The horrible rt3290 realtek chipset and ubuntu
Dec 28, 2016
3 minute read

Hi ! As you can see in my backpack, I’ve got quite an old laptop : a HP Probook 4540s. This old girl is perfect for me : 6GB of memory, a dual-core CPU, a 500GB hard drive, a good screen and plenty of ports. But there is one thing I forgot to check : the wireless chipset.

Old amplifier

The Realtek RT3290

When I was under Ubuntu 14.04 there was no problem with this chipset. The wifi was not that good, but I thought it was like all other wireless cards : sometimes the connection restarted, sometimes a reboot was necessary to scan with it, etc… It didn’t bother me : Linux is something that can’t work everytime.

Then my laptop lived for a year with ArchLinux on it, and things started to be a little bit trickier. It was the new kernel 4.4’s fault, but at that time I didn’t know it yet, so each time I upgraded the kernel I spent a day or two without wireless connection until I figured how to fix it. But for me it was normal ! Arch is not for everybody, I thought you always have to fix some little things.

And now I’m with on new Elementary OS, based on Ubuntu 16.04, with the 4.4 kernel. And wifi is a pain.

Hopefully I’m not alone, if you google “rt3290 ubuntu 16” you will find tons of people with similar problems. The rt2800pci in the linux kernel is supposed to work with that chipset, but when the module is loaded a lot of people have their Network Manager wireless-blind. It was my case, so I did the same as everybody : I installed the patched semi-official module for the rt3290 with dkms, and it wasn’t easy because the kernel module was always showing up, even if it was blacklisted.

But one day it worked. Finally ! But it was only an illusion. After each reboot the module I used was not able to connect to a wireless network. Sometimes the rt3290 was working, after a reboot the rt2800pci alone was working, another reboot and it switched back to the rt3290 etc… Why ? No idea. But even if the wifi was working, it was not very good. I had a Dell XPS at work and I’ve understood what a good wireless chipset is.

The fix

So I decided to replace the 3290 realtek chipset of my laptop by a Intel one, but it was more expensive than a simple wifi dongle. I decided so to take a D-Link DWA-171 by looking in the official documentation of Ubuntu : WirelessCardsSupported.

As the doc says, the driver module of the rtl8812au is not in the kernel, but someone compiled it from sources and it seems to work. It’s also working with my laptop, and I’m very happy with it. Here is a small comparaison of speedtest :


Above, with the rt3290, and below with the rt8812au in my D-Link DWA-171.


And there is no more interruptions in my connection, whenever I reboot the module is always working. No more problems ! If you’ve got questions, I will be happy to answer them :)

See ya !

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