How to install wireless MT7610U on Pinebook Armbian

Linux meme

A couple of months ago, I have written an article, here, on how to install TP-Link AC600 Archer T2U driver on Pinebook. In that article, I explained the process of Armbian distribution for the legacy kernel (3.10.X). In this article, however, I explain how to install MT7610U on Pinebook Armbian with the newer kernel (> 4.19).

Some introduction about MT7610U

Here, I am talking about the MT7610U wireless module that is used in many USB wireless dongles. The one I own is TP-Link AC600 Archer T2U. But the process is the same for all dongles with the same cheapset. Luckily, the support for the dongle has added to the mainline Linux kernel since 4.19, see here. But the problem was I couldn’t get it up and running in my Pinebook. I mean I had no issue using the dongle on any X86 Linux computers but just was not recognizing in Pinebook.

In the meantime, since June 2019, until a week ago, I worked around the problem in other ways. For instance, using my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite as a WiFi repeater.

But then I finally fed up and decided to not procrastinate the matter until I solve it and I managed to solve it.

The story behind finding the solution

I started by searching the internet and figured that the support for wireless MT7610U has added to the mainline Linux kernel since 4.19. Then I found a post that the guys in Raspberry Pi community has enabled the driver on their build from this GitHub PR. Then I found the Armbian kernel build to check whether the flag is enabled there or not. Luckily, it was enabled, here. So literally, the driver was there but why the module was not detected? That’s simple, keep reading.

Installing wireless MT7610U on Pinebook Armbian

I installed the latest version of Armbian for Pinebook which runs on 5.3 kernel. But still had no luck. And from there, my search didn’t go anywhere. Somewhere on the back of my head, I was thinking that the driver is there but it’s just not loaded. Finally, after some back and forth, I found a solution.

Apparently, the Arm kernel builds are kept minimal. This means they don’t install linux-firmware by default, I mean this. Unless you do it explicitly. Armbian is not any different from others. So all, I had to do was just to install linux-firmware package as follows,

$ sudo apt install linux-firmware

Then after a restart, my MT7610U wireless dongle was working perfectly.

How to install wireless MT7610U on Pinebook Armbian
Say again! Wuut!!

Note that you can do the same process using armbian-config handy tool that also has many more functionalities.

Yeah I know that’s very simple and easy. But it took four hours of my sleeping time to figure it out. The interesting thing is in the Armbian Pinebook page, they have mentioned that they tested the build with MT7610U and it works, see here. But unfortunately, they didn’t mention how to activate it. This could be an improvement especially for Arm noobs like me.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy this article and my story telling 🙂

Inline/featured images credits