Wireless chipsets compatible with Linux

There are several types of wireless interfaces available (USB, PCI, etc.) and an array of wireless card manufacturers out there, but there’s only a small group of  chipsets that actually work in Linux.  Some of these chipset manufacturers may even ring a bell.
  • Atheros
  • Broadcom
  • Intel
  • Ralink
  • Realtek

Out-of-the-box support for chipsets from these manufacturers vary greatly among distributions but, these are the ones that show up  in documentation time and time again.  The chipsets that aren’t supported natively may very well have a driver available.  There are many projects out there, MadWifi for example, with the goal of developing Linux kernel drivers — this is where you have to Google.

At this point, I’d like to distinguish the manufacturer from the actual chipset.  This is because support, whether native or via a driver, is granular and you shouldn’t assume that a chipset may work for you by simply glancing at the manufacturer.  The chipset that I confirmed to work with Ubuntu 10.10 is a good example.  The manufacturer is Realtek and the chipset is RTL8187B.  In a documentation of compatible drivers for aircrack-ng, it made sure to point out that the RTL8187B is not as supported as the RTL8187L.  So be sure to find out the actual chipset of a wireless adapter before purchasing as this info usually isn’t disclosed by retailers.  I hope this helps some of you find the chipset you need whether you’re trying to set up a home theater PC or do some packet injection.


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