Troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues with Ubuntu

Wi-Fi connectivity is not yet Ubuntu’s area of strength. My laptop running Karmic Koala offered very unstable access to the Internet until I installed some additional required packages. Figuring out what packages to install, however, was not as easy as I had hoped.

The Karmic Koala living in my dual-booting Acer 5542g laptop had been giving me strange connectivity problems. Although Ubuntu would show some Wi-Fi signal strength immediately after I logged in, the connection would die on its own within a few seconds and not come up again. Not even when I moved the laptop right next to the Wi-Fi router! All this while, whenever I used the Windows 7 that shipped with my laptop, I’d get excellent Wi-Fi connectivity.

A quick search on Ubuntu forums convinced me that this issue was pretty common. apt-getting a few missing packages would apparently solve it, but how? apt-get is useful on systems that have a live Internet connection. However, with the window of connectivity down to 15 seconds, there was hardly an easy way to sych repositories, download the packages, figure out their dependencies, and then put everything together.

So, I decided to tread the way that all Linux users dread—offline install. I downloaded the packages on Windows 7, tried to install them on Ubuntu, and when dependency issues arose, booted back into Windows 7 to download the missing packages. After seven restarts, I was finally able to access FaceBook using Ubuntu and share my success story!

Here’s the deal…

To fix Wi-Fi connectivity issues on Ubuntu, you need the following packages installed on your system:

  • linux-backports-modules-karmic-generic (3.4 KB)
  • linux-backports-modules-wireless-karmic-generic (3.3 KB)

However, as you try to install these packages, you will realize that they have sequential dependencies on the following packages:

  1. linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-19-generic (1.5 MB)
  2. linux-image-2.6.31-19-generic (27.5 MB)

Downloading and installing the packages

To download the required packages, go to Ubuntu Packages, and search for the package name in the Search Package Directories section.

Once the search hits are displayed, navigate to the karmic branch and download the .deb package for your architecture (i386 in most cases).

When you have all the required .deb files available, copy them to a storage location accessible from within Ubuntu (a USB drive, for example). Now, install the packages in the following order by double-clicking the corresponding .deb file and supplying the administrative password:

  1. linux-image-2.6.31-19-generic
  2. linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-19-generic
  3. linux-backports-modules-karmic-generic
  4. linux-backports-modules-wireless-karmic-generic

Once all the packages have been installed, restart your computer Windows-style and enjoy the much-improved Wi-Fi connectivity.

That’s all for a night spent troubleshooting! I hope you find this tutorial useful.

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2 comments so far

  1. […] shared a less circuitous way of downloading Ubuntu packages on Windows than I had suggested in this blog post. Download […]

  2. […] recently!). This evening, I installed openSUSE 11.2 (KDE) and ran into the same issue that I had reported with Ubuntu Karmic Koala a few weeks back. The WiFi connection would die on its own a few minutes into the […]


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