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Cards & USB

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Apr 04, 2005 03:08 PM

Some laptop manufacturers prevent you from changing the MiniPCI wireless card with an arbitrary BIOS check. If you put in a 3rd party card, the laptop won't boot. This has been an known issue with Thinkpad laptops.

The cards listed on this page are known to work with fully free operating systems. They use free software drivers and do not require any proprietary binary-only blobs.

We've recently started keeping track of cards that DO NOT work with free software. Please send along any that you know of, so we can add to this list. Thanks!


There are free drivers (ath5k and ath9k) for some of the Atheros chipsets. These drivers replace the previous "MadWifi" driver, which relies on proprietary software called HAL. They evolved from a free software replacement for HAL called OpenHAL.

Atheros USB AR9170

The carl9170 driver supports Atheros USB AR9170 devices. The firmware required by the driver is also released as free software under the GPL. It supports 802.11n, and supersedes the earlier Otus and ar9170usb drivers.

Atheros Ath9k

The following chipsets are known to be supported by ath9k:

  • AR5418+AR5133
  • AR5416+AR5133
  • AR5416+AR2133
  • AR9160
  • AR9280
  • AR9281
  • AR242x

The following devices are known to work with the ath9k free wireless driver:

  • N1 Wireless Notebook Card

Previously, the availability of free firmware for Broadcom products has been slim to none. Now thanks to the OpenFWWF project, there are other options. Click here for the OpenFWWF project and to learn more.

  • DWA-642 RangeBooster N Notebook Adapter
  • DWA-645 RangeBooster N650 Notebook Adapter
  • DWA-542 RangeBooster N Desktop Adapter
  • DWA-547 RangeBooster N650 Desktop Adapter
  • DWA-652 XtremeN Notebook Adapter
  • DWA-552 XtremeN Desktop Adapter
  • DWA-643 Xtreme N ExpressCard Notebook Adapter
  • DWA-556 Xtreme N PCIe Desktop Adapter
  • WPC300Nv2
  • WMP300Nv2
  • WPC100N
  • WMP110N
  • WL300NC
  • WNHDE111 Video Bridge
  • WN711, Wireless-N eXpresscard adapter
  • RTL-8169 (Netgear GA511)
  • Netgear WG111v3 USB (Realtek 8187)

Atheros Ath5k

The devices below are all Mini PCI Wireless adapters that can be put into the Mini PCI slot.

IBM Dual-Band 11a/b WiFi Wireless Mini PCI Adapter
Chipset: Atheros AR5001X
Sometimes sold as 802.11a/b Philips Wireless Card

IBM 11a/b/g Wireless LAN Mini PCI Adapter
Chipset: Atheros AR5001X+
Also known as “802.11a/b/g wireless card” or “11A/B/G Wireless LAN Mini PCI Adapter“
Also known as "Atheros Communications Inc. AR242x 802.11abg Wireless PCI Express Adapter (rev 01)"

IBM 11a/b/g Wireless LAN Mini PCI Adapter II
Chipset: Atheros AR5004X
Also known as the “802.11a/b/g Ambit Wireless Card” or “802.11a/b/g Bartlett Wireless Card”


Cards that use the Ralink RT2500/RT2400 and Realtek RTL8180 chipsets work with fully free GNU/Linux systems. But if you use the RTL8180 chipset, you'll need to compile a driver yourself from source, because the standard Linux driver relies on proprietary firmware and is not included in fully free distributions like gNewSense.

Drivers for RT2500/RT2400 chipsets can be found at, or as packaged in your GNU/Linux distribution.

Note that some other RT chipsets, including the RT2501, RT61 and RT2571W/RT2671, require firmware that is not released under a free software license. This makes these devices incompatible with a fully free system. Much of the Ralink information below is drawn from this list, which is also often more up-to-date than our version -- but be careful, because that list includes the chipsets that require nonfree firmware.

The Free Software Foundation has purchased and successfully tested these Ralink devices with free systems:

  • Asus WL-107G PCMCIA card
  • Linksys WUSB54G USB 2.0 802.11g/b 54Mbps (11 Mbps with b)

Here is a list of devices we have not tested in the office, but we believe will work with a free system:
  • A-Link WL54H, WL54PC
  • Alfa AWUS036H 802.11b/g Long-Range USB Adapter
  • Amigo AWI-926W, AWI-914W, AWI-922W
  • AMIT WL531P, WL531C, WL532U
  • AOpen AOI-831
  • Atlantis Land A02-PCI-W54, AO2-PCM-W54
  • Belkin F5D7000 v3, F5D7010 v2
  • Billionton MIWLGRL
  • Buffalo WLI-U2-KG54-AI
  • Canyon CN-WF513
  • Compex WLP54G, WL54G, WLU54G
  • Conceptronic C54Ri, C54RC
  • D-Link DWL-G122 b1 *
  • Digitus DN-7006G-RA, DN-7001G-RA
  • E-Tech WGPI02, WGPI03?, WGPC02, WGPC03?, WGUS02
  • Eminent EM3037, EM3036, EM3032
  • Fiberline WL-400P, WL-400X
  • Hawking HWP54GR *, HWC54GR *
  • iNexQ CR054g-009 (R03) *
  • JAHT WN-4054PCI *, WN-4054P
  • LevelOne WNC-0301 v2 *, WPC-0301 v2 *, WBR-3406TX
  • Linksys, WMP54G v4 (but not v4.1)*, WUSB54GP v4 *
  • Micronet SP906GK, SP908GK V3 *
  • Minitar MN54GPC-R MN54GCB-R
  • MSI PC54G2, MS-6834, CB54G2, MS-6835, MS-6861, MS-6865, MS-6869, MP54G2, MS-6833\
  • OvisLink EVO-W54PCI
  • PheeNet HWL-PCIG/RA
  • Pro-Nets PC80211G, CB80211G
  • Repotec RP-WP0854, RP-WB7108, RP-WU0402
  • Roline RWA-54 ?, RWPC-54 ?
  • SATech SN-54P, SN-54C
  • Sitecom WL-115, WL-112
  • SparkLAN WL-685R, WPEA-165G Mini PCI Express Adaptor with Atheros AR5006EG chipset.
  • Surecom EP-9321-g, EP-9321-g1, EP-9428-g, EP-9001-g
  • Sweex LC700030, LC500050
  • TP-Link TL-WN510G (vesion 1.1) PCMCIA card with Atheros AR2413 chipset
  • TekComm NE-9321-g, NE-9428-g
  • Unex CR054g-R02, MR054g-R02
  • Zinwell ZWX-G361, ZWX-G160, ZWX-G261 ?, ZWX-G360
  • Zonet ZEW1600, ZEW1500
* Chipset may vary.


A project to develop free software firmware for prism54 devices is well underway. Please see p54 for more information about how to help the project by testing, and for the list of currently supported devices with their degree of support.

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