Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

I purchased two Edimax Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g PCI cards a year or so ago to get our older PC desktops onto our wireless network with both Windows and Linux. I’ve since become almost completely disgusted with Windows (thanks to Vista) and am replacing Windows with Ubuntu or Red Hat Linux on our remaining  PCs.

Device driver support has traditionally been a weakness for Linux because many hardware manufacturers didn’t bother to support non-Windows operating systems and didn’t want to help open source projects create drivers to support their products. Thankfully that is changing and most manufacturers are beginning to offer Linux drivers for their devices. For the last five or ten years, there have been a number of public efforts to build robust wireless support into Linux and these have improved the wireless driver situation, but wireless networking chipsets can be pretty challenging to get working through reverse engineering and many would-be Linux wireless users have still been left out in the cold. This deficiency is one of only a few big remaining obstacles to a Linux distribution that installs and works out of the box as well as (or better than) Windows.

Anyway, true to form, I installed Ubuntu 9.04 on an HP desktop today and all went very well except that the wireless card didn’t work out of the box. Running lspci reported that i have a Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g PCI wireless chipset in that machine. I looked on the Ubuntu forums (a great resource for help of all sorts by the way) and found a lot of people with the same issue but no definitive solutions for Ubuntu 9.04. Poking around on the forums and on the wider net, I put together a solution that worked for me. I’ve laid out the steps to my solution below.

1. Go to the Linux support page on Ralink’s web site and download the drivers for the RT2561/RT61 chipset. I grabbed these drivers.

2. Copy the drivers to your Ubuntu 9.04 machine.

3. Extract the drivers using Ubuntu’s built in compression manager. The resulting folder will be named something like “2009_0123_RT61_Linux_STA_v1.1.2.3”.

4. Open a terminal and navigate to the Module directory under the 2009_0123_RT61_Linux_STA_v1.1.2.3 directory.

5. Type “make” to build the driver module. You should see a lot of warnings but no errors flash by on the screen. This is normal.

6. Type “sudo make install” to install the module you just built. Type in your superuser password when you are prompted. You will see a bunch of stuff flash by on the screen, including some warnings but hopefully no errors. Your new drivers should now be installed.

7. Reboot your Ubuntu machine. When it finishes restarting, you should see a wireless networking icon on the status bar at the top of the screen. Click on this, pick the network to join, and type in your security key (if one is required). After a few moments, you should be connected to your wireless network.

The above steps worked for me and I’m connected to a WPA/PSK encrypted wireless network. I hope these steps work for you but if you still have problems after following them, leave me a comment and I’ll try to help you.  Wireless support is much improved in Linux and connecting to a wireless network will soon be as easy (or easier) as it is in Windows.


Ubuntu Forums

Linux support page on Ralink’s web site

Ralink RT2561/RT61 Linux Drivers

5 thoughts on “Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

  1. Nik

    Thank you ever so much for this post Chris!

    You saved me so much time and trouble… Searching the web and the Ubuntu forums can be very time consuming.

    Unfortunately, this experience has left me very disappointed with Ubuntu so I’m hoping these drivers will do the trick – permanently!

    You’re a star!


    Nik 🙂

  2. chris

    I hope this helped you. If not, feel free to send me your issue and I’ll try to help. Ubuntu is still fairly weak in driver support, especially wireless driver support, since lots of card makers don’t make Linux drivers.

    Ubuntu really is a great operating system, but you do have to do some work up front to make it sing. If you’re interested in an OS that just works, the only one out there is OS-X. I finally bought a Macbook and an iMac (during a great sale) after Vista pushed me over the edge, and I am very happy I moved to a Mac and OS-X for my everyday (non-engineering) work. I still use Ubuntu and Red Hat Linux for much of my engineering work and my 8 year old twin boys use it as their main operating system.

    Linux, especially Ubuntu or Red Hat, is well behind OS-X in usability but is getting closer every year. Unfortunately, it’s still not for the average user or for those with non-standard hardware who don’t have a lot of time to tinker or build their own drivers.

    Good luck and I hope that if you end up using Windows or something else for now, that you continue to try Ubuntu once in a while. It’s still rough in several places (wireless especially) but is improving very quickly.


  3. drew

    Hi Chris,

    Just wanted to say thanks for this guide! I have been trying to get this to work for some time now, so thanks for the help! Many of methods that I tried were a bit more “involved” (i.e., more difficult), but this once was easier and worked!

    Initially, I had the wicd Network Manager installed and after rebooting, the system did not find or recognize the wireless card. Once I reinstalled the Network Manager (the default with 9.04) and uninstalled wicd, it automatically found wireless networks.

    I’m going to mess around and see if I can get wicd to work…

    Thanks again for your help!


  4. chris

    I’m glad this guide helped. You might want to try Mint ( http://www.linuxmint.com/ ). It’s a Linux distro that’s based on Ubuntu and is updated with each new Ubuntu release. The Mint team puts a lot of work into making Mint simple and elegant. I’ve run it on a system I built in 2004 with an Athlon XP 2500+ CPU, 768K RAM, and a low-end video card and it worked very well. I believe that Mint also “just worked” with this Ralink card. I definitely didn’t have to jump through any hoops to get it working like I did with Ubuntu.

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