Getting a good USB wireless adapter to work with Linux was problematic in the past but less so now with many available.
It is the chipset of a WiFi dongle that makes it compatible with Linux.
Popular USB adapters Chipsets include the Ralink 3070, Atheros AR9271, and Realtek 8187.
There are many good units available with some of our favorite picks below.
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a USB adapter is a good fit for your set up.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Our Picks for Top Linux Compatible USB Wireless Adapters
- Panda Wireless PAU09
- Alfa AWUS036ACH
- Panda PAU05
- TP-LINK Archer T4U
Panda Wireless PAU09 N600 Dual Band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wireless N USB Adapter W/Dual 5dBi Antennas – Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Mint, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, Centos, Kali Linux and Raspbian
Panda makes many good wireless dongles including the PAU09.
It has two 5dBi antennas to get good range and comes with a USB extender if needed.
A big plus is its Kali Linux compatible and can go into Monitor Mode.
The PAU09 is a dual Band 2.4Ghz/5Ghz adapter and uses the Ralink RT5572 Chipset.
The one downside is no 802.11ac support, as it is an 802.11n unit.
Still, its low-cost, good range, and wide compatibility make it a good Linux USB adapter.
Read Full Review Here
Alfa Long-Range Dual-Band AC1200 Wireless USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Adapter w/2x 5dBi External Antennas – 2.4GHz 300Mbps/5GHz 867Mbps – 802.11ac & A, B, G, N
The Alfa AWUS036ACH is a Wireless-AC unit built for fast WiFi speeds and distance.
It comes with two large antennas that greatly improve a wireless signal.
It uses the RTL8812AU Chipset which Kali Linux released Drivers for.
This is good news for anyone wanting to use the newer 802.11ac WiFi protocols with Linux.
During our test, it worked well with some impressive wireless speeds, 213Mbps Download, and 21Mbps Upload.
Alfa USB adapters are widely used in the Pen Testing community for their strong Chipsets, Linux compatibly, and screw on antennas that can be easily changed out for larger ones.
Panda 300Mbps Wireless N USB Adapter – Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, CentOS, Lubuntu, Zorin, Kali Linux and Raspbian Wheezy
The Panda PAU05 is a small Wireless-N USB dongle that works with many operating systems.
It is a small dongle so the range is not the best and it only works in the 2.4 GHz range with 802.11n.
While not the fastest or longest range dongle its ability to work with many operating systems make it a good low-cost choice for a Linux USB WiFi dongle.
TP-Link N150 Wireless High Gain USB Adapter (TL-WN722N)
UPDATE: The TL-WN722N chipset has changed with the new version 2 not able to go into monitor mode.
The TP-LINK TL-WN722N is used widely in the Pen testing Kali Linux community.
It works with the aircrack-ng suite and can go into monitor mode for testing a wireless network security.
A 4dBi External Antenna gives it better range than many smaller dongles.
Chipset Atheros AR9271
TP-Link AC1200 Wireless Dual Band USB Adapter (Archer T4U)
The TP-LINK Archer T4U is a dual-band 802.11ac USB adapter.
It uses the Realtek RTL8812AU chipset which many have had good results getting 802.11ac in the 5GHz range working with Linux.
Good 802.11ac USB dongles have been slow to come about and often require some setup for the drivers.
Here is a link to Realtek RTL8812AU chipset and Linux. https://github.com/abperiasamy/rtl8812AU_8821AU_linux
If you are looking for an easy setup than going with a known working wireless-N dongle would be better.
Chipset Realtek RTL8812AU
Dual Band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
A dongle with a large external antenna will have better range, the frequency can also matter.
Wireless dongles that transmit in the older 2.4 GHz frequency can transmit a signal better than the new 5 GHz band.
Radio waves can travel better at lower frequencies than higher frequencies giving the lower 2.4 GHz better range than 5 GHz.
5 GHz was opened up to WiFi in 2013 since the 2.4 GHz band has become overcrowded and full of signals.
In a crowded wireless environment, signals begin to collide which than needs them to be resent slowing down a network.
The new 802.11ax WiFi 6 protocol introduced in 2019 is the fastest WiFi protocol available.
Unfortunately, there are no 802.11ax WiFi 6 Linux adapters yet.
The 802.11ac protocol introduced in late 2013 is the fastest WiFi protocol available for adapters currently.
802.11ac can move data up-to a theoretical 5Gbps with the most common speed 1.3 gigabits per second (Gbps)
This gives it a huge advantage over Wireless-N the last WiFi protocol introduced, which can move data up-to 150/300 Mbps.
802.11ac only works in the 5 GHz band which means range would be sacrificed for faster speeds. Wireless-N is the only protocol that can work in both bands 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
802.11ac USB adapters with drivers written for the Linux have been slow to come about. There has been some good Linux compatibility with the Realtek RTL8812AU chipset and 802.11ac.
Being able to pen test with Linux is one of the benefits of using it.
Unfortunately not all USB adapter can pen test and go into monitor mode. The good news is there are some that can be used to pen test click here for our list of Linux Pen Testing USB Adapters.
When looking for an adapter that will work with Linux be sure to look at the chipset the adapter uses.
Also, beware of any changes to the chipset with new versions of an adapter and if the manufacturer has changed it.
While not common some manufacturers have been known to change an adapter chipset with new versions.
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure an adapter is a good fit for you and your setup.
I bought a usb wireless dongle from a trader on e-bay. The drivers did not install and I could not get it to work with linux. I tried it on my Windows 10 laptop and it worked straight away.
My wifi card on my linux PS failed so I tried a power line adapter. That worked very well. Unfortunately the power line adapter locked up my wireless network. I also tried a wifi booster with an ethernet cable and that works very well also. I now have two computers in the same room with versions of Ubuntu installed. One has no wireless card and is connected to the ethernet port of the wifi range extender. The other computer now has a replacement wifi card. The fastest download test results are achieved using the windows laptop with adapter set to 5g band. Next is Powerline on the linux pc, then wifi booster connected by ethernet to the PC.
Bought a random ebay jobby. Didn’t work.
sudo apt install git dkms build-essential
git clone https://github.com/cilynx/rtl88x2BU_WiFi_linux_v5.3.1_27678.20180430_COEX20180427-5959.git
sudo dkms add ./rtl88x2BU_WiFi_linux_v5.3.1_27678.20180430_COEX20180427-5959
sudo dkms install rtl88x2bu/5.3.1
Thank you for this.
thanks for the info!
I managed to installed the Brostrend AC3L linux wifi adapter on my Ubuntu 20.04, this one can works with kernel 5.4 now, I am glad to recommend this one on Amazon, good buy.
I recently bought the same but having trouble installing the drivers. Could you please help me. I can email you the details. much appreciated. thanks
BrosTrend Linux wifi adapter has just released its latest driver for Kernel 5.11 now, I can use it with my Ubuntu 21.04 now, cheers!
This has been great, thanks for the simple and straightforward write-up. Been using Ubuntu since fiesty fawn with the same machine. I love it… Untill I have to update. Every time I update I lose wireless and 50 / 50 I might lose support for graphics. It’s not like I have a high end system either, in fact, quite the opposite.
Thing is, I like the os (obviously) but it’s getting in its own way. Hoping that the right hardware combo alleviates this a bit.
I own the Alfa AWUS036ACH Being so highly recommended for Linux I thought it’d be easy to get info on installing the needed drivers. I am having no luck getting it to work and Google is no help. Why this unit comes with a 10 page installation booklet FOR WINDOWS but it does have the drivers for Linux as well on the included CD but no instructions for Linux.. Windows, REALLY? I think everyone knows how to press “Next” and “I agree” to install anything on Windows. Linux? GOOD LUCK….
Can anyone point me in the right direction to get this to work on a Linux Ubuntu 20.04 or an 18.04? It shows up on lsusb but not ifconfig or iwconfig. It works because I’m using it on my windows desktop and it also works on my Ubuntu running Kali in vertual box but not on Ubuntu??????
Better off buying a set of powerline ethernet adapters and hardwiring one to your Linux PC
Unfortunately, true. One guy posts he spent a couple of hours and gave up? Lightweight! I’ve been bashing my brains on Linux as a desktop for years. What can you do? You gonna let MS rip your life to shreds? I’m trying to save mine now by dog-paddling in the ridiculous mess of complexity and inconvenience of Linux on the Desktop rather than drowning in the ridiculous mess of complexity, inconvenience – and malevolence, that Windows has become….
I couldn’t agree more. Windows updates keep blowing up my computer. Downloaded Linux Mint. Elegant and professional, but no wifi. I’m not talking no driver, I’m talking no wireless capability period! I love Linux Lite, but not very powerful. I download Mint and can’t use it. Why don’t I just buy a rubick’s cube? It would be less frustrating than this! I love the guys that develop the free OS and I thank them. I’ll even give them a donation if I ever get this damn thing to work!
I fought with wireless for a VERY LONG time & one day, just for giggles picked up a WiFi Extender that had also had an Ethernet port. Trained up the Extender (plugged in about 2′ from PC), plugged in a Cat5 (Extender to PC) and got blazing fast speeds. Speed of your Ethernet will only be limited by 1.) bandwidth purchased from ISP 2.) Speed of the WiFi Extender (so don’t go cheap)
I will never fight with this EVER AGAIN!!
Hope this helps,
I have not actually tried this yet but it makes the best sense to me.
I never have issues plugging into internet with a cable in Linux Mint Cinnamon.
Mint 19 was fine with both of my internal PCI wifi cards but for the life of me I cannot connect to my wifi in MInt 20 even though the drivers are OK and it detects my hotspot too.
I was just about to go and buy a new PCI card but now I’m going to buy the extender for 15 bucks more and just plug it into my ethernet port which I never use.
This will also free up a PCI slot and make my PC cooler.
The old cards that worked fine with MInt Cinnamon 19 are outdated anyway.
Many thanks for publishing this list. It was very helpful to me in focusing my research and helping me to make a buying decision.
Support for the rtl8812au chipset ended with Kernel 3.10, meaning that you have to manually compile and install the drivers if you want to use it on anything newer…
Finding out that even if a Linux distro detects your internal card. That doesn’t mean its going to work as well as in Windows. Let’s face it, most drivers for Linux are imitations created to emulate proprietary drivers. Sometimes they work well, sometimes not so much. Nice to see some USB wireless options because without wireless on a laptop its really not worth having linux. One laptop I have simply won’t work well with linux, spent hours trying to tweak the wireless driver. Sadly, I just went back to Windows. Trouble with USB wireless is the obvious, you loose a usb port and you have a dongle hanging off the side of your laptop. Of course some PC makers lock hardware to bios so your choices of hardware is limited to what that model can use. Much of my linux use falls into older desktop PC’s trying to get a couple more years out of them. Linux generally runs very well on older hardware.
How can I turn on monitor mode for TP-LINK Archer T4U?
The posted drivers are useless.
The T4U can not go into monitor mode. The TP-LINK TL-WN722N can and is a popular option for Pen testing. Alfa also makes many good monitor mode compatible units.
Can I turn on monitor mode for TP-LINK Archer T4UH?
Looking for the best dongle with an RF coaxial connector for attaching to an external outdoor 2.4ghz omni array, and to my AspireONE Netbook running Debian Squeeze as a WLAN Server in my RV.
I might be willing to upgrade the OS to the latest Ubuntu, but backing up the current data would be a LONG and tedious burning process…
I’d rather not…
Input please ? And Thanks…
affter having upgraded my previous Wheezy to Jessie, I want to ask, WHY are you running Squeeze? I am running a 10 year old desktop. it was one of the very few available 64 bit AMDs at the time. I also had to have it custom ordered and beg to get a 64 bit version of winDOHs for it. (Yes, at that point in time I knew nothing of Linux or anything other than the commodore, Macintosh,Windows (MS)DOS, and proDOS I had used, sadly.
My friend. What Ubuntu version are you at?
The LTS is Long Term Support and is easy to upgrade within the same LTS.
Upgrading one LTS to a newer is also possible.
(I’m using Arch Linux and Debian and have not tried *buntu in a -long- time)
Hi, Do you know something about D-Link DWA-192 Is it compatible with linux? I found “https://github.com/sbosshardt/rtl8814AU” so I think yes, but I’m not sure. Maybe you tested it?
TP-Link TL-WN822N can gone to monitor mode or not
I just have a comment on the TP-Link Archer T4U adapter, the V3 version of the device actually uses the chipset rtl8812BU and not AU. I faced a problem trying to get it working in Kali Linux, but as soon as i identified the correct chipset, it worked like a charm. Here is the code for installation of the drivers
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y install wget dkms
tar -zxvf rtl88x2BU_WiFi_linux_v5.3.1_27678.20180430_COEX20200205-5960.tar.gz
sudo dkms add ./rtl88x2BU_WiFi_linux_v5.3.1_27678.20180430_COEX20200205-5960
sudo dkms install -m rtl88x2bu -v 5.3.1
sudo modprobe 88x2bu
Planing to buy TP-Link Archer T4U V3 for Kali Linux as this devices is available in my area (other devises I need to order online which we takes 3-4 weeks). As per your comments I am very happy hear that you have mentioned this worked like charm. Can you please let me know I can use this device for Monitor Mode, Packet Injection and AP. (I am a newbie)
Thank you, I ordered the Alpha Long range based on your recommendations — via the applied link. Thanks.
With the Atheros chipset you’ll be limited to 7 connected clients. That’s why I switched to RTL8812AU and I’m very happy with it.
Is there a wireless adapter for Linux Mint (cinnamon), that doesn’t first need the computer connected to a wired connection? I know there are plenty for Windows computers.
Linksys AE6000 work’s on a Imac , Dell E5400 and Dell E6430 for me
I have tried several USB WiFi cards with the Latest Linux Mint 19.3, and I can personally vouch for 3 of them. The first is Netgear WN111v2 N300 (available on eBay for around $10 or less), and two TP-Link USB dongles — the N150 Nano and N300 that are both available on-line new from Frys.com and probably others for around $10 and $15 respectively. All three have worked via Live CD use/installation of Linux Mint 64-bit for me. I also have the Archer T4U 802.11AC device, but had to install a driver for that to get it to work.