So I was updating and installing everything on my new dual-boot setup and noticed that Info Center (or something with its icon) was pushing me to install rtl8812au-dkms for my WiFi even though I had the one from gnab/rtl8812au already installed and working. My question is what's the difference between the two and should I install one over the other?

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The biggest difference between a dkms driver, and non-dkms drivers, is that dkms drivers will automatically rebuild themselves whenever you do a Software Update and the Ubuntu kernel gets updated. Non-dkms drivers usually stop working after a kernel upgrade, and will require a manual recompile and re-installation.

To see if you're running a dkms driver version, or not, use this terminal command...

dkms status

You'll see something like this...

r8168, 8.046.00, 4.15.0-36-generic, x86_64: installed
rtl8812au, 5.2.20, 4.15.0-34-generic, x86_64: installed
rtl8812au, 5.2.20, 4.15.0-36-generic, x86_64: installed
rtl8814au, 4.3.21, 4.15.0-34-generic, x86_64: installed
rtl8814au, 4.3.21, 4.15.0-36-generic, x86_64: installed

To manually determine if you're running a dkms version, look in /usr/src and see if you see a folder of the driver software, and if it contains a dkms.conf file, then it's a dkms driver.

~$ ls /usr/src/rtl8812au-5.2.20
clean      hal          Kconfig   platform               regdb
core       ifcfg-wlan0  Makefile              runwpa
dkms.conf  include      os_dep    Realtek_Changelog.txt  wlan0dhcp

Another difference could be that the github driver patches an error, or adds more hardware compatibility. Check the version info in the README file on github.

Update #1:

  1. The Synaptic rtl8812au-dkms driver version is from 2014.

    • this requires a modification to the make command in dkms.conf to:

      MAKE="'make' KVER=${kernelver}"

  2. The gnab/rtl8812au driver version is based on 4.2.2 from 2013.

  3. A better/newer rtl8812au version is here and it's version 5.2.20.

  • In addition to @heynnema 's excellent answer, as newer devices are shipped, their repective usb.ids are added to later versions of the driver. Therefore, a device that was released in 2016 would not be driven by the circa-2013 driver version 4.2.2. Also, the older versions will likely not compile properly on later, i.e. 4.15.0-xx kernels. – chili555 Oct 18 at 14:58
  • Is dkms working in rtl8812au-dkms? – Jeremy31 Oct 22 at 11:36
  • @Jeremy31 I don't understand your question. Please elaborate. – heynnema Oct 22 at 13:16
  • It had the issue with dkms.conf causing the new module to be built on the old headers which caused exec format error, vermagic didn't match the kernel – Jeremy31 Oct 22 at 14:45
  • @Jeremy31 Change the make command in dkms.conf to MAKE="'make' -j$PROCS_NUM KVER=${kernelver} KSRC=/lib/modules/${kernelver}/build", or even MAKE="'make' KVER=${kernelver}" should do. I'd use the newer version anyway. – heynnema Oct 24 at 22:13

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