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I'm trying to install OpenBSD 5.5 amd64 on a Dell D430 (C2D) but the install requires a wireless connection at some point. It finds the wireless device but for some reason cannot connect to the router. The error message is:

Issuing hostname-associated DHCP request for wpi0.
wpi0: error, 2, could not read firmware wpi-3945abg
wpi0: could not read firmware
wpi0: error, 2, could not read firmware wpi-3945abg
wpi0: could not read firmware
wpi0: error, 2, could not read firmware wpi-3945abg
wpi0: could not read firmware
wpi0: no link .............

Is there a way to get the wireless card working at install without having to resort to using ethernet (which is possible but not ideal)?

2 Answers 2

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You don’t really need a network connection during installation at all, it’s just a convenience. In your case, you’re really in a catch-22: Your NIC needs firmware to operate, but you’d need your NIC to download said firmware from the internet…

But as said: The whole installation can be done without any kind of network connection at all. Have all the installation sets (base55.tgz et al.) ready on either your install medium or an USB stick or similar; during install you will be asked if you have additional sets to install.

Ignore the wireless card during the installation; there’s no way of getting it to work at this point, and you’ll have to set up the wireless card properly anyway (SSID, WPA and so on). All this is easier if the system is up and running; the installation kernel is kept to the barest minimum in order to fit onto the tightest media.

Once you boot up the ‘real’ system for the first time, install the wpi-firmware package. You can easily break the catch-22 by downloading the required package from http://firmware.openbsd.org/firmware/ and putting it onto that same USB stick or whatever, then install it manually using pkg_add. The fw_update script mentioned by kyrias doesn’t really do anything else, it just a convenience.

The underlying problem is that the OpenBSD folks are not allowed to distribute the firmware directly, so they are jumping through those hoops in order to maintain their integrity. In an ideal world, NIC vendors wouldn’t be this uptight with their firmware or documentation, so it would have worked out of the box.

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As the error says it can't find the firmware for you wireless NIC. Try running fw_update(1) to download and install the needed firmware.


Since you don't have an Internet connection you can try downloading the firmware manually from the openbsd firmware site on a computer with Internet access and then install it manually. (It should be noted that installing manually is discouraged, but alas...)

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  • How can I do that if I can't connect to the internet without the wireless card? Stuck in catch 22.
    – warsong
    Sep 20, 2014 at 23:58
  • Oh right, sorry, totally read over that. (Is it noticeable that I should be asleep? ;))
    – remmy
    Sep 20, 2014 at 23:59
  • But it doesn't let me complete the install without having the firmware already installed? So I can't download it manually and install, unless you mean install it within the install process from a different drive?
    – warsong
    Sep 21, 2014 at 12:07
  • That's what I meant, yeah.
    – remmy
    Sep 21, 2014 at 12:17
  • Would you mind explaining how that's done (i.e. installing the driver within the install process) or even just link me to some instructions please? I haven't installed OpenBSD before, I'm basically going off my Linux experience here. Btw thanks for your help. Its cool that someone on SU knows about OpenBSD I thought I wouldn't get a reply for days.
    – warsong
    Sep 21, 2014 at 12:20

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