Kali Linux and Aircrack-ng are the most commonly used software, with some other options also available.
Finding a good USB WiFi adapter is necessary since most dongles can not go into Monitor Mode and do the things that wireless Pen Testing needs.
What Makes a Kali Linux USB Adapter Compatible?
The Chipset and Drivers written for a card are what make a USB dongle compatible with Kali.
Wireless Penetration Testing requires a card that can go into Monitor Mode and do Packet Injections; most cards cant do this.
There are known chipsets that will work with Monitor Mode and Pen testing.
Most Popular Linux Pen Testing Monitor Mode Wireless Chipsets
- Atheros AR9271
- Ralink RT3070
- Ralink RT3572
- Ralink RT5572
- Realtek RTL8812AU
- Ralink RT5370N
- MediaTek MT7610U
One thing to keep in mind is occasionally, although rare, manufacturers can change the chipset in an adapter.
This happens when a new, updated version of the adapter is introduced. Although it doesn’t happen, often it has happened in the past with popular dongles.
Below is a list of the most popular USB adapters that work with Kali or other software that needs a USB adapter to go into monitor mode.
They also will work with almost any Linux Distro that requires a wireless card to go into monitor mode.
Best Kali Linux Pen Testing USB Adapters 2023
- Alfa AWUS036ACH
- TP-Link TL-WN722N (Version 1 Only)
- Alfa AWUS036NHA
- ALFA AWUS036ACS
- Alfa AWUS036NH
- Panda PAU09
- Panda PAU05
- Alfa AWUS036NEH
- Alfa AWUS051NH
- Alfa AWUS036ACHM
Linux USB Adapters Comparison Table
|TP-Link TL-WN722N V1||Atheros AR9271||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Alfa AWUS036NHA||Atheros AR9271||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Alfa AWUS036NH||Ralink RT3070||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Panda PAU09||Ralink RT5572||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Panda PAU05||Ralink RT5572||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Alfa AWUS036NEH||Ralink RT3070||2.4GHz||802.11N||External|
|Alfa AWUS051NH||Ralink RT3572||2.4GHz/5Ghz||802.11N||External|
|Alfa AWUS036ACHM||MediaTek MT7610U||2.4GHz/5Ghz||802.11AC||External|
|Alfa AWUS036H||Realtek 8187L||2.4GHz||802.11G||External|
USB Adapters that use the Ralink RT5572 chipset
USB Adapters that use the Ralink RT3070 Chipset
USB Adapters that use the Atheros AR9271 Chipset
TP-LINK TL-WN722N Chipset Change
TP-Link has released a new Version 2 of the TL-WN722N which does not work with Kali and Pen testing.
The Chipset for the TP-LINK TL-WN722N Version 2 has changed. If a TL-WN722N is bought be sure it is a Version 1.
USB Adapters that use the RT3572 Chipset
USB Adapters that use the Realtek RTL8812AU Chipset
The Alfa AWUS036ACH has 802.11ac Drivers that allows it to go into Monitor Mode.
The Driver may need to be loaded with the command “apt-get install realtek-rtl88xxau-dkms”.
USB Adapters that use the MediaTek MT7610U Chipset
If you are new to Kali Linux and wireless Pen Testing finding the right USB adapter can be confusing at first.
Any of the above adapters will work with Kali, and it comes down to which one is right for your setup.
For example, if you are using Windows with VMware to run Kali, the adapter will have to be Windows compatible.
Some may want a longer range adapter to get a signal from farther away which an adapter with a bigger dBi antenna would be better with range.
Big adapters with big antennas are not very stealthy in which case a small USB adapter may be the better option.
For those who simply want to get started with Kali getting the cheapest dongle would be best.
If you have a USB adapter that works well with Kali let us know in the comments.