Follow-up on USB Wifi Adapters

UPDATE (2013/09/02): I found that the wireless adapters were no longer able to run in Ad-Hoc mode due to recent changes to support the Beaglebone Black device.  The installation steps on the Github project page have been updated to specify a commit tag (v0.2.0) when checking out the HSMM-Pi project to ensure you’re getting a stable copy of the code.

My initial recommendation for USB WiFi adapters was an inexpensive model that could be found on Amazon for about $7.  They worked fairly well initially, but in the last week I’ve been unable to get the 3 that I own to work at all.  I am no longer recommending them for use with Raspberry Pi models because of their instability.

I purchased the USB WiFi adapter sold by Adafruit which is advertised as being compatible with the Raspberry Pi.  These adapters work flawlessly, and use a different chipset from the model I recommended earlier.  The Adafruit adapter costs about $11 and does not accommodate an external antenna; but these negatives are offset by the adapter being stable.

My apologies to anyone who has had problems with the Amazon no-name adapter.  And it would be great to hear from anyone who has had problems but managed to get the adapters to be stable.


20 thoughts on “Follow-up on USB Wifi Adapters

  1. I ordered 4 of them with that chipset from EBAY (mostly because I wanted the external antenna option), and spent HOURS the first night trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. 🙂 It turns out that first unit was bad. The other three are working, but you are correct in that they don’t seem to be very high quality. I am going to have to search for a reliable adapter that will let me use an external antenna. I will let you know when I find one!

  2. I’m not sure If I have broken it, or what, but the last install I did today on a new pi went fine until I got hsmm-pi installed, and then when I tried to go to the address:8080 I got a forbidden message .. you do not have permission to access / on this server. Did something change? I cheated and installed webmin and editied the apache server properties to point to the right folder…

  3. I also used the Adafruit micro Wi-Fi adapter (using the RTL8192 chipset) in my test build as that is what I had readily available. The only issue is the relatively low LQ readings, even for nodes located in the same room where two WRT nodes will both read 100 percent. I attribute this to the very small size of the embedded antenna.

    I plan to try some of the Alfa Wi-Fi adapters when I have some available. There are reports of good results with those adapters.

  4. Actually after a lot of fooling around last night I just took the remaining 3 SD cards that I had and cloned my working node. Always good to keep some spares.

  5. More experiments trying to salvage the wifi adapters. I couldn’t find a powered usb hub anywhere local today,so I opened up a non powered hub, cut the power wires, and connected a salvaged usb cable to it. I was hoping the adapters were not working due to not enough power from the pi. No such luck. Much like yours Scott, I can’t get a single one to work on the pi now. I have a couple of them that will work fine on the laptop, though. I also noticed that they have a blue activity light on them that never powers up on the pi, but does on the PC? Is this a driver difference, or are they just not getting something they need?

    It’s interesting, though, that they show up with lsusb, the drivers appear to be loaded, ifconfig shows the interface, etc. but no traffic..

  6. Here’s some more info on the WiFi adapter issue. I found an SD card that I created a few weeks ago and verified that the network adapters all work with that image. I created a new HSMM-Pi node with the code tagged as v.0.1.0 about 2 weeks ago and the adapters all worked. So, some of the changes introduced in HSMM-Pi in the last two weeks broke things. I created a v0.2.0 tag that should be used until I sort things out with the head of the main branch.

    To use the stable code, just run the following command after the ‘git clone’ step:

    cd hsmm-pi
    git checkout tags/v0.2.0

    I’ll post a follow-up comment once I’ve identified the root cause. But thanks all for helping to confirm the problems with the head of the repository.

    • Scott,

      I was noticing some problems with an Alfa USB adapter and hsmm-pi that seemed to be related to ifplugd. Once I removed ‘allow hotplug’ from /etc/network interfaces, the issues seemed to go away.

      Perhaps that bit of information will help with your troubleshooting.


      • Thanks for the tip, Michael. Last night I installed the head of the master branch with the network interfaces configuration file modified to not specify ‘allow-hotplug’ on any interfaces. I also removed the ‘auto’ option for the wired adapter. The wireless adapter is working once again. It’s still unclear why the use of the ‘auto’ option on the wired adapter should have any effect on the wireless adapter, but it does. I’ll let it soak for a week and try an install on the Beaglebone Black running Ubuntu 12.04 before tagging it as a release.

        Thanks again for your feedback and suggestions.

  7. I am using an ALFA AWUS036H 1W wifi modem for a few reasons. First off its 1w! I have used it in my pen testing/auditing with linux in the past. I was using the same modem on linux for kali before I installed raspbien to play with this project.

    Other reasons the card is nice, it will go into rfmon etc. I got mine on ebay from rokland for $25.49 including shipping. I run my pi with the 1A recommended power supply and run the card without a hub. But… it would probably be a good idea to look into one.

    There are a few 2w ones out there by the same company that might work nicely.

      • Hi Jeff,

        I’ve been running with the stock power level, which is usually about 100 milliwatts. I’d need to use an amplifier to kick it up to 1 watt with the adapter I’ve been testing with, but there are some readily available adapters (look for the Alfa’s) that go up to 2 watts without the use of an additional amplifier.


        Scott Kidder/KK6DCI

  8. I will update as I have more time with it. but the card is solid in other uses and highly recommended in pentesting/auditing circles.

  9. Scott, are you considering in the next HSMM-PI update get 2 wifi adapters working together this way enabling to connect 2 antennas like the WRT54G ?

    That would be a great feature 🙂

    • Hi Ricardo,

      I’m not sure what it would take to support antenna diversity like what’s possible with the WRT54G and others. I’ll add it as a feature-request on the project for tracking.


      Scott Kidder/KK6DCI

  10. I’m new to this, excuse my ignorance… my understanding of the other platforms (linksys, ubiquity) is that the associated firmware being flashed is how the Rx/Tx frequency is set (to the ham frequency). if you’re using an external dongle, how is the frequency changed; is this something you’re doing in software? what is the frequency?

    Fantastic job on the project!!! My Pi’s are ordered and I’m anxious to get started?

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