.com/driverloader/drivers.php Linuxant Windows Driver] page has many drivers that work with NDISwrapper. It also has drivers for some 64-bit devices that don't offer native 64-bit drivers on the manufacturer's web page.

The final place you should examine is your driver CD or the manufacturer's web page. These often work, but sometimes they're broken or don't offer you full functionality. It's best to go with the ones listed on the NDISwrapper web page.

The driver you find may be packaged as a ZIP (.zip) archive or in the [wiki:Portable_Executable Portable Executable] (.exe) format. The .exe file may just be a ZIP archive, you can run the unzip de-archiver (provided by the unzip package) to extract its contents.

Other .exe files may be InstallShield installers or other installer formats. These require the use of utilities such as unshield or orange to extract the contents within.

If your drivers are within the [wiki:Cabinet_(file_format) cabinet file format] (.cab), install cabextract and run cabextract on a file of interest, typically named data2.cab.


<!> The following procedure is specific to the "Dell Wireless Card 1390" (man: 14e4, dev: 4311) device and is provided as an example only. Consult the [http://ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/joomla/index.php?/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,33/id,list/ NDISwrapper compatibility list] ([http://burnthesorbonne.com/?page_id=32 archive 1], [http://web.archive.org/web/20080113194857/ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/joomla/index.php?/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,33/id,list/ archive 2]) for information on your specific device.

  1. Install the unzip package:

    aptitude install unzip
  2. Acquire an archive containing the NDIS driver from Dell's FTP site:

    wget http://ftp.us.dell.com/network/R151517.EXE
  3. Extract its contents:

    unzip -a R151517.EXE
  4. Install the NDIS driver:

    ndiswrapper -i DRIVER/bcmwl5.inf
  5. To verify NDIS driver installation, list the currently installed drivers:

    ndiswrapper -l

    You should receive the following output:

    bcmwl5 : driver installed
            device (14E4:4311) present

Refer to the NDISwrapper manual page for more information:

You can alternatively use ndisgtk to install drivers to the system.


To remove a previously installed NDIS driver from your system:

ndiswrapper -e <driver>

For example:

ndiswrapper -e bcmwl5

You can alternatively use ndisgtk to uninstall drivers from the system.



  1. Verify your device has an available interface:


    If your interface is not present, physically remove and insert the device, then run iwconfig again.

  2. Raise the interface to activate the radio, for example:

    ifconfig wlan0 up
  3. [:WiFi/HowToUse:Configure] your wireless interface as appropriate.

Insert / Hotplug

There seems to be a couple different ways documented to enable hotplugging on interfaces. Mentioned in the DebianEtch page on the NDISwrapper wiki is the line allow-hotplug wlan0. The man page for the interfaces file confirms that this is the intended way to enable hotplug. In /etc/hotplug/net.agent, you are directed to include mapping hotplug stanzas in /etc/network/interfaces.

On a Debian 3.1 / Dell Inspiron 1200 system the allow-hotplug entry did not seem to be necessary. The map stanza seemed to be enough, once NDISwrapper was already loaded. YMMV.

See Also

CategoryHardware | CategoryWireless