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When I run the following two commands, the first one returns without eror, but the second one gives me FATAL: Module iwlwifi is in use.

sudo ifconfig wlan0 down
sudo modprobe -r iwlwifi

If bringing the wireless interface down still leave the kernel module in use, what does that imply?

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After you run ifconfig wlan0 down, have you run ifconfig again to make sure wlan0 is actually down ? – Lawrence Dec 23 '13 at 4:39
Yes, I did run ifconfig again to verify. – merlin2011 Dec 23 '13 at 5:20
up vote 4 down vote accepted

See if modprobe -rv iwldvm helps instead

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modprobe -rv iwlmvm for newer card types. – lkraav Nov 22 '15 at 17:25

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