Configuring Intel WIFI on an Asus Vivobook running Debian

I recently bought an Asus Laptop. I will be using this laptop while traveling and to work from coffee shops whenever the opportunity to do so arises.  My desktop is running Debian Stretch (Stable) but since the hardware on this laptop is fairly recent, I decided to install Debian Buster (Testing) on it. In this blog, I’ll talk about how I set up the WIFI during the OS installation and post installation.

During Installation

As I wanted to perform a network installation of Debian, I needed a functional Internet connection. The WIFI chip on my laptop is an Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265. The drivers for it can be downloaded here or retrieved from Debian’s non-free packages (firmware-iwlwifi – Intel Wireless 8265 firmware).  Debian does not load non-free packages by default. When it cannot connect to the Internet during installation, it asks us to provide the necessary firmware via a removable drive. The screen for that looks like this,

Let’s get Debian the firmware it needs. You’ll need a spare machine and a pen drive. Follow the steps listed on this Unix StackExchange thread but modify it for Buster,

  1. You’ll find the files for Debian Buster here – Download whichever archive is the easiest for you to handle (firmware.tar.gz or You can browser around the directory to find the one that matches your distribution.
  2. Format the partition on the pen drive to a FAT32 partition.
  3. Extract the firmware archive in the root of a flash drive; plug the drive into the computer you’re installing.

During installation when the installer asks you to Load missing firmware, check Yes, and press Continue. The installer should find the firmware from the external USB drive automatically.

Post Installation

After the installation, you’ll be greeted by a command line interface. You’ll also notice that you have no Internet again.

Via command line

To configure WIFI via the network-manager, we’ve to install it via the package manager. This means we’ll have to configure the WIFI via command line first. I have a WPA-PSK WIFI network configured at home. The instructions for configuring and connecting to it are documented here on the Debian Wiki.

Following the instructions on the WIKI ensured that I had a working connection. I then installed the rest of my apps and the network manager.

Using network manager

Once you’ve installed a Window manager / Desktop environment, its time to install the network manager. Network manager is a handy utility to use when configuring your WIFI or other network connections. You can install it by running the following command,

sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome

This will install an user interface and the network-manager daemon that starts automatically on system boot-up. The Arch Linux wiki here covers a lot of topics with respect to the network manager. You may want to take a look at the section regarding storing encrypted WIFI passwords and this post on AskUbuntu regarding where network manager stores its passwords.

After setting up the WIFI connection in the network manager, remember to undo the changes made to the /etc/network/interfaces file in the previous step.

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