Macintosh Wireless Advice

Edited by Chris Murphy

Table of Contents

Summary


This is a community built page about running and installing 3rd party wireless devices on the Macintosh platform. Please feel free to contribute MacOS (classic or OS X) advice but keep your contributions relevant to wireless on the Macintosh. The Mac has evolved from using PowerPC to Intel CPUs and from PCMCIA slots to ExpressCard slots. Please note that because of this evolution, some of this advice may not apply to every Macintosh .


Quick Links

The following two drivers are only for 3rd party wireless cards that plug into the PCMCIA slot on now aging but popular Apple Powerbooks.



Drivers by Protocol


802.11b

Generally speaking, with the following drivers, MacOS X can support most of the cards discussed on the HardwareComparison page. This page hopefully has information about support for your specific card (or your card's chipset). Also check http://www.versiontracker.com to see if your cards manufacturer has released a driver specifically for your card.

For MacOS drivers see http://www.ioxperts.com - These blessed folks have, for the price of a large pizza and a six pack ($19.95), <radically> increased the choice Macintosh users (both 9 and X) have in client cards. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a good quality driver, easy to install, easy to use. It discovers networks on its own (no need to manually type in SSIDs). This driver supports the Prism 2.5 chipset. (As of 6-3-04 ioxperts driver still doesn't support any Cardbus cards)

Also checkout http://wirelessdriver.sourceforge.net/ - This driver is free and MacOS X only. This driver is only for 3rd party wireless cards that plug into the PCMCIA slot on Apple Powerbooks. As of 2008, it has not been updated in 2 years. If your goal is to receive a weak signal, this driver is slightly more effective than the ioxperts driver listed above (but more difficult to install, and rarely updated). One trick to installing this driver, after installation but before restarting, go into System/Library/Extensions and delete Extensions.kextcache and Extensions.mkext. Then reboot. Hopefully this known installation bug will be fixed at some point. I made some installation notes on the "WirelessDriver". Please note that this driver does not work with the Prism 2.5 chipset (e.g. the Senao 2511CD). If you have a Prism 2.5 based card, you should buy the decent quality IOXperts driver.

Another universal driver for MacOS 9/X is the AeroCard Universal Mac Driver $25 - http://www.macsense.com/product/broadband/aerouni_b.html I havent tried this one yet but it looks like a rebranded version of the ioxperts driver. It may be identical. This driver works with Mac OS 10.3 and prior but NOT with 10.4

Some Atmel based PCMCIA 802.11b cards are supported on OS X OS X Atmel Driver.

802.11a

For 802.11a on OS X, your basic choices seem to be the Cisco CB20a (discontinued but available, 5.2Ghz bands only) and Atheros-based cards with the Orangeware driver Orangeware Wireless for OS X. Both work well, though neither supports WPA. The Orangeware driver is PowerPC only, see below.

802.11g

See the Table of Wireless Drivers on this page.

802.11n

See the Table of Wireless Drivers on this page.


Drivers by Chipset


Atheros Chipset

Atheros on Intel Macs/ExpressCard

I have moved the instructions on getting the Ubiquiti Networks SuperRange Xpress Card to work in MacOS X Leopard to it's own page because it was getting long.

Atheros on PowerPC Macs/PCMCIA

OrangeWare Wireless Driver 3.2 for OS X supports wireless PCMCIA cards that use the Atheros chip set. This driver is PowerPC only and will not be updated for Intel Macs.

For PowerPC Macs, OrangeWare claims to be the only driver that supports 802.11a as well as 802.11b/g. "OrangeWare's Wireless Driver for Mac broadens the driver availability to all users of Atheros based wireless cards. They include D-Link, Netgear, Aztec, Elecom, Fujitsu, IBM, Linksys, NEC, Samsung and Sony, and many more."

http://www.orangeware.com/endusers/wirelessformac.html

http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/20583#descContainer_link

Prism GT Chipset

There is a new open source OS X driver for Prism GT cards available here: http://gtdriver.binaervarianz.de/ According to the author, this driver may not support the latest and greatest cards... please report your experience here.

Atmel Chipset

Currently only officially supports two cards. Open source. http://www.russotto.net/~russotto/atmelx.html

Ralink Chipset

See the USB Wireless section and Table of Wireless Drivers on this page.

Zydas Chipset

See the USB Wireless section and Table of Wireless Drivers on this page.


Drivers by Hardware Form Factor


AirPort

See AirPort

USB Wireless Adapters (OS X)

If you want to get an unsupported USB wireless adapter working on OS X you have some options.

Atmel based devices (including Belkin) are discussed here Slashdot discussion and here.

Drivers for USB Intersil Prism 802.11b adapters on OS X.

See the Table of Drivers below for Zydas and Ralink based USB devices. If you installed the Zydas driver and your Zydas based USB device still isn't working... see this.

Update 02/27/07: Zydas was purchased by Atheros and download links for their drivers disappeared. This link will take you to a forum where there are links to a private ftp where you can download the drivers for PPC and Intel macs. I have tested this driver with the Hawking HWU54g and it works (but its too soon to say how well, see known issues in driver release notes). I have installed Zydas 1211b on OSX 10.4.10 and it had to be installed when logged in as root user in order to function correctly.

PCI Wireless Adapters (OS X)

OrangeWare's driver supports some PCI Wireless Adapters on 10.4 and older (OrangeWare has no plans to support 10.5 Leopard). The WirelessDriver does not yet support any PCI cards.


Table of MacOS Wireless Drivers


This is under construction...please contribute.

Driver Name

OS Supported

CPU Supported

Price (U.S. $)

Chipset Supported

Protocols Supported

Open Source

Cards Supported

Built in Airport Driver

MacOS X

PowerPC/Intel

Built in

Broadcom/Atheros

802.11a/b/g/n

No

Leopard driver supports Airport Extreme. Other Atheros based cards supported with some changes to the driver. Maybe some 3rd party broadcom cards too. See 'Drivers Atheros' section above.

WirelessDriver

MacOS X

Free

Prism 2

802.11b

Yes

Extensive list. See this page

IOXperts

MacOS 9/X

PowerPC

$19.95

Prism 2 and 2.5

802.11b

No

Extensive list, see link. Includes SenaoCard.

AeroCard

MacOS 9/X

PowerPC

$25.00

802.11b

No

Extensive list, see link. This is a re-branded IOXperts driver.

Atmel Driver

MacOS X

Free

Atmel

802.11b

Yes

SMC 2632W V.2, and the Belkin F5D6020 V.2

Prism GT

MacOS X

Free

Prism GT

802.11g

Yes

See this page

OrangeWare Wireless Driver

MacOS X

PowerPC

$15

Atheros

802.11a/b/g

No

Extensive list, see link. D-Link, Netgear, Aztec, Elecom, Fujitsu, IBM, Linksys, NEC, Samsung and Sony, and many more. Intel Macs will not be supported.

Zydas (links at the bottom)

MacOS X (10.3, 10.4)

PowerPC/Intel

Free

ZD1211

802.11b/g

No

see list for Linux version

Ralink

MacOS X (10.3, 10.4, 10.5)

Free

RT2500, RT2700, RT2800

802.11a/b/g/n

No

see these three lists


Software: Stumblers and Widgets


Looking for a connection on a Macintosh? Some of your options are KisMac, MacStumbler, iStumbler, Alksoft ClassicStumbler (OS 9), and various dashboard widgets for Tiger including AirPort Radar and AirTrafficControl.

KisMac MacOS X 10.2+, NMEA GPS Compatible. The best Mac OS X solution currently, passive sniffing & WEP cracking. Not compatible with ExpressCards yet, not legal in Germany.

Video on how to use certain KisMac features

iStumbler A nice utility for OS X that lets you find 802.11 and Bluetooth networks.

AP Grapher An essential piece of freeware. Universal Binary, graphs Airport signal strength. Worked with my Atheros Ubiquiti SRX card too.



Instructions for getting an old PowerBook wireless using a PCMCIA card.


Comments and Suggestions



MacOS (last edited 2008-10-24 01:40:50 by c-71-198-244-166)