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Madwifi (Multiband Atheros Driver for Wifi) is Linux driver for 802.11a/b/g universal NIC cards - Cardbus, PCI, or miniPCI - using Atheros chip sets.

The following (incomplete) list of adapters sold by IBM use the Atheros chips:

  • (11a/b/g/n) Atheros Communications, Inc. Unknown device 0024 (rev 01) (using SVN revision 2360+)



Detailed instructions can be found on the MadWiFi Wiki.

$ svn checkout madwifi-ng
  • madwifi-old:
$ svn checkout madwifi-old


  • Make sure that you've got sysctl support and the net/radio enabled (wireless extensions) in your kernel. Install the driver with make & make install
  • further more you like to install the wireless tools from wireless tools. Make sure the versions fit together by
$ iwconfig --version

Setting up wpa_supplicant with wpa-psk.

You can enable the wireless LAN status LED on your Thinkpad by following these instructions (tested on Thinkpad x60s).


Release 0.9.3[1] available

Release notes

   * switch to newer HAL, v0.9.18.0
   * ensure compilation against recent kernel versions up to 2.6.20
   * ensure compatibility back to kernel 2.4.22, drop support for 2.4.21 and older
   * allow compilation without support of features such as fast frames, turbo mode, etc.
   * support for some PCI Express cards fixed
   * some security-related issues have been patched
   * interoperation with wpa_supplicant and hostapd improved
   * real channel noise instead of fixed -95dBm noise floor presented
   * lots of bugs fixed, for different architectures and various modes of operation
   * further improvements for build system

Free Software HAL

The "official" madwifi driver consists of a BSD/GPL wrapper with an unmodifiable HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer). This HAL is not binary firmware as with the Intel wireless chips, but a piece of code that needs to run in the Linux kernel. It consists of header files for which no permisison to modify is granted, and pre-compiled object files. The vendor's position is that the Linux community simply needs to accept this sourceless HAL, since in principle the Atheros chip could be tuned to any frequency, and thus produce RF interference with systems operating in those frequencies.

This binary HAL is unacceptable to the Linux kernel developers, and the Atheros driver in this state will never become part of the official kernel. Some OpenBSD developers, facing the same issue, reverse-engineered the binary HAL and have produced an open source driver (ath5k), which has now been picked up by the madwifi team as the future direction. At the same time the madwifi driver has been labeled 'legacy' to reinforce this point.

Problems with system-config-network and Fedora Core 5

If you use the livna repository to install madwifi for Fedora Core 5, it doesn't correctly update the modprobe configuration files. A bug has been filed. The quick fix is to move the lines that were in /etc/modprobe.d/madwifi into /etc/modprobe.conf and system-config-network now can configure the card.

Much easier on Fedora Core 6

I'm using FC6 w/KDE on an X22 and wireless was very easy using madwifi from Livna and a Linksys WPC55AG PC card. I had already installed knetworkmanager, klaptop and configured working radeonfb and working S3 suspend. I then simply used yum to install madwifi, including a kernel upgrade, enabled the knetworkmanager services and rebooted. After restarting, knetworkmanager found the Atheros card and my AP. I just had to choose the connection and was online in seconds.

Using Madwifi with SUSE Linux 10.1

As of 10.1, the Madwifi packages are no longer included in the SUSE distribution because of the presence of closed source code. However, I was able to download, install, and configure Madwifi for my IBM T40 with the IBM 11a/b/g Wireless Adapter (Atheros AR5212 802.11abg) as follows:

  • Start yast2 and select Software--Installation Source. Add as a source
  • Install packages madwifi and madwifi-kmp-default (the latter has the kernel module, replace default with smp or other non-default kernel package if you're not running the default Suse kernel package as determined by uname -r)
  • Reboot so the kernel modules can be loaded.
  • Load the kernel modules by hand and see if the kernel recognizes your hardware:

modprobe aes; modprobe wlan_ccmp; modprobe ath_pci; lsmod |egrep 'Module|aes|wlan|ath'

  • If recognized, put the modprobe lines above in your /etc/init.d/boot.local file. Otherwise, check for Linux kernel/Madwifi incompatibilities and hardware issues.
  • Start yast2 and go to Network Devices-->Network Card and add and configure your wireless card. I recommmend checking the "Network Manager" box, as that allows dynamic GUI control over the wireless and Ethernet NICs.
  • I have WPA-PSK enabled, so here's the fields I filled out: "User Controlled" device activation, DHCP Automatic Address Setup, "Managed" operating mode, "any" ESSID, "WPA-PSK" auth mode, key input type "passphrase" and I typed in my passphrase. I left expert settings alone.

External links