Free Operating Systems That Work with USB wifi Adapters

Posted on 2014-01-05
Last Modified: 2014-01-24
A small company upgraded their office computers and donated 4 of them to our church. They have been formatted. I would like to set up the computers with some free OS where a wifi usb adapter can be installed and configured with a minimum of problems. I can then give them to some families who have no computer but have wifi in there home.

I have tried using Ubuntu and could never get the adapters I have to work. I'm not very familiar with Linux flavors so I have given up on these OS's

The adapters I bought from Amazon are inexpensive as I have limited resources to apply to this project:

Etekcity® 5R2 Mini Wireless WiFi LAN USB Network Adapter: This device is a High Power Dongle with 802.11 B/G/N signals, 150 Mbps transmission rate, 2.

Edimax EW-7811Un 150 Mbps Wireless 11n Nano Size USB Adapter

Basically I just want the workstations to be able to access the internet with the adapters. Anything else would be a bonus...

Is my request unreasonable?

Thank you all in advance for your assistance.
Question by:pcwizz1
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LVL 14

Assisted Solution

ThomasMcA2 earned 167 total points
ID: 39758408
Since Etekcity's product page says the 5R2 adapter supports Linux, their customer support should be able to help you.

Also, one Amazon review says the 5R2 adapter works in Ubuntu with the rt2800usb driver.
LVL 44

Accepted Solution

Darr247 earned 167 total points
ID: 39758436
I recommend CentOS 6.5 - Start at and choose a mirror.
If you have a bittorrent client (e.g. uTorrent or microTorrent), download and open the torrent for the DVD set (2 DVDs required for full desktop install set), which should lighten the mirror's bandwidth load as well as getting you the ISO files faster. CentOS 6.5 will be supported until almost the end of the year 2020. Most computers will not 'live' that long.

I also recommend the script available at to install the latest Chrome browser and its Google repository in CentOS 6.5.
LVL 12

Expert Comment

ID: 39758511
I wouldn't recommend centos, especially 6.5. 6.5 was just released so there are bound to be compatibility issues. Plus it is designed as a server platform rather than desktop. Not to say it isn't a great os and could be used, I work on it daily, but it is not designed with desktops in mind.

Ubuntu, Mint,  KUbuntu, all good choices. Opensuse is good to.
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Gerwin Jansen, EE MVE
ID: 39759577
Are you able to burn images to a re-writable CD? If so, I'd recommend to download so-called live images and burn them to CD so you can test from a re-writable if it works.

You could start with lubuntu for example (light weight Ubuntu), it runs nicely on (somewhat) old hardware:

Other recommendation is Fedora LXDE:

Both start with a menu that lets you choose a live (test) version.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 39759896
CentOS is an excellent desktop.

It's based on RedHat source, which can also be used as server or desktop configurations.

And best of all, its desktop's default GUI is GNOME 2, unlike most other new releases of linux distros, which default to the not-ready-for-prime-time-when-released GNOME 3 (or Unity in Ubuntu, which is also based on GNOME 3).
LVL 12

Assisted Solution

ryan80 earned 166 total points
ID: 39760113
CentOS or Red Hat is designed with enterprises in mind. As such they are slow to update the components because they want them to be fully tested and enterprise ready. However this means that they are usually far behind. CentOS 6 is based off of Fedora 12 which is 2-3 years old. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in an enterprise environment where compatibility can be key.

However this does mean that it will not support as many newer applications as some other builds. Chrome is a good example. As Darr247 posted in the link above, Chrome is not supported on CentOS or Red Hat 6.x, and it needs to be rigged to get it to run. Chrome is supported on Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSuse, or Fedora.

CentOS will be very stable and will be supported for a long time, but you may have issues getting newer applications to run correctly, using Chrome as an example. Things like  Netflix and other consumer oriented applications will need some tinkering to get working and you will find fewer resources about trying to get these things running on an Enterprise OS.

Mint is based off of a port of Gnome 2, which was started after Gnome 2 lost further development in 2011. Ubuntu uses Unity which is a modified Gnome 3 version.

CentOS is great for the enterprise, dont get me wrong, but for home users I would think that it might not be the right fit. Especially if you are talking about wifi drivers.

Here are some links on recommendations.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 39760858
Based on reports of problems with 14e4:43xx cards (for which Broadcom never released linux drivers) CentOS 6.5 is based on fedora 14, which is when those same problems appeared in fedora.

While CentOS 6.x doesn't officially support Chrome, they do support the open source Chromium (Chrome is NOT open source, which is the main reason they don't, and probably never will, support it)... here are test ports of Chromium 30 and 31:
and I expect to see v32 in the repos once there's enough feedback on those test versions.
LVL 62

Expert Comment

ID: 39763380
Most notably you must download firmwares for those network adapters (via floppynet or ethernet, at no indication on the system what is missing)

So download edimax zip driver
look around to see it is
RTL8192CU which is supported by mainline kernel
so delete .zip file, boot ubuntu live CD and connect to your access point...
LVL 62

Expert Comment

ID: 39777324
STA driver released by broadcom supports all of same cards supported by b43 drive (those pesky :43xx in each laptop)....
ubuntu proprietary driver enabler told me so.

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