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What to do when Wi-Fi drivers are missing from Linux installation package, and you are halfway through the setup process

A missing network driver is probably the nastiest problem you can encounter when installing Linux operating system on a computer. Since you can’t connect to the internet, you can’t download the missing firmware, and can’t find advice from other Linux users who have experienced the same faith. Here are a few tips how to survive, and complete the Linux installation successfully.

First thing to do is to get access to another computer that is connected to the internet. Alternatively, if you happen to have an Ethernet cable and your router has a port for it, you can hook a cable from your computer to the router for internet access (I didn’t have a cable nor a port in the router).

In this article, I’ll explain how I solved the missing Wi-Fi driver problem when I was installing Debian 8 (Jessie).

debian 8 jessie with gnome ui, apps open

The trouble started when the Debian installation process displayed the following error message:

“Some of your hardware needs non-free firmware files to operate. The firmware can be loaded from removable media, such as USB stick or floppy.
The missing firmware files are: rtlwifi/rtl8723befw.bin”

If you are wondering what a floppy is, don’t worry. It is storage media used in ancient computers only. USB memory stick is the best choice for transferring the missing files from another computer to the Linux machine.

It is time to use another computer for searching for the missing drivers. The keyword is “rtl8723befw.bin”, or whatever your error message displayed. I discovered the missing Realtek drivers at Debian web site (each Debian version has its own firmware packages).

Copy the downloaded .deb file to a USB stick.
Insert the USB stick into the Linux computer.
If you still have the missing firmware error message on the screen, you can answer:
Yes to “Load missing firmware from removable media?”

Answering Yes didn’t work for me, so I continued the installation process to the end. Once the system was installed and running, I solved the Wi-Fi problem. Here is how.

Copy the .deb file from the USB stick into the Linux computer.
Open Terminal app.
Enter command: dpkg -i path/filename
(where path is the directory where you copied the .deb file and filename is the name of the .deb file)

If you get error messages about access rights, enter su or sudo command to login as root.

Why not choose the easy way, and simply use apt-get for finding and installing the missing software packages? Well, since I didn’t have internet access on the Linux computer, I couldn’t rely on (apt, apt-get, aptitude) online repositories.

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