Translation(s): French:

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This page describes how to install NDISwrapper on Debian systems.


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

The NDISwrapper project provides a Linux kernel module that loads and runs Windows kernel API and NDIS (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 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.

Installation Overview

  1. Install the NDISwrapper kernel module and supporting applications.
  2. Install the relevant NDIS driver for your device.
  3. Configure the wireless interface.

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 using ModuleAssistant:

    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, install a NDIS driver and configure your wireless interface.

From Source

<!> The following procedure is only necessary for 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 source code. For example, to acquire and build NDISwrapper version 1.53:

    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, install a NDIS driver and configure your wireless interface.

NDIS Driver

{i} Windows XP drivers are required to be used. NDISwrapper does not support 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 NDISwrapper compatibility list (archive 1, 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 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 a self-extractable .zip inside a Portable Executable (.exe) format. Such self-extractable .exe are ZIP archive encapsulated inside a .exe, 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 cabinet file format (.cab), install cabextract and run cabextract on a file of interest, typically named


<!> 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 NDISwrapper compatibility list (archive 1, 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:

  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: ndiswrapper-1.9(8)

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. 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.

Other Notes

NDISwrapper only supports managed and ad-hoc device operating modes.1

See Also

CategoryHardware | CategoryWireless