Troubleshoot Laptop Wireless (Wi-Fi) Connection Issues on Ubuntu Linux

Having issues connecting to wireless (Wi-Fi) networks using your Ubuntu laptop? For students and new users, the most frustrating thing about Linux systems, including Ubuntu is managing device drivers.

The good thing that has happened over the years is most devices now work with Linux machine out of the box. No need for complicated configurations and troubleshooting.

However, there may be some cases where devices may not work properly on Ubuntu and other Linux systems. Students and new users may not know what to do initially but focusing on basic troubleshooting steps may get them working again.

This brief tutorial shows students and new users how to troubleshoot wireless network issues on Ubuntu Laptops. If you cannot connect to a wireless network for some reason, try following the instructions below:

  1. Make sure that your laptop is not connected to a wired internet connection. Sometimes, when connected to the Wired network, you may not know whether the Wi-Fi device is actually connecting and working.

  2. If you have an external wireless adapter such as a USB adapter, or a PCMCIA card that plugs into your laptop, make sure it’s firmly inserted into the correct slot.

  3. If your wireless card is built-in, make sure that the wireless switch is turned on (if it has one). Some laptops have wireless switches that you can turn on/off.

  4. Click the system status area on the top bar and select Wi-Fi, then select Wi-Fi Settings. Make sure that Wi-Fi is set to ON. You should also check that Airplane Mode is not switched on.

  5. Open the Terminal and type the command below to see if the laptop sees the wireless adapter.

sudo nmcli device

Look down the list of information and see if there is an item related to the wireless network adapter. If the state is connected, it means that the adapter is working and connected to your wireless router.. If it’s not connected or you can’t see it, then the Wi-Fi adapter may not be active or disabled.

If the above steps are done and you still can’t find the wireless adapter, run the commands below.

sudo lshw -c network

Look through the information that appeared and find the Wireless interface section. If your wireless adapter was detected properly, you should see something similar (but not identical) to this:

       description: Wireless interface
       product: PRO/Wireless 3945ABG [Golan] Network Connection
       vendor: Intel Corporation

If you only see description Ethernet interface, then the wireless adapter is not being detected by your Ubuntu laptop. You may then have to install the device drivers from the manufacturer websites or from other sources.

You can also run the command below to list devices on your system.

sudo lspci

Look through the list of devices that is shown and find any that are marked Network controller or Ethernet controller. Several devices may be marked in this way; the one corresponding to your wireless adapter might include words like wirelessWLANwifi or802.11. Here is an example of what the entry might look like:

Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG [Golan] Network Connection

If you don’t see something like the above line, then the device isn’t detected which may mean the device isn’t functional or you’ll need the driver to make it functional.

If all the above steps failed and the correct device drivers were installed and nothing work, then the Wi-Fi device may not be working and you may need to get a replacement.

Hope this helps and please come back soon.

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