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morrownr/USB-WiFi: USB WiFi Adapter Information for Linux

2021-07-20

Disclaimer: The authors and contributors to this site cannot be responsible for the results of your use of the information contained in or linked from this site. We attempt to provide accurate information but many factors that are beyond our control can contribute to less than expected results. You are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and applicability of any information you use to make a decision.

Foreword: There are many USB WiFi adapters that work without the need to install a driver in Linux. These adapters use drivers that are already in the kernel and are maintained in the kernel. The term in-kernel is used in this document when referring to drivers that are already in the kernel. With adapters that use in-kernel drivers, simply plug the adapter in and it will work. Many people find that using adapters with in-kernel drivers is a better solution than buying an adapter that requires drivers to be found, downloaded, compiled, installed, fixed and reinstalled.

What’s new?

The Short List – Superstar USB WiFi Adapters for Linux

The Low Cost List

Mục Lục

USB WiFi Adapter Information for Linux (including links to specific plug and play adapters)

USB WiFi adapters provide flexibility as they are easily moved from one location to another and from one computer to another and can even be taken on the road. They come in models for USB 2 and USB 3. Some of the larger adapters work well for desktop use and the smaller adapters, including “nano” adapters, work well for laptops and travel. It is important that you pick an adapter to match the expected usage. If you are going to be traveling with the adapter, the adapters with long antennas may not not work well as the adapter may be broken. On the other hand, if you need an adapter for a desktop system that is on the other end of the house from your AP/Router, you probably need the better signal capability of the larger antennas. Researching the issue before buying is a good idea.

Linux enjoys very good in-kernel hardware support in many areas but in-kernel support is somewhat limited when it comes to USB WiFi adapters. The main reason for the limited support is that there are only 2 companies supplying chipsets for USB Wifi adapters – Mediatek and Realtek. Intel is not supplying USB capable chipsets and Atheros is not supplying modern USB capable chipsets. Of the two suppliers that do provide USB Wifi chipsets, Mediatek supports drivers for their chipsets the right way, in-kernel. Mediatek drivers are Linux Wireless standards compliant and are updated constantly without users having to worry about it. Realtek does not support their modern USB Wifi chipsets with in-kernel drivers. Realtek does make non-standards compliant Linux drivers but does not publically release them or take problem reports. A very limited number of vendors post Realtek USB WiFi drivers at very irregular intervals. These drivers are released in source code format and must be compiled to be used. The Realtek drivers do not keep up with the needed changes as new kernels are released. This job seems to rest with folks like myself in the community. Am I a fan of how the Realtek USB team supports the Linux community? No. What do I recommend? Buy adapters based on chipsets from the company that is doing it right – Mediatek. The biggest problem most Linux users have when looking to purchase a USB WiFi adapter is being able to reliably identify which adapters have in-kernel support and that is really the reason for this site. Spreading this information far and wide is key to having happy Linux users so please do spread this information.

This document attempts to identify currently available adapters that use in-kernel driver support. Links are provided to online products. Information regarding out-of-kernel drivers and their quality is also provided. The hope is that this information is of benefit to Linux users, experienced and new. Links to products from a wide variety of retailers are provided and we welcome you to send additional links that can be included. The chipsets are shown in each category and if you are able to find an adapter with the listed chipset, even if it is not an adapter that is specifically listed, it should work.

Linux Wireless – Mediatek is a good place to get an idea of the various Mediatek wifi chipsets that are supported in the Linux kernel. If you want to look in the kernel to see the drivers, look here.

Warning: It is common for online retailers to post “Linux support.” It is best to ignore “Linux support” in online ads as this statement is often misleading at best and false at worst. Most inexperienced users do not understand that the Linux kernel is under constant development which makes it necessary for drivers to be regularly updated in order to work on newer kernels. Out-of-kernel drivers sitting on a CD do not get regular updates. Rule of thumb: Never attempt to install a Linux driver from a CD. The driver will be old and will likely do nothing more than make a mess of your system. Remember that sudo is a weapon of mass destruction if used without knowing what you are doing. Another rule of thumb: Don’t take hardware advice from Windows and MAC users. All major Linux distributions have active forums with users ready to give advice. Don’t take advice from a single user but seek advice from several users and always ask if the adapter uses in-kernel drivers.

Note: Some USB WiFi adapters have proprietary Windows drivers onboard. When plugged in, they act like a flash drive or CDROM and on Windows will attempt to start installing the Windows driver. That won’t work on Linux or MAC or any other non-Windows OS so the adapter sits there in flash drive or CDROM mode. The problem is that the state of the adapter has to be changed for the adapter to show up as the device that you expect, in this case, a WiFi adapter. Most modern Linux distributions ship with a utility called “usb-modeswitch” that will handle this issue for you if it has the correct information for your adapter. It is a good utility but if you buy adapters that are “multi-state,” that is one more potential headache you may have to deal with when something goes wrong. Often you can indentify adapters that are “multi-state” as they are advertised as “free driver” or “free installation driver.” If you are looking to buy a USB WiFi adapter for use on Linux, MAC OS, *NIX or anything besides Windows, it is a good idea to give preference to single-state adapters.

Note: I will not list any products made by TP-Link and D-Link. Both companies regularly change chipsets while keeping the same model number on their products. This makes it very difficult for Linux users to buy a product with a specific chipset with any degree of certainty. Their Linux support is very poor as their product support sites generally only contain very old Linux drivers that won’t work with modern distros… if they post any drivers at all. We know that Linux cannot be properly supported like that. This is sad because both companies have made a lot of money from Linux by using it inside many of their products, yet they do not return the support. My recommendation is to avoid TP-Link and D-Link products.

Note: Adapters made by two companies need to be highlighted. Every single USB adapter that Panda makes is supported by Linux in-kernel drivers. The quality and reliability of most Panda and almost all Alfa adapters is good… really good. Not all Alfa adapters use in-kernel drivers. Most of the Alfa adapters that do use in-kernel drivers are listed below. Products by both companies are widely available.

WPA-3 SAE support: I completed testing of selected adapters today (2120-04-27). I tested adapters ranging from N150 to AC1200. It appears that all of the adapters listed here that use Mediatek/Ralink and Athros chipsets and in-kernel drivers are working well regarding WPA-3. Keep in mind that your Linux distro must support WPA-3 for WPA-3 to work.

USB extention cables with cradles can be very useful with USB WiFi adapters as they will allow you to position the adapter for best performance. Cables for USB2 and USB3 are available. The following cables are shown as examples:

StarTech.com 5ft USB 2.0 Extension Cable

Cablecc USB 3.0 Type-A Male to Female Extension Dock Station Docking Cable

Important: Price and availability of listed adapters is subject to change. Updating the list of adapters does take a considerable amount of time. I try to complete a review of the links at least once per month. This site has increased in popularity to the point that readers of this site may cause inventory problems for some sellers at times so you may need to wait for inventory to be refreshed. To help with this problem, I have listed multiple links from multiple sellers for some products. If you see any problems, please post in Issues.

Market Conditions: 2021-06-16 – I have been seeing product shortages and a lot of variability in pricing, mostly to the up side. The global shortage of chips caused by fab plants being shut down for periods during 2020 and the inadequate investment in new fab plants for many years has led to tight markets, high and rising prices for some products and shortages of some products. This may continue for some time…possibly into 2023. If you are on a budget, you might want to consider used adapters as they are available.

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Dual Band USB WiFi Adapters that are supported with Linux in-kernel drivers

AC1200 / AC1300 – USB 3 – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz (WIFI 5)

chipset - Mediatek mt7612u/mt7612un - supported in-kernel since Linux kernel 4.19mt7612u info
>=====>  ALFA AWUS036ACM  <=====<

Note: 2021-06-30 – Rokland sent an email out today that says the ALFA AWUS036ACM is back in stock. There have been inventory problems with several vendors of this adapter lately. This adapter is VERY popular with Linux users.

Rokland – $35 USD – ALFA AWUS036ACM 802.11ac Dual Band USB WiFi Adapter – Info: free shipping and no tax outside of Florida. Ships to Canada and US.

ebay – $35 USD – Alfa AWUS036ACM 802.11ac 867 Mbps Long Range WiFi USB Adapter Ships Worldwide from US.

Amazon – $37 USD – Alfa AWUS036ACM Long-Range Dual-Band AC1200 USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Adapter [1]

Google Shopping – $35-$41 USD – ALFA AWUS036ACM Dual-Band Network Adapter

ebay – $51 USD – Alfa AWUS036ACM 802.11ac Dual Band 2.4/5 GHz Mimo WiFi Kali Linux Compatible

Alfa AWUS036ACM Technical information
Supported interface modes
* IBSS
* managed
* AP
* AP/VLAN
* monitor
* mesh point
* P2P-client
* P2P-GO
VHT Capabilities (0x318001b0)
Supported commands:
* new_interface
* set_interface
* new_key
* start_ap
* new_station
* new_mpath
* set_mesh_config
* set_bss
* authenticate
* associate
* deauthenticate
* disassociate
* join_ibss
* join_mesh
* remain_on_channel
* set_tx_bitrate_mask
* frame
* frame_wait_cancel
* set_wiphy_netns
* set_channel
* tdls_mgmt
* tdls_oper
* probe_client
* set_noack_map
* register_beacons
* start_p2p_device
* set_mcast_rate
* connect
* disconnect
* channel_switch
* set_qos_map
* set_multicast_to_unicast
Supported interface combinations
* #{ IBSS } <= 1, #{ managed, AP, mesh point, P2P-client, P2P-GO } <= 2,
  total <= 2, #channels <= 1, STA/AP BI must match
Supported extended features:
* [ VHT_IBSS ]: VHT-IBSS
* [ RRM ]: RRM
* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
* [ TXQS ]: FQ-CoDel-enabled intermediate TXQs
* [ AIRTIME_FAIRNESS ]: airtime fairness scheduling
* [ AQL ]: Airtime Queue Limits (AQL)
* [ SCAN_RANDOM_SN ]: use random sequence numbers in scans
* [ SCAN_MIN_PREQ_CONTENT ]: use probe request with only rate IEs in scans
* [ CONTROL_PORT_NO_PREAUTH ]: disable pre-auth over nl80211 control port support
* [ DEL_IBSS_STA ]: deletion of IBSS station support
* [ SCAN_FREQ_KHZ ]: scan on kHz frequency support
* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211_TX_STATUS ]: tx status for nl80211 control port support
hostapd.conf:
* ht_capab=[LDPC][HT40+][HT40-][GF][SHORT-GI-20][SHORT-GI-40][TX-STBC][RX-STBC1]
* vht_capab=[RXLDPC][SHORT-GI-80][TX-STBC-2BY1][RX-STBC-1][MAX-A-MPDU-LEN-EXP3][RX-ANTENNA-PATTERN][TX-ANTENNA-PATTERN]
Device ID: 0e8d:7612
usb-modeswitch not required. This is a single state device.
WPA-3 SAE: yes
Power requirement: Heavy load: ~380 mA

Review by Nick – The Alfa AWUS036ACM is an excellent product. It is mid-priced, well made and works well in managed mode, master mode and monitor mode. It is a very solid, stable performer in 5 GHz AP mode. It supports 80 MHz channel width in AP mode and can sustain 400+ Mb/s as measured by iperf3. It runs cool and uses a maximum of only about 380 mA power when under heavy load. I use one in the wifi router/access point that I built. Works so well with the Raspberry Pi 4B, 3B+ and 3B, it is almost like it was designed specifically for that hardware. You really need to use it with a Raspberry Pi 4b so as to get the full througput capability. It works well with desktop systems (an extention cable with cradle is helpful). It also works well with laptop systems. This adapter is a high quality product with good range and is plug and play in all of the modern distros of Linux. Highly recommended.

>=====>  TEROW ROW02FD  <=====<

Amazon – $16 USD – TEROW ROW02FD AC1200 USB 3 WiFi Adapter 5G/2.4G 802.11 AC [1]

Amazon – $14 USD – TEROW ROW02FD USB WiFi Adapter 1200M USB 3.0 5DBI Wireless Network Adapter

ebay – $23 USD – TEROW ROW02FD AC1200M USB WiFi Adapter for PC/Desktop/Laptop 5.8G/2.4G

TEROW ROW02FD Technical information
Supported interface modes
* IBSS
* managed
* AP
* AP/VLAN
* monitor
* mesh point
Supported interface combinations
* #{ IBSS } <= 1, #{ managed, AP, mesh point, P2P-client, P2P-GO } <= 2,
  total <= 2, #channels <= 1, STA/AP BI must match
Supported extended features:
* [ VHT_IBSS ]: VHT-IBSS
* [ RRM ]: RRM
* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
* [ TXQS ]: FQ-CoDel-enabled intermediate TXQs
hostapd.conf:
* ht_capab=[LDPC][HT40+][HT40-][GF][SHORT-GI-20][SHORT-GI-40][TX-STBC][RX-STBC1]
* vht_capab=[RXLDPC][SHORT-GI-80][TX-STBC-2BY1][RX-STBC-1][MAX-A-MPDU-LEN-EXP3][RX-ANTENNA-PATTERN][TX-ANTENNA-PATTERN]
Device ID: 0e8d:7612
usb-modeswitch required. This is a multi-state device.
WPA-3 SAE: yes
Power requirement: Heavy load: ~380 mA

Review by Nick – The TEROW ROW02FD works very well with the Raspberry Pi 4B, 3B+ and 3B. I have tested it with various desktop and laptop systems. The cost of this adapter is very low. The performance and quality of the materials used and capabilities of this adapter are not quite as good as the Alfa AWUS036ACM but that is to be expected since the Alfa AWUS036ACM is a more expensive, premium quality adapter. My experience is that this adapter does provide good stable performance. In fact, during my testing, it outperformed in link quality and signal level vs. a similar adapter based on a rtl8812bu chipset when plugged into the same USB3 port and connected to the same wifi router.

Additional information about the TEROW ROW02FD – 2021-04-04 – The Raspberry Pi OS, Kali and the current stable version of Debian, as of this date, need a couple of files edited in order for this adapter to work automatically. For more information, see How to Modeswitch. To clarify: Most Linux users will never know that this adapter is multi-state because the usb-modeswitch utility is installed and active on almost all modern Linux distros so the above adapter will “just work.” The only modern Linux distros that I am aware of that have this problem with this spectifc adapter are the Raspberry Pi OS, Kali and Debian stable and that is due to some parts of the OS being somewhat dated at this point. As the OS is updated this problem will go away.

>=====>  Netgear A6210  <=====<

ebay – $23 USD – NETGEAR AC1200 USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Adapter – A6210-10000S

Walmart – $36 USD – NETGEAR AC1200 Dual Band Wifi USB Adapter (A6210-100PAS)

Amazon – $32-$74 USD – NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi USB Adapter High Gain Dual Band USB 3.0 (A6210)

Best Buy – $55 USD – NETGEAR – AC1200 Dual-Band WiFi USB 3.0 Adapter – Black

Netgear A6210 Technical information
Supported interface modes
* IBSS
* managed
* AP
* AP/VLAN
* monitor
* mesh point
VHT Capabilities (0x318001b0)
Supported interface combinations
* #{ IBSS } <= 1, #{ managed, AP, mesh point } <= 2,
  total <= 2, #channels <= 1, STA/AP BI must match
Supported extended features:
* [ VHT_IBSS ]: VHT-IBSS
* [ RRM ]: RRM
* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
* [ TXQS ]: FQ-CoDel-enabled intermediate TXQs
Device ID: 0846:9053
usb-modeswitch not required. This is a single state device.
WPA-3 SAE: yes
Power requirement: Heavy load: ~420 mA

Review by Nick – The Netgear A6210 is a good product. I enjoy using it. It is mid-priced, well made and works well in managed mode, master mode and monitor mode. It is an adapter that is designed to be portable and, as such, has a shorter range than adapters with larger antennas. It comes with a good quality USB3 extention cable plus cradle. It is a stable performer. I have noted that it runs a little warm but not so warm that it will cause problems. Users looking for a portable AC1200 adapter that uses an in-kernel driver and has good performance over short to medium distances should be happy with this adapter.

>=====>  COMFAST CF-WU782AC  <=====<

AliExpress – $20 USD – Comfast USB 3.0 Wireless Wifi Adapter Dual Band 2.4+5 GHz 150 -1300 Mbps 802.11AC 802.11 a/b/n/g/ac with 2*6dbi Antennas

Comfast – $28 USD – COMFAST CF-WU782AC 5.8GHz USB 3.0 WiFi 1300Mbps 802.11ac Long Distance Adapter

Walmart – $29 USD – COMFAST CF-WU782AC

Review by soyersoyer – The COMFAST CF-WU782AC works well with my RasPi4b (and hostapd). I had to use the disable_usb_sg=1 parameter. I like this setup because it can route near gigabit speeds. My mobile devices have 300-500mbit/s download speed too, it has guest wifi, and I can easily switch to a newer wifi adapter later. The rpi runs kodi, a shairport server and a bluetooth sound receiver server too. I bought the wifi adapter from AliExpress.

Additional information about the COMFAST CF-WU782AC – it is a multi-state adapter so it does require usb-modeswitch. 2021-04-04 – The Raspberry Pi OS, Kali and the current stable version of Debian, as of this date, need a couple of files edited in order for this adapter to work automatically. For more information, see How to Modeswitch. To clarify: Most Linux users will never know that this adapter is multi-state because the usb-modeswitch utility is installed and active on almost all modern Linux distros so the above adapter will “just work.” The only modern Linux distros that I am aware of that have this problem with this spectifc adapter are the Raspberry Pi OS, Kali and Debian stable and that is due to some parts of the OS being somewhat dated at this point. As the OS is updated this problem will go away.

— Links to additional adapters that are based on the mt7612u or mt7612un chipsets —

Important: The following links are for adapters where I have limited information but either the ad or driver download or both indicates the adapter is based on the mt7612u or mt7612un chipsets. However, online ads often contain bad information so please take your time and research each with care before buying and make sure you can return the adapter if it is not the right product. Please report success or failure so that the information can be included here.

>=====>  COMFAST CF-WU785AC  <=====<  (Worth a click just to see what a beast it is!)

Walmart – $32 – Zewfffr COMFAST CF-WU785AC 1300M WiFi Adapter USB 3.0 4 Antennas Wireless Receiver

ebay – $25 USD – 1300Mbps 2.4G/5G Dual Band USB 3.0 WiFi Adapter w/Antenna for Desktop/Mac/Laptop

AliExpress – $22 USD – Comfast 1300Mbps WI-FI Receiver 4*6dBi Dual Band Antenna Driver-Free Long Range Network Card 2.4&5GHz Desktop Adapter CF-WU785AC

>=====>  COMFAST CF-7500AC-V2  <=====<  (This adapter looks like a UFO!)

AliExpress – $28 USD – Comfast USB3.0 Wireless Network Wifi Card 1300Mbps Free Driver Dual Band 6dbi Antennas High Power Wifi Adapter CF-7500AC-V2

Comfast – $58 USD – Gigabit Wireless WiFi Adapter 5G High Power Dual wifi Antenna 6dB 1300Mbps Wireless Network Card USB WiFi Receiver Adaptador

>=====>  TEROW ROW02CD <=====<

Amazon – $14 USD – TEROW ROW02CD AC1200M USB WiFi Adapter for PC/Desktop/Laptop 5.8G/2.4G 5dBi Dual Band Wireless Network Adapter USB 3.0

— Various —

AliExpress – $20 USD – New arrival Black MT7612U 1200Mbps 2.4Ghz/5Ghz Dual Band USB WiFi Dongle wifi modem

Walmart – $24 USD – Winnereco Dual Band USB 3.0 WiFi Receiver 1200M MT7612U Gigabit Wireless Network Card

ebay – $17 USD – 1200Mbps Long Range AC1200 Dual Band 5GHz Wireless USB 3.0 WiFi Adapter

Request: If you own or are aware of other adapters that use the mt7612u or mt7612un chipset, please let me know by posting in Issues.

Note: Indications are that all adapters below this line are “single-state”

AC580 / AC600 – USB 2 – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz (WIFI 5)

chipset - Mediatek mt7610u - supported in-kernel since Linux kernel 4.19

Note: As of 04-24-2021, Raspberry Pi OS, Debian stable and Kali Linux do not ship with the firmware for the mt7610u chipset. It is an oversite. It has been reported to Debian and has been fixed but the fix will not show up until the next Debian stable is released. In the meantime, users can download the firmware file called mt7610u.bin from…

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https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/firmware/linux-firmware.git/tree/mediatek

Create the needed directory: $ sudo mkdir /lib/firmware/mediatek
Copy the file to the new directory: $ sudo cp mt7610u.bin /lib/firmware/mediatek
Reboot: $ sudo reboot
=====> ALFA AWUS036ACHM <=====

Note: A problem with the Alfa AWUS036ACHM was very recently discovered. The problem
appears in managed mode and shows as the inability to consistently scan 5 GHz APs.
If you "rock" the software WiFi of/off switch you can get the 5 GHz APs to show
eventually and once selected, everything works. My recommendation is on hold until
this issue is sorted out. FYI: This issue appears to be adapter specific in that
the Linksys AE6000 and Cable Matters 202043 do not show the same problem.

Rokland – $40 USD – ALFA AWUS036ACHM 802.11ac Dual Band High Power Mediatek MT7610U WiFi USB Adapter [1]

Amazon – $50 USD – Alfa AWUS036ACHM 802.11ac WiFi Range Boost USB Adapter

Varia – $36 EUR – Alfa – AWUS036ACHM – 802.11ac WiFi Range Boost USB Adapter

Alfa AWUS036ACHM Technical information
Supported interface modes:
 * IBSS
 * managed
 * AP
 * AP/VLAN
 * monitor
 * mesh point
 * P2P-client
 * P2P-GO
Valid interface combinations:
 * #{ IBSS } <= 1, #{ managed, AP, mesh point } <= 2,
   total <= 2, #channels <= 1, STA/AP BI must match
Supported extended features:
 * [ VHT_IBSS ]: VHT-IBSS
 * [ RRM ]: RRM
 * [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
 * [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
 * [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
 * [ TXQS ]: FQ-CoDel-enabled intermediate TXQs
 * [ AIRTIME_FAIRNESS ]: airtime fairness scheduling
 * [ AQL ]: Airtime Queue Limits (AQL)
 * [ SCAN_RANDOM_SN ]: use random sequence numbers in scans
 * [ SCAN_MIN_PREQ_CONTENT ]: use probe request with only rate IEs in scans
 * [ CONTROL_PORT_NO_PREAUTH ]: disable pre-auth over nl80211 control port support
 * [ DEL_IBSS_STA ]: deletion of IBSS station support
 * [ SCAN_FREQ_KHZ ]: scan on kHz frequency support
 * [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211_TX_STATUS ]: tx status for nl80211 control port support
Device ID: 0e8d:7610
usb-modeswitch not required. This is a single state device.
WPA3 supported: yes
Power requirement: Heavy load: ~400 mA

Review by Nick – The Alfa AWUS036ACHM is a very good product. It is mid-priced, well made and works well in managed mode, master mode and monitor mode. It runs cool and has exceptional range. It shows good link quality and signal level even in difficult situations where other adapters would drop the connection. Overall, it is a solid performer. Recommendation on hold as noted above.

=====> Linksys AE6000 <=====

Amazon – $25 USD – Linksys AE6000 Wireless Mini USB Adapter

Amazon – $37 USD – Linksys AE6000 Dual-Band Wireless Mini USB Adapter

hp – $60 USD – LINKSYS AE6000 IEEE 802.11AC – WI-FI ADAPTER

Review by Nick – The Linksys AE6000 is a good product. It has better range than some small adapters that I have used. I am not saying that it is a long range adapter, just that it does pretty good for being a very small adapter. Overall, it is a solid performer. Recommended.

— Links to additional adapters that are based on the mt7610u chipset —

ebay – $10 USD – TOTOLINK A1000UA 11AC 600Mbps Dual Band Mini USB WiFi Network Adapter w/ SoftAP

ebay – $20 USD – ZyXEL Dual-Band Wireless AC600 USB Adapter, NWD6505

Amazon – $32 USD – ZyXEL NWD6505 IEEE 802.11ac – Wi-Fi Adapter

Amazon – $7 USD – Cable Matters (model number 202043) AC600 Dual-Band USB Wireless Adapter

ebay – $15 USD – Mediatek MT7610U 11AC 600Mbps USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter Dual Band White

SmartGuys – $20 USD – Mediatek 11AC USB Wireless Adapter, MT7610U

Amazon – $28 USD – ASUS USB-AC51 AC600 Dual-Band Wifi Wireless Adapter

Amazon – $44 USD – Asus Dualband Wirel. AC600 USB, USB-AC51

ebay – $20 USD – Panda Pau0a AC600 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter

N600 – USB 2 – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz (Dual Band) (WIFI 4)

chipset - Mediatek/Ralink rt5572 (Mediatek bought Ralink a few years ago)

Note: Some of the below adapterd says “Kali Linux compatible” which seems to imply they only work with Kali but that is not the case. These adapters should work with any mainstream Linux distro that is currently supported by its maker.

Amazon – $40 USD –Panda Wireless PAU09 N600 Dual Band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wireless N USB Adapter – I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

AliExpress – $14-$17 USD – RT5572 Chipset Dual Frequency 2.4G/5G 300M Wireless Network Card Desktop Notebook Receiver Transmitter For Kali_Linux

Amazon – $25 USD – Panda N600 Dual Band (2.4GHz & 5.0GHz) Wireless N USB Adapter

ebay – $22 USD – Kali Linux compatible dual band WiFi sniffer & Packet injection based on RT5572

Amazon – $13 USD – Socobeta RT5572 USB Dual-Band 5.8G/2.4G AC Wireless Network WiFi Adapter

Single Band USB WiFi Adapters that are supported with Linux in-kernel drivers

Note: Keeping an inexpensive single band adapter that is supported by in-kernel drivers in your toolkit can save a lot of trouble as it will allow you to have a temporary connection during installation of your Linux distribution. It can also provide temporary internet access in case you have problems with a wired connection or you need to install the driver for an adapter that requires an out-of-kernel driver. I have a couple of single band adapters. One I keep at home and the other goes on the road with my laptop. These adapters are handy.

N300 – USB 2 – 2.4 GHz (WIFI 4)

chipset - Mediatek/Ralink rt5372 (Mediatek bought Ralink a few years ago)

Amazon – $20 USD – Panda Wireless PAU06 300Mbps Wireless N USB Adapter – I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

ebay – $5 USD – 300Mbps USB Wireless Adapter Wifi Network Dongle

Amazon – $20 USD – Panda Wireless PAU05 300Mbps Wireless N USB Adapter

Amazon – $10 USD – ASHATA Wireless USB Adapter RT5372 N300

Amazon – $8 USD – Wendry Wireless USB Adapter, 2.4GHz, DWA-140, RT5372 N300

N150 – USB 2 – 2.4 GHz (WIFI 4)

Note: Several of the below adapters say “Raspberry Pi” which seems to imply they only works with the Raspberry Pi OS but that is not the case. These adapters will work with any mainstream Linux distro that is currently supported by its maker. Another point to make is while N150 adapters are not the latest toy available, they are still very capable, very solid and will certainly allow users to watch youtube videos, listen to online music and support heavy web surfing without slowdown. Some are cheap enough to justify keeping one around as a backup if for no other reason. My wife’s computer uses an adapter with a ar9271 chipset. It just works. In case you are wondering, she uses Linux Mint 20.

chipset - Mediatek rt5370 (Mediatek bought Ralink a few years ago) – N150 – USB 2

Panda PAU03 (b/g/n) 150Mbps Wireless-N 2.4GHz USB Adapter [1]

Supported interface modes:
	 * IBSS
	 * managed
	 * AP
	 * AP/VLAN
	 * monitor
	 * mesh point
Valid interface combinations:
		 * #{ AP, mesh point } <= 8, total <= 8, #channels <= 1
Supported extended features:
	* [ RRM ]: RRM
	* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
	* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
	* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
WPA3 supported: Yes

Review: Solid little NANO adapter. It just works.

Panda Mid Range 150Mbps Wireless N USB Adapter w/ 2dBi Antenna – I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi WiFi Wireless Adapter

Raspberry Pi Pi 2 Pi 3 USB Wireless Adapter Mideatek RT5370N With 2 dBi Antenna 802.11 n g b USB 2.0

USB WiFi Adapter Ralink RT5370

EASTECH Ralink RT5370 Raspberry PI WiFi Adapter

Wireless WiFi USB Dongle Stick Adapter RT5370 150Mbps

WiFi for Raspberry Pi

chipset - Atheros ar9271 [2] – N150 – USB 2
Supported interface modes:
	 * IBSS
	 * managed
	 * AP
	 * AP/VLAN
	 * monitor
	 * mesh point
	 * P2P-client
	 * P2P-GO
	 * outside context of a BSS
Valid interface combinations:
		 * #{ managed, P2P-client } <= 2, #{ AP, mesh point, P2P-GO } <= 2, total <= 2, #channels <= 1
Supported extended features:
		* [ RRM ]: RRM
		* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
		* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
		* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
WPA3 supported: Yes

Rokland – $25 – ALFA AWUS036NHA Atheros AR9271 802.11n WIRELESS-N USB Wi-Fi adapter – Info: free shipping and no tax outside of Florida. Ships to Canada and US. I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

Amazon – $13 USD – K2-544DW AR9271 802.11n 150Mbps Wireless USB WiFi Adapter

ebay – $25 – ALFA AWUS036NHA 802.11n Wireless-N Wi-Fi USB Adapter High Speed Atheros AR9271 – I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

Amazon – $44 USD – WiFi Nation USB WiFi Antenna 802.11n, Speed: 150Mbps, Freq. 2.4GHz and 5dBi Antenna, chipset: Atheros AR9271

chipset - Mediatek/Ralink rt3070 (Mediatek bought Ralink a few years ago) – N150 – USB 2

Rokland – $30 USD – ALFA AWUS036NEH 802.11n WIRELESS-N USB Wi-Fi adapter – Info: free shipping and no tax outside of Florida. Ships to Canada and US. I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

Amazon – $33 USD – ALFA AWUS036NEH Long Range WIRELESS 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi USB Adapter I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

Amazon – $7 USD – Panda Mini WiFi (b/g/n) 150Mbps Wireless-N 2.4GHz USB Adapter

Amazon – $20 USD – INTELLINET IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wireless 150N High-Power USB Adapter

Amazon – $13 USD – coolxan USB Rt3070 Chipset 802.11n 150m WiFi Wireless-n Adapter

Amazon – $12 USD – Netis Wireless USB High Power Adapter, 150Mbps Network WiFi Dongle for PC/Desktop/Laptop, 802.11 b/g/n technology, Power Amplifier Support to Boost Wireless Signal

chipset - Mediatek/Ralink rt2870 (Mediatek bought Ralink a few years ago) [2] – N150 – USB 2
Supported interface modes:
	 * IBSS
	 * managed
	 * AP
	 * AP/VLAN
	 * monitor
	 * mesh point
Valid interface combinations:
		 * #{ AP, mesh point } <= 8, total <= 8, #channels <= 1
Supported extended features:
	* [ RRM ]: RRM
	* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
	* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
	* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
WPA3 supported: Yes

I can’t find any new adapters with the rt2870 chipset for sale. My adapter with this chipset is many years old but still snaps to life and works very well when plugged in so if you see adapters, even used adapters with the rt2870 chipset, know that it is still supported in modern distros of Linux and likely will be supported for a long time. If you are wondering if this adapter is slow… it is an 11n adapter and I do not consider it to be slow. You can stream video, surf the net, and listen to online radio without buffering or slowdown (as long as you have good internet service.) I don’t list chipsets and adapters here unless I am confident they will meet today’s use cases for the WiFi bands that they support.

chipset - Mediatek mt7601u – N150 – USB 2 – Note: only supports managed and monitor modes (no AP mode).

Amazon – $9 USD – DM-Digital USB WiFi Dongle 2dBi MT7601 [1]

Supported interface modes:
	 * managed
	 * monitor
Valid interface combinations: None
Supported extended features:
	* [ RRM ]: RRM
	* [ FILS_STA ]: STA FILS (Fast Initial Link Setup)
	* [ CQM_RSSI_LIST ]: multiple CQM_RSSI_THOLD records
	* [ CONTROL_PORT_OVER_NL80211 ]: control port over nl80211
WPA3 supported: Yes

Review by Nick – The DM-Digital USB WiFi adapter has proven to be a solid little adapter that has short to medium range (2 dBi antenna.) It runs cool. The driver only supports managed (client) mode and monitor mode. It appears the product was designed for limited function to keep costs low. I have tested both supported modes and they work well. This adapter is a low cost product but appears to be of reasonable quality. The functionality of this adapter and driver will work for many use cases.

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Amazon – $7 USD – EDUP USB WiFi Adapter for PC – High Gain 6dBi Antenna – I have read many positive comments from Linux users about this adapter.

Amazon – $9 USD – Mini 150m USB Wifi Wireless Network Card

Amazon -$5 USD – Zibo Mini USB Wifi Wireless Adapter, 150Mbps

Amazon – $20 USD – Electronic Accessories Mt7601U USB WiFi Dongle WiFi Stick Adapter 150Mbps Antenna

Linux out-of-kernel drivers (Realtek) for Dual Band USB WiFi Adapters

Note: The list is not ranked in order by any specfic measure of performance. Performance and reliability varies. The best overall driver is the 8812au. It performs reasonably well in managed mode, master mode and monitor mode. The fastest driver in managed mode is the 88x2bu. My advice, if you need good performance in master mode or monitor mode, is sell your Realtek chipset based adapter and get one of the adapters based on in-kernel drivers as shown earlier in this document. None of these out-of-kernel drivers are fully Linux Wireless standards compliant.

Note: Out-of-kernel drivers require you to find, download, compile and install the driver source code. The below links provide a lot of information, including information about supported adapters. Nine total chipsets are supported with the following five drivers.

Note: None of the Realtek out-of-kernel drivers test good for WPA3 support. If you need WPA3 support, head back up to the list of adapters with in-kernel support. I have tested multiple adapters with mt7612u chipsets and WPA3 is working fine with Ubuntu 20.04 and later, Linux Mint 20.1 and the Raspberry PI OS.

Note: None of the Realtek out-of-kernel drivers support interface combinations. If you need support for interface combinations, head back up to the list of adapters with in-kernel support. I have tested multiple adapters with mt7612u and mt7610u chipsets and multiple interface combinations are supported with the current Linux in-kernel drivers.

Recent changes:

  • 2012-05-28 – minor changes above and below to reflect the latest testing.
chipsets – rtl8812bu [2] and rtl8822bu – AC1200 – USB 3

Linux Driver for USB WiFi Adapters that use the RTL8812BU and RTL8822BU Chipsets

The rtl8812bu chipset may see future in-kernel driver support based on the work being done on the rtw88 in-kernel driver. This chipset tends to run cool, which is good, and Realtek currently provides updated out-of-kernel driver source code on a semi-regular basis. Adapters based on this chipset are readily available at low prices but beware of poor quality adapters made by some adapter makers. Read the reviews before buying. The driver in the above link works very well with this chipset.

The Good:

  • fast in managed (client) mode (for an AC1200 chipset)
  • runs cool
  • possible in-kernel driver support at some point
  • readily available at low prices
  • power saving works well

The Bad:

  • WPA3 does not work
  • no support for interface combinations
  • the really bad quality of some adapters made with this chipset means you need to reseach before buying

Recommendation: While adapters with this chipset are readily available at low prices, the chipset doesn’t provide any significant advantages over the mt7612u chipset and the driver for the mt7612u chipset is far superior and is professionally maintained in the Linux kernel. As a Linux user, your long term happiness is probably best served by buying an adapter with a mt7612u chipset.

chipsets – rtl8811cu [2], rtl8821cu and rtl8831au – AC600 – USB 2

Linux Driver for USB WiFi Adapters that use the RTL8811CU, RTL8821CU and RTL8831AU Chipsets

The rtl8811cu chipset may see future in-kernel driver support based on the work being done on the rtw88 in-kernel driver. This chipset tends to run cool, which is good, and Realtek currently provides updated out-of-kernel driver source code on a regular basis. Adapters based on this chipset are readily available at low prices but beware of poor quality adapters made by some adapter makers. Read the reviews before buying. The driver in the above link works very well with this chipset.

The Good:

  • fast enough for most users
  • runs cool
  • possible in-kernel driver support at some point
  • readily available at low prices
  • power saving works well

The Bad:

  • WPA3 does not work
  • no support for interface combinations
  • the really bad quality of some adapters made with this chipset means you need to reseach before buying

Recommendation: While adapters with this chipset are readily available at low prices, the chipset doesn’t provide any advantages over the mt7610u chipset and the driver for the mt7610u chipset is far superior and is professionally maintained in the Linux kernel. As a Linux user, your long term happiness is probably best served by buying an adapter with a mt7610u chipset.

chipset – rtl8812au [2] – AC1200 – USB 3

Linux Driver for USB WiFi Adapters that use the RTL8812AU Chipset

The rtl8812au chipset is an aging chipset that will likely never be supported by an in-kernel driver which leaves users dependent on Realtek to release future out-of-kernel source code. This makes buying adapters based on this chipset somewhat risky for Linux users. The market for USB WiFi adapters has seen a switch over the last few years from this chipset to the rtl8812bu chipset for adapters in the AC1200 class. Not many rtl8812au adapters remain available on the market. The above driver is a good quality driver but the question is, how long will Realtek continue to release out-of-kernel source code for this chipset.

The Good:

  • best out-of-kernel driver of the 5 listed here, very solid
  • managed mode is a little slower than some similar adapters but is solid
  • master (AP) mode is outstanding
  • monitor mode is reported to be good, even on 5g
  • power saving works well

The Bad:

  • WPA3 does not work
  • no support for interface combinations
  • future Realtek support unknown
  • will likely never be supported by an in-kernel driver
  • limited availability, has mostly been replaced by rtl8812bu

Recommendation: While this is currently the best supported of the Realtek chipsets, the chipset doesn’t provide any significant advantages over the mt7612u chipset and the driver for the mt7612u chipset is far superior and is professionally maintained in the Linux kernel. Your long term happiness is probably best served by buying an adapter with a mt7612u chipset.

chipsets – rtl8811au [2] and rtl8821au – AC600 – USB 2

Linux Driver for USB WiFi Adapters that use the RTL8811AU and RTL8821AU Chipsets

The rtl8811au chipset, like the rtl8812au chipset, is an aging chipset that will likely never be supported by an in-kernel driver which leaves users dependent on Realtek to release future out-of-kernel source code. This makes buying adapters based on this chipset somewhat risky for Linux users. The market for USB WiFi adapters has seen a switch over the last few years from this chipset to the rtl8811cu chipset for adapters in the AC600 class. Adapters that use the rtl8811au chipset are still available but availability is declining. The above driver is a decent quality driver but is somewhat dated and is hard to maintain much like the driver for the rtl8814au. The question is, how long will Realtek continue to release out-of-kernel source code for this chipset.

The Good:

  • managed mode is good
  • master (AP) mode is good
  • power saving works well

The Bad:

  • WPA3 does not work
  • no support for interface combinations
  • no mesh support
  • future Realtek support unknown
  • it has been over a year since the last source code release
  • will likely never be supported by an in-kernel driver
  • limited availability, has mostly been replaced by rtl8811cu

Recommendation: Do not buy adapters based on this chipset. Better options are available. You will likely be happier in the long run with an adapter that uses the mt7610u chipset.

chipset – rtl8814au [2] – AC1900 – USB 3

Linux Driver for USB WiFi Adapters that use the RTL8814AU Chipset

The rtl8814au chipset is an aging chipset that will likely never be supported by an in-kernel driver which leaves users dependent on Realtek to release future out-of-kernel source code. This makes buying adapters based on this chipset somewhat risky for Linux users. Adapters based on this chipset can really push data at high speed and are still available but are relatively expensive. They need a pretty good amount of power so a powered USB 3 hub may be a good idea. This chipset builds a lot of heat so look for adapters that have plenty of vent holes and search reviews to see if users are reporting heat problems. The above driver is not very good but it is based on the latest source we have available. The source is from 2019. We need Realtek to release an updated, modernized version of the driver source code as the code for this driver is showing some age and is hard to maintain. Will Realtek release a new, improved version? I don’t know.

The Good:

  • fastest USB chipset available
  • managed mode is reasonably good
  • AP mode was recently patched and is working well now (finally)
  • Monitor mode, including injection and deauth, are now working well, no thanks to Realtek

The Bad:

  • WPA3 does not work
  • no DFS channels support
  • no support for interface combinations
  • no mesh support
  • no AP/VLAN support
  • no P2P-client support
  • no P2P-GO support
  • future Realtek support unknown
  • no new source code releases since 2019, and that 2019 release was not a good driver
  • uses a lot of power so using a powered hub may be a good idea
  • produces a lot of heat, adapter needs a lot of vent holes or space
  • expensive

Recommendation: Do not buy adapters based on this chipset. You will be disappointed. Better options are available. You will likely be happier in the long run with an adapter that uses the mt7612u chipset or in the short run with an adapter that uses the rtl8812au chipset. The reason I say “short run” for the rtl8812au chipset is because we do not know if Realtek will release source code for the rtl8812au in the future.

Link to MT76 driver in the Linux kernel: (mt7612u and mt7610u chipsets)

https://github.com/torvalds/linux/tree/master/drivers/net/wireless/mediatek/mt76

Hopefully this document is of help to Linux users that want or need USB WiFi
adapter support. I will look to expand and improve this document in the future.

The mission of this site is to collect information and provide links regarding the purchase and use of USB WiFi adapters with Linux.

Any information and links you can provide are welcome. Submit the information and links by clicking on Issues…or if you are a Github user, submit a Pull Request.

Regards,

morrownr

[1] I have and use this adapter

[2] I have an adapter that uses this chipset

https://opengraph.githubassets.com/a1d1d688f1cafe483fa9144cfb19b645d298baf15c80712121718dc75ce52e4f/morrownr/USB-WiFihttps://github.com/morrownr/USB-WiFi

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