NOTE: this page is for archival only, see the note at the end of the page.

Download latest Linux wireless drivers

You can now download a package which lets you compile and install the latest advances on the Linux 802.11 and Bluetooth subsystem and get some of our latest drivers without having to recompile your entire kernel. This package adds mac80211, mac80211 drivers, any new FullMAC driver which has had fairly recent updates, and as of the 2.6.33-rc series it also started backporting the Bluetooth subsystem and providing updates to the entire Bluetooth subsystem as well as the drivers on it.

Old kernel support

compat-wireless aims to always support kernel compatibility down to the last supported 2.6 stable kernel release as noted on Today that is the 2.6.24 kernel. Additional kernel compatibility may be done but it should not be something that is expected. Old kernels do not get updates so it is highly recommended you upgrade to at least the latest stable kernel.

compat-wireless is shipped as a bundle for both 802.11 and bluetooth along with their respective drivers. It is however possible for only one specific driver to be compiled along with its requirements. In those cases kernel compatibility may be supported down to older kernels. There used to be a compat-wireless-old, but that is old and should only be used as a reference for curious developers.

Compat-wireless release types

We have two types of compat-wireless releases:

The linux-next releases are based on bleeding edge code which will likely end up being part of the next kernel release. linux-2.6-allstable compat-wireless releases are made based on each new stable kernel release made as well as each new stable RC kernel release.

This page is dedicated to always follow the bleeding edge releases based on linux-next. Refer to the linux-2.6-allstable compat-wireless releases page for more information about those.

Requirements for bleeding edge

You need two things:

  • A Kernel >= 2.6.24

  • Your kernel headers installed

Please be very sure you have your kernel headers installed before reporting any sort of build issues with this package. This usually will mean having this symlink point to a valid directory with kernel headers in it:

/lib/modules/`uname -r`/build

The exception to this is if you are building the package targeting a kernel you are not running. Users doing this should read the Building for external kernels section.

Additionally, the kernel you're building for needs a valid ".config" file, if it isn't present compat will assume you have PCI, USB and PCMCIA built into your kernel and if not, fail building.

We recommend these the following userspace applications to be installed:

Linux wireless version table

The following is the latest release versions for code taken from linux-next.git and on compat-wireless.git. This is updated automatically every day. The version represents the git-describe output.

linux-next.git: <<CurrentLinuxNext>>

compat-wireless.git: <<CurrentCompatVersion>>

Where to download bleeding edge

You can get bleeding edge compat-wireless here:

This package is updated daily. It reflects the latest on linux-next.git tree.

Directly downloading the tarball

We have enabled anti-hotlinking to the compat-wireless-2.6.tar.bz2 tarball. This ensures users directed to this tarball from random tutorials online will hopefully read this page. Anti-hotlinking prevents users from accessing the tarball directly before seeing this page. In summary, you cannot directly (for example using wget) this tarball before having viewed this introductory page. If you try to do so you will be redirected here. You can, however, directly download a dated version of the tarball, for example compat-wireless-2008-03-25.tar.bz2.

You can find the latest dated tarball in the compat-wireless-2.6 download directory.

Archive of compat-wireless-2.6 tarballs only hosts the latest dated compat-wireless-2.6 tarball but if you would like an older release please check the compat-wireless-2.6 archive, which is hosted by Orbit.

Selecting your driver


Extract the content of the package:

tar jxvf compat-wireless-$(date -I).tar.bz2

If you know what driver you want you can use driver-select:


Selecting your driver can reduce the amount of time to compile compat-wireless. It may also enable kernel compatibility down to older kernels. If you want to restore compat-wireless to enable all drivers again you can use:

./scripts/driver-select restore

If you do not see your driver in the supported list it means care has not been taken to ensure it works with driver-select and you must just build compat-wireless as a whole.

Building and installing


Build the latest Linux wireless subsystem:

cd compat-wireless-$(date -I)


We use the updates/ directory so your distribution's drivers are left intact. By default depmod will search this directory first, but if you find that it does not then check that your depmod.conf file lists the search order correctly with updates appearing first (before built-in).

sudo make install


This nukes our changes to updates/ so you can go back to using your distribution's supported drivers.

sudo make uninstall


Since you might be replacing your old mac80211 and bluetooth drivers you should first try to unload all existing mac80211 and related drivers. Note also that broadcom, zydas, and atheros devices have old legacy drivers which you need to be sure are removed first. We provide a mechanism to unload all old and legacy drivers first so you should run to be sure:

sudo make unload


Before loading modules you must first unload your old wireless subsystem modules. Read above how to do this. If you know what module you need you can simply load the module using modprobe. If you simply are not sure you can use, just reboot the box.


We tend to carry all new 802.11 drivers or any drivers worth getting updates for. For a list of all current Linux 802.11 drivers see our 802.11 Drivers page.

Known issues

If MadWifi is present the build system will detect this and disable it. It does this by simply renaming ath_pci.ko to ath_pci.ko.ignore. This lets us disable the MadWifi driver without blacklisting it which could cause issues with users later. If you would like to enable MadWifi at a later time and disable ath5k you can run:

sudo athload madwifi

To revert back to ath5k you can run:

sudo athload ath5k

Why was this work done?

It was done for users or developers stuck on older kernels that want to help test or patch wireless work. Additionally if you're on a recent kernel this lets you get the latest and greatest wireless-2.6 git work without much effort. This may mean new drivers for some users. Last but not least we hope this will encourage vendors and developers to post patches upstream first rather than forking or maintaining their own code with their own patches for their own drivers.


If your driver needs firmware please be sure to check the driver page for that driver.

What's the difference between compat-wireless-2.6 and John Linville's tree?

This package is based on linux-next.git. John sends 802.11 updates to the linux-next.git tree based on wireless-next-2.6.git . This package then just provides the latest wireless driver updates with some compatibility work on top.

Getting compat-wireless on Ubuntu

With Ubuntu you have the option of either installing compat-wireless yourself or of installing the package that provides it built by the Ubuntu kernel team. The Ubuntu package that carries compat-wireless is called linux-backport-modules and it has more backported modules than just your wireless subsystem. Its updated whenever major updates are pushed out into the wireless-testing git tree.

# For Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid users:
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-intrepid

# For Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty users:
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-jaunty

# For Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic users:
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-karmic

# For Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid users (one of the following depending on the installed kernel. Most user should choose generic):
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-wireless-lucid-generic
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-wireless-lucid-generic-pae
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-wireless-lucid-preempt
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-wireless-lucid-server

# For Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick users (one of the following depending on the installed kernel. Most user should choose generic):
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-compat-wireless-2.6.36-maverick-generic
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-compat-wireless-2.6.36-maverick-generic-pae
sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-compat-wireless-2.6.36-maverick-server

Please note that if you are installing linux-backports-modules-karmic and you later decide to install compat-wireless by building it by yourself you are highly encouraged you first remove linux-backports-modules-karmic first otherwise you can run into module dependency conflicts.

Building for external kernels

If you have a kernel you do not have installed but yet want to build the compat-wireless-2.6 drivers for it you can use this syntax:

make KLIB=/home/mcgrof/kernels/linux- \


If you've found a bug please report it to our linux-wireless mailing list:

Report the bug because you are working with the latest and greatest. If your bug is compatibility-related then we should still try to fix it within the compatibility layer.


linux-next ChangeLog

See the wireless-testing ChangeLog to see the list of latest changes to all 802.11 drivers, the 802.11 core and Blueooth. Since this package is based on the linux-next.git latest means patches which John has accepted a couple of days ago.

compat-wireless ChangeLog

See the compat-wireless-2.6 ChangeLog to view changes made necessary in order to keep advancing this package.


This work is a subset of the Linux kernel as such we keep the kernel's Copyright practice. Some files have their own copyright and in those cases the license is mentioned in the file. All additional work made to building this package is licensed under the GPLv2.

Hacking compat-wireless

If you'd like to hack on compat-wireless of make your own releases refer to the hacking compat-wireless page.


The way compat-wireless releases are made, where they are kept are detailed in the compat-wireless admin page.

This is a static dump of the wiki, taken after locking it in January 2015. The new wiki is at
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