Broadcom Wireless on Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10

I have an older Dell Latitude D520 with a Broadcom wireless card. Since Ubuntu 11.04 and now Ubuntu 11.10 Beta, I’ve been fighting to get the wireless card to work properly. It is a test machine for me now so I have only sparingly looked for a solution. The card is reported as a Broadcom BCM4311 Subsystem Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN Mini-Card.

During a quick break today, I found the this forum post that got me trying a couple things.

First I ensured the the bcmwl-kernel-source package was removed.

Next I installed the firmware-b43-installer package.

Immediately, the Wi-Fi indicator on the laptop began to glow. Two minutes later I had configured the wireless settings and was connected, browsing the internet without a cable. Broadcom Wireless on Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10

Thought I’d post these two lines as a reminder to myself and hopefully a help to others.


About Tom

Tom genuinely loves tech. Not just gadgets but game changing stuff. Oh yeah, he hates to talk about himself in the 3rd person. So, I really enjoy involvement in sharing big tech in the #nptech (nonprofit technology) arena. The need to be entrepreneurial drives me to learn and dive into projects, but without the financial acumen to go it alone. Visit me in the afternoon and you'll see Google Chrome packed with my tab hoarding tendencies and you might even catch me practicing my fake british, over the top, accent. Christ follower, husband, father and technology enthusiast. Attempting to live life out as a light in this world and stumbling at times in this fallen world.

36 thoughts on “Broadcom Wireless on Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10

  • DSM

    Thanks for the solution. It got me back in business. I should note that it didn’t, at first, occur to me to use my laptop’s Fn + F2 keystroke combo to enable the laptop wireless. I tried to remove and reinstall the b43 firmware, and then when I knew it should be working, it occurred that I’d not yet enabled the hardware from my keyboard.
    Thanks again.

  • Brian

    I ended up having to connect an ethernet cable to get the firmware files, but after that I was in business and able to use my wireless connection. So thank you for the straight-forward and simple approach to get past this problem.

  • Lincoln

    Hi Tom, I tried everything I could possibly try and still not get my wifi to come on. Can you please help me out?

  • jiran

    Wired netwok is not working after i execute the command
    sudo apt-get remove bcmwl-kernel-source
    sudo reboot
    while installing b43-wireless drivers

  • John A Patitucci

    Here’s the thing for all the nay-sayers who can’t get it to work. This is an easy fix….

    Plug in your ethernet cable to get an internet connection so that you can download the needed firmware. :)

  • Scot

    This worked too for Linux Mint 13 on an older Dell inspiron e1505 after a restart. Thank you for the solution. Love the Bio and Tech4Him branding!

  • marten

    Hi Tom. As I’ve been distro hopping a lot lately, trying to find the best desktop for me, I’ve performed this on the latest Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, OpenSuse and finally Kubuntu. All work (on Open Suse 12.2 RC I had to do the remove and do the driver install two times, must have been a glitch). So your blog must be getting some extra points on Google because of my returned visits ;) Thanks again.

  • Jon

    This method got my Dell Inspiron 1501 Wireless working in minutes – after a reboot.

    Just in case anyone else is having problems:
    I had to use a wired connection on installing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS – so that it downloaded the extra packages (FIrst time I got an error at the second line as evidently it didn’t have the required package present if I just installed blind off the disc)
    Then, entered those two magic lines.
    Then restarted the computer and Wi-Fi was instantly up and running. I just clicked on my SSID and added my password and it’s working great!

    Many, many thanks. Back on Linux after a 10 year pause!

  • Ross Wilkinson

    Thank you.This worked on my inspiron 1501 running Ubuntu 11.04 though I had to deactivate the wireless driver installed and restart after the terminal commands.Cheers!

  • Matt

    THANK YOU! You are a gentleman and a scholar and I will remember this post fondly, as it saved me from ending my attempt at Ubuntu.

  • Scott

    I’ve been looking for a solution to this for months.. You are a genius!! Also respect your bio.


    A fellow Christ follower, Husband and Father.

  • Tom Post author

    Thanks all. It really makes my day when y’all take the time to comment and let me know if the things shared here are a help or even that I’m wrong. ;) Glad it helped. This wireless issue drove me nuts also till the solution finally came about. Cheers

  • marten

    Worked for me on Mint 11 eventually: STA driver install did not work; your solution did! But after several restarts. Then it said I still had wireless disabled by hardware switch. Somehow after another restart with wired connection I could ‘enable wireless’. Then after yet another restart it started ‘glowing’. :)

  • toni

    Hello Tom, I had the same problem with my Dell Studio 17 after updating to Ubuntu 11.10. Thanks for sharing the solution to this problem. My wireless is working now.

    Greetings from Germany, European Union


  • Mike

    I have a Dell E1405 this fixed my problem.. I was pulling my hair out and after I did these steps and rebooted everything worked.. Thank you

  • Rich

    Thank you so much! I’ve been looking through forums and trying various solutions involving ndiswrapper and the driver I downloaded from dell but to no avail. This worked! Thank you so much. so basically this is an updated firmware?

  • Thomas Naser

    Tried it.
    Didn’t work

    If a company can’t get a simple thing like a wireless card, DON’T release your product.

  • Evan

    Great Post! My Dell inspiron 1501 did not like the Ubuntu update to 11.10. Your post cured a headache!

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