Installing a USB to Ethernet adapter on the Microsoft Surface RT. (Updated)

The Microsoft Surface only comes with two ways to connect to the outside world, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.  For most this is probably sufficient but we don’t use wireless in the office as a security measure and tethering all day long is just too expensive.

I thought no problem, I will just get myself a handy USB Ethernet adapter.  There are a few MacBook Airs in the office and with optimism I grabbed one of their adapters and plugged it into my Surface.  I was not surprised to see the message “Not compatible with your version of Windows” message pop up.  Obviously this Apple device uses some obscure proprietor chipset, I thought, so I set out to find a generic USB2.0 to Ethernet adapter.  First place to check, Microsoft’s handy compatibility chart http://bit.ly/Xdz0OY.  Very informative chart showing what devices are compatible with the different flavors of Windows, including RT.  I was surprised at first to see such a large list of USB network adapters, but excited, this should be no problem.  The Cisco USB300M seemed like a popular one, with 3 votes for compatibility.  I talked to sales and asked them to order me one.  Confirmation order had been placed, and then I wait. (Update: Microsoft has since removed these from the compatibility list)

While waiting I was googling, as you do, and came across a newsgroup post regarding this actual device not working for someone.  Even though it said it was compatible it would not install for them.  Microsoft told him to search out the drivers from the Manufacturer, but the Linksys/Cisco website didn’t have any drivers for RT.  I started find many other users having the same issue with different USB to Ethernet adapters.  They state as compatible on the MS website but would not install.  I decided to go to a local tech shop and test out some of their devices.  They had only one in stock.  A Nexxtech USB2.0 to Fast Ethernet adapter, as generic as they come.  I plugged it in and it recognized it as ASIX AX88x72A and after a few moments failed with “This device is not compatible with your version of Windows.”  ASIX is one of the most common chipsets used for these adapters.  Frustrated, I sent an email asking ASIX about drivers for Windows RT.  They pointed me to their download section which indeed shows drivers for Windows RT for the AX88772(A)(B).  I downloaded the driver files to my Surface, and installed them by right clicking the .inf file and choosing install.  I got a welcomed Operation Completed Successfully.  I then went back to the local tech shop and plugged in the USB adapter one more time.  I was very delighted to see ASIX AX88772 USB2.0 to Fast Ethernet Adapter listed under devices.  I bought it and headed back to the office and voila!  Online with Ethernet on my Surface.

The speed was not as good as I was hoping but it was much faster than the wireless.  Also transferring large files does hit the processor and it is noticeable.  Nevertheless it works and now I can use Ethernet at the office and for debugging or programming network devices while connected via wireless.

The sad thing about this, is the Microsoft Compatibility chart is not very clear.  Although these devices may work, the drivers are not supplied by Microsoft, and are not supplied by the manufacture, and took some hacking around.  I wonder how many other devices are subject to this fate?  This will frustrate many, I am sure.

***Update 01/09/2013

Microsoft has asked ASIX to pull the driver from their site.  Apparently they do not want it distributed in this manner.  I am fine with that, however as far as I know they have not supplied users with an approved method, ie. adding it to Windows Update!?  Until that time I will try to provide it here if possible via this link.  Let me know if you have issues. http://sdrv.ms/TLF4e1

***Update 06/27/2013

Do not upgrade to the Windows RT 8.1 Preview edition.  It disables this driver, and marks it as Not Digitally Signed!  If anyone knows how to turn off digital signing for drivers please let me know and I will include it in this post.

***Update 09/04/2013

There is hope! http://www.zdnet.com/external-ethernet-support-coming-to-microsoft-surface-rts-7000018999/

***Update 10/30/2013

Microsoft has officially included the ASIX AX8872C driver with Windows RT 8.1.  Your Ethernet adapter will continue to work when you upgrade but you have to force it to use the Built-in driver.  Finally!

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25 Responses to Installing a USB to Ethernet adapter on the Microsoft Surface RT. (Updated)

  1. francesquini says:

    Sorry to bother, but could you post the link to which driver you have used? I searched Asix Drivers downloads page and wasn’t able to find the driver for Windows RT.

    Tks!

  2. they’ve pulled the driver. any chance you could share?

  3. Would you please send me your driver? I had to have my Surface replaced. I now need to re-install everything, and I can’t the driver any more.

  4. Eric says:

    Thanks! I ordered the Plugable adapter from Amazon and downloaded the driver from your link above and it worked perfectly! All 3 of our Surfaces are now Ethernet-ready!

  5. pam says:

    Help… I can’t find the .inf file to install. This is driving me crazy (no pun intended…)

  6. pam says:

    Nevermind… got it. Thanks!!

  7. tull says:

    Do you have any idea whether this RT driver would work with a Combo USB Hub with Ethernet Adapter based on the AX88760 chipset?

  8. epicpilgrim says:

    You can actually use an Apple USB to Ethernet adaptor with the same drivers on the Surface RT (it’s the same Asix chip). It’s just not intuitive to install. Install the drivers as per your details above. Then plug the adapter in, open device manager, locate the adapter that’s missing drivers. Right-click, Update driver, Browse for driver software, but then click “Let me pick from a list”. In the list of categories, choose Network Card or Network Adapter. Then choose the ASIX Manufacturer, and the AX887722A model, and click Next. Say ok to any warnings. Then enjoy!

  9. It will be interesting to see whether this driver and Windows RT allow for Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) via this driver. Upon successful install, I promptly plugged it into my home network and saw my Wi-Fi wireless connection was apparently disabled meanwhile. I’m using the uncanny ASUS VivoTab TF600T. At work I have two networks I like to use ICS on in order to allow lab computers temporary Internet access. I will report back on findings…

    • Interesting, yes please let us know. I will try it out on the Surface when I get a chance. Thanks.

      • Bro. Jose Rosario says:

        I’ve used ICS now on several occasions, sharing my wireless connection on the VivoTab out to the Belkin external Ethernet dongle I applied the ASIX driver to. It works! The only problem I have seen is my tablet has repeatedly rebooted while sharing the Internet out to 8 PCs at a time. I was not using the tablet during that period of time and I watched it blank out and restart a few times with my own eyes. Seems like it would work for 10 to 20 minutes and then crash. Details of the crashes were sent to Microsoft upon reboot.

  10. Suresh says:

    you saved me a lot! I am bout to frustrate why it is not working for my RT. 2nd result in the Bing takes to this blog and I am so lucky, it fixed the issue. I also purchased bought “Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Ultra-Mini Hub for my surface from “http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000Q8UAWY/ref=pe_175190_21431760_3p_M3T1_ST1_dp_1. Hoping that will work without any issues. it is still in shipping. Thanks!

  11. PeterD says:

    This totally worked on my Surface RT using a Lenovo USB ethernet connector (Model no. K33905), which uses the Asic AX887722A chip. Instead of lugging a laptop and ipad to work, I can just bring my Surface RT — thanks DigitalMan, you da man!!

  12. RedScare says:

    Upgraded to 8.1 (which is otherwise fantastic) and lost the ability to use my adapter as indicated in the update above.

    I’m hoping there is a way to work around this driver issue.

    • Me too! Nothing so far, and by the looks of it, it could mean the end of all hope for USB Ethernet on this device. :(

      • vadimzee says:

        I think you could by-pass driver signature verification in 8.1 – but I’m not sure about RT & 8.1. I just did it for another driver on my 8.1 laptop:
        1. Open Settings (move your mouse to the top or bottom right corner of the screen and wait for the charm bar to appear, then click the Gear icon)
        2. Click “Change PC Settings”
        3. Click “Update and Recovery”
        4. Select Recovery
        5. and click ‘Restart now’ under “Advanced startup”
        6. Click “Troubleshoot”
        7. Click “Advanced Options”
        8. Click ” Startup Settings”
        9. Click Restart
        10 When your computer restarts, select “Disable driver signature enforcement” from the list (7/F7)
        11. when Windows is restarted – proceed with the installation of drivers. Note that you will still need to answer install anyway for the unsigned driver to be allowed.
        12. Reboot
        When you reboot the computer, it will go back to normal mode and the device should appear normally in device management console and driver should work properly.

        Hope it helps

      • Thanks for this, but it does not work in RT. The option does not exist.

  13. Mike says:

    About your last update from 10/30/2013:
    How did you get it to work? I did a reset trying to remove 8.1 and saw your update about it working. After updating everything the axis adapter still appears with exclamation mark and doesn’t work. How can you force it to use the built in driver? Driver update doesn’t find any drivers for me.

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