May 4, 2014

How do I get debian to see my wifi?

Sounds like you might be missing the driver, in particular if it is a non...

Sounds like you might be missing the driver, in particular if it is a non-free driver.

Step 1: find out what wifi hardware you have. If an internal wificard, lspci will show you what internal pci devices are installed including the wifi card. The list is long. However this line appeared near the end.

$ lspci
02:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation WiFi Link 5100

Shows that we have an Intel wifi card

If using a usb device, lsusb will identify your wifi

$ lsusb
Bus 004 Device 002: ID 148f:5370 Ralink Technology, Corp. RT5370 Wireless Adapter

This shows I have a Ralink RT5370 deivce. If you have trouble idetifying it, search the internet for the ID, 148f:5370 in my example.

Step 2: Modify /etc/apt/sources.list to handle potential non-free drivers. Login a root, su, and use your prefered editor to change this line in /etc/apt/sources.list from (substitute wheezy for jessie as for your installation)
deb jessie main
deb jessie main contrib non-free
As root
# apt-get update
will load the new repositories.

Step3: Since the above lsb command identified my usb wifi device as ralink, the following command identifies the firmware driver:

# apt-cache search ralink
firmware-ralink - Binary firmware for Ralink wireless cards

Therefore as root install the identified firmware:

# apt-get install firmware-ralink

PCI exanple: in the case of the intel PCI internal wifi card:

apt-cache search Intel | grep wifi
firmware-iwlwifi - Binary firmware for Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 and 802.11n cards

Similarly intall the identified intel firmware:

# apt-get install firmware-iwlwifi

Step4: I cannot remember if it was necessary to uplug/replug the usb device to load the drivers. What I do remember is that under XFCE in jessie, the above usb related steps activated the network-manager, upper right of XFCE. Prior to that, network-manager indicated the diver was missing.

For an alternate approach, read "Loading Missing Firmware" . This reference describes how to load the non-free firmware at installation time. This only works in Wheezy, maybe earlier, broken in jessie as of this date. However, this approach works so well that I was able to do a network install of wheezy via the wifi. I booted on a small usb flash image and installed wheezy over the wifi network link. Moreover, the installation retained the non-free firmware, not requiring the above additional steps to get wifi.

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