Last year, we wrote that older macOS drivers, known as System Extensions (KEXTs), would begin to be deprecated as of the macOS 10.15 Catalina release. This week, as macOS 11 Big Sur is released, KEXTs have officially been deprecated and are no longer functional.
Instead, Apple is now enforcing the requirement for devices that require third-party drivers to operate as DriverKit Extensions (DEXTs). This change affects many products across the consumer electronics industry, including Docking Stations, USB peripherals, Security/Anti-Virus software, and Networking adapters.
Luckily, most platform vendors and integrated circuit (IC) manufacturers have been prepared for this change and began working on their DEXT implementation after Apple released pertinent documentation at their WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) in June 2019.
Unfortunately, some vendors could not begin their full transition from KEXT to DEXT until this year. Not all pertinent DriverKit documentation was released at the 2019 event as expected, but, instead, was released at WWDC 2020 in June. Specifically, for Plugable and many other brands, this applies to ASIX-based USB Ethernet Adapters like our USB3-E1000, USBC-E1000, USB2-E1000, and USB2-E100, which we wrote about here for the release of macOS 10.15 Catalina:
Current Status for ASIX-based Ethernet Adapters [Novemeber 13, 2020]
We began removing macOS support from our most popular wired network adapters (USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000) in October 2019. We saw the continued potential for a poor or broken user experience with ASIX-based adapters on macOS and could not in good conscience market the adapters as fully compatible in the long-term as long as ASIX was unwilling to commit to continued development and support of their ICs on macOS.
We have continued to push ASIX for a DEXT beta driver to validate and test internally in the past year. Unfortunately, ASIX has been unable to deliver this solution as requested in anticipation of this significant macOS milestone. We expect a Beta driver from ASIX by the end of November for AX88179 products like the USB3-E1000 and USBC-E1000. Once the driver is validated, we will update this blog post and product driver pages with links to download the driver.
If a wired Ethernet connection is critical to your workflow, Plugable recommends not updating to macOS 11 Big Sur from macOS 10.15 Catalina.
At this time, Plugable is unable to provide a DEXT driver for the following products:
USB3-E1000 IC: AX88179
USBC-E1000 IC: AX88179
USB2-E1000 IC: AX88178 (ASIX has discontinued the IC in this product, and they have not committed to a compatible driver for macOS 11 Big Sur)
The USB2-E100 IC: AX88772 ASIX-based product continues to function, utilizing the in-box drivers in macOS.
We understand this news can be frustrating for our customers and is a situation we have been working to avoid for over one year. We will update this blog post as new information is available to us.
While we cannot promise a functional DEXT driver at any point in the future, if you would like to be notified of that news should it occur, please sign-up on the form below, and we will email everyone as soon as it is available.
Are Ethernet Adapters from other brands affected by this OS update?
Yes, all brands of USB Ethernet Adapters that use ASIX chips and drivers are affected. This includes Amazon, Anker, Dell, Uni, UGREEN, Cable Matters, etc. Regardless of brand, if the adapter uses ASIX USB to Ethernet technology for a network connection, it will no longer function as expected after updating to macOS 11.
Has Apple permanently disabled ASIX Support?
Not that we know of, but ASIX is required to develop and release a DEXT that is notarized and approved through an Apple Developer certification process.
What is ASIX doing?
While the core issue is a change to low-level macOS processes that are out of ASIX’s hands, they have ultimately failed to deliver a compatible DEXT solution promptly for consumers.
We have continuously requested progress reports and Beta driver candidates for internal testing with the intention of a public release for macOS 11 Big Sur since June 2019. Still, we have not been provided with a viable solution for consumers as of November 13, 2020. We expect a viable and compatible driver by the end of the month.
ASIX has provided a temporary solution that requires end-users to disable macOS System Integrity Protection (SIP) to install their DEXT candidate, but this is not a friendly user-experience in addition to the risk to overall system security and protection from physical and digital threats. Thus, we will not be actively promoting this solution to our customers.
Suppose a customer requires continued usage of this adapter for a mission-critical scenario and would like to install this driver while simultaneously disabling SIP. In that case, a minimally-tested driver is available from ASIX here. The usage of this driver is not recommended by Plugable and is at your own risk.
Is there a way for users or organizations to request that Apple or ASIX fix the issue?
Apple’s change was delivered with plenty of notice and time for the development of compliant DEXT drivers, so there is nothing for Apple to “fix.”
ASIX provides multiple support channels, including direct contact and support forums here, but we would not recommend reaching out to them directly. We are in continual conversation with them and are pushing for a viable solution as soon as possible.
Is this a temporary or permanent situation?
We don’t know. We understand that the current situation will be extremely frustrating for our customers. We are taking every step we can with ASIX. We will update this blog post with updates as we have them.
Are there any other options to add a wired network connection to my macOS 11 system?
Yes! Wired Ethernet solutions utilizing common Realtek ICs are fully functional as they rely on drivers built into the OS and require no further installation from an end-user.