Why do I need to install network card driver (Intel wireless adapters, iwlwifi-8265 is shown as missing firmware by debian-installer) during Debian installation while in case of Ubuntu everything works out of the box? Drivers must be bundled within the Ubuntu image file? If it's licensing issues due to non-free software, then how do other drivers like graphic card, disk, bluetooth etc. come installed and work out of the box?. Those drivers are also non-free,right?

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    Everything DOES NOT work out of the box with Ubuntu. That is covered by ubuntu-restricted-extras which the user installs. Playing a DVD is one example. Linux Mint, on the other hand, is based on Ubuntu and has the restricted firmware pre-installed. Debian has the ethos of being FREE. Although the user can add non-free.
    – user8779
    Oct 20, 2018 at 12:10
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    It most likely is a licensing issue but you should really edit the question to specify which network card driver you are referring to. Oct 20, 2018 at 12:47
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    Most drivers are Free Software. Few are written by the manufacturer, however intel write there graphics drivers and release them as Free Software, this allows the community to take over support, when intel loose interest (stop shipping the device). Nvidia write drivers but release them as proprietary, therefore support ends when they loose interest. Oct 20, 2018 at 18:20
  • 'Free software' means free as in 'freedom' (otherwise referred to as 'Libre'. i.e. free to use, modify and share), it's not about whether it costs money or not. Proprietary (i.e. non-free) drivers and software can still be provided at zero-cost.
    – Time4Tea
    Jan 17, 2019 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


During the Ubuntu install the drivers will be installed from the main and the restricted repository , restricted contain the proprietary drivers.

The non-free software should exist in the multiverse repo.

On debian the proprietary drivers are available from the non-free repository.

Nonfree software:

Nonfree software is any software that is not free. Its use, redistribution or modification is prohibited, or requires you to ask for permission, or is restricted so much that you effectively can't do it freely.

Proprietary software:

Proprietary software is another name for nonfree software. In the past we subdivided nonfree software into “semifree software”, which could be modified and redistributed noncommercially, and “proprietary software”, which could not be. But we have dropped that distinction and now use “proprietary software” as synonymous with nonfree software.

The firmware-iwlwifi is a non-free software which provide iwlwifi-8265 driver, the official iso doesn' include the non-free soft , you should be able to install the missing driver later by adding non-free to your /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch main contrib non-free
deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch main contrib non-free
deb http://deb.debian.org/debian-security/ stretch/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian-security/ stretch/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch-updates main contrib non-free


apt update 
apt install firmware-iwlwifi

You can use the Unofficial iso including the non-free driver to get the wifi available during the system install.

Ubuntu : Repository

What are Repositories?

Categories of free and nonfree software

Debian Wiki : Firmware during the installation

  • The only downside is that you cannot simply use apt to install the missing firmware, if your computer only has one single wireless adapter. Installing it manually is a pain but it is documented on the Debian pages + also looking at some other pages. What I can say is that manually installing the driver is painstakingly time consuming when you do it for the first time. Luckily, the Debian community has decided to ship non-free drivers in future installers.
    – johann_ka
    Nov 9, 2022 at 22:37

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