AB9IL.net: RT2860 Wireless Driver for Linux Kernels 2.6.27 - 2.6.29

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There are a considerable number of people using computers with Linux that depend on Ralink RT2860 devices for wireles network access. As usage of the advanced kernels increases, older wireless drivers lose compatability, and require replacement. The stock Ralink wireless drivers are an example, and there is now a good working RT2X00 driver for the Ralink RT2860 chipset. However, if you are having problems with the version included with your distribution, compiling and installing the original driver may provide wireless connectivity. Follow the procedure below to install the RT2860 wireless driver in Debian Linux based systems (Aptosid, Ubuntu, Knoppix, etc) using kernel versions through 2.6.29.

If your system uses Linux kernel 2.6.30 or later, better wi fi drivers are in the Compat Wireless package. Compile and install it instead of this older RT2860 driver.

The installation process consists obtaining the source code, compiling and installing the driver.

  1. Start by going to the Ralink Linux Support page to obtain the latest version of the RT2860 wireless driver and firmware. As this is written, the current driver is version, and the latest firmware is version 11. Download them both, and store a backup copy in a safe place. Also consider saving the source code in /usr/src/ for rebuilding the rt2860 driver after any kernel updates.
  2. Navigate to the location of the source package, and extract it. Open a console window and use the "tar" command:
       ironhand@onosideboard:~$ tar -jxvf 2009_0918_RT2860_Linux_STA_v2.4.0.0.tar.bz2
  1. Navigate to the location of the firmware, and extract it. Open a console window and use the "tar" command:
       ironhand@onosideboard:~ RT2860_Firmware_V11.zip
  1. With root priveleges, use your file manager to place the file rt2860.bin in the folder /lib/firmware.
  2. Navigate to the folder /2009_0918_RT2860_Linux_STA_v2.4.0.0/os/linux/, and open the file "config.mk" in a suitable text editor.

Near the top of the config.mk file, there are configuration options for WPA encryption support in the rt2860 driver. Edit both of them to show the option "y" for WPA_SUPPLICANT support:

# Support Wpa_Supplicant

# Support Native WpaSupplicant for Network Maganger

  1. Navigate to the folder /2009_0918_RT2860_Linux_STA_V2.4.0.0/os/linux/, and with root priveleges, compile and install the driver:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ sudo make && make install
[sudo] password for ironhand:

At this point, the driver should have compiled and installed without errors. Warnings may occur due to minor faults in the code, but the process shouldn\'t break outright. Three new files should now be in your system:

/etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat (configuration data)
/lib/firmware/rt2860.bin (firmware)
/lib/modules/*yourkernel*/extra/rt2860sta.ko (RT2860 driver)

Another pair of commands in the console, with root priveleges, will load the driver:

ironhand@onosideboard:~$  sudo depmod -ae
[sudo] password for ironhand:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ sudo modprobe rt2860

After executing the "modprobe" command, the RT2860 wireless driver should load, and any wireless connection manager (Wlassistant, Ceni, Wi-Fi Radar, etc) should properly scan for and report any access points in range. Expect solid connectivity.


Software being what it is, there are sometimes bugs, breaks, and annoyances. Fortunately, there is plenty of discussion of solutions. Search first using Google and the search phrase "rt2860" and a few words describing the problem. Consider also the serialmonkey rt2x00 forum, as there is considerable discussion relating to RT2860 development.

Note: Driver support for WPA_SUPPLICANT has been included in the instructions above, and assumes WPA_SUPPLICANT is installed on your system. If not, download the package from the software repositories and install it. The latest version of WPA_SUPPLICANT is avilable directly from the developers\' website, and a short tutorial on installation is available in the AB9IL linux wireless pages.

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