Best Cheap WiFi Dongle


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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:47 pm
I am going to buy a Model B Pi very soon, and I have found that WiFi is going to be the only way I can connect my Pi to the internet. I have heard that there are a small handful of WiFi dongles that are actually compatible, for that reason, can anyone recommend a reliable and cheap WiFi dongle, and if possible, explain how to set it up on the Pi.

Many Thanks :)
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by Hove » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:32 pm
This is my favourite: Edimax EW-7811UN 150Mbps Wireless Nano USB Adapter - it barely sticks out of the USB socket, is just over £8 on Amazon, and works like a dream.

As far as setup goes, I've always used the GUI so...

When your RPi arrives, once you've done the basic config bits...

login (pi, raspberry)
type "startx"
brew a cuppa while the GUI wakes up.
On the desktop, there's an icon for "WiFi config"
Double click it. Once's it's awake, there's a scan button for it to go off hunting for available networks. Once it's found those, you can add the one that's yours, and put in the password (assuming your network has one).
And that's it.
I have 4 RPis using this dongle, and a couple more with a proper antenna for better range, also from Edimax. They all worked first time with near zero fuss.

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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:54 pm
The Edimax EW7811UN uses the RTL8188CUS Chipset, far cheaper adapters using said chipset are available. I favour these : http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/261166708533? ... 1497.l2649

They have a nice bright blue activity light which makes it obvious they are working. You'll probably find Ebay vendors selling the same thing specifically for the Pi at a price premium.

This is another RTL8188CUS :

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/150Mbps-USB-W ... 460dce17b7

All the advantages of the Edimax at half the price.
Last edited by pluggy on Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by SiriusHardware » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:58 pm
ElectronicsGeek wrote:I am going to buy a Model B Pi very soon, and I have found that WiFi is going to be the only way I can connect my Pi to the internet. I have heard that there are a small handful of WiFi dongles that are actually compatible, for that reason, can anyone recommend a reliable and cheap WiFi dongle, and if possible, explain how to set it up on the Pi.

Many Thanks :)


Lots of people, myself included, use the Edimax EW-7811UN with no problems, although there are occasional posts from unlucky people who do have problems with them. It is based on the Ralink RTL8188CUS chipset and has been supported 'out of the box' by Raspbian since the September 2012 release of Raspbian.

In versions of Raspbian prior to that date, wifi wasn't so well supported - it required the (usually brand new) user to have fairly deep Linux knowledge in order to set it up.

As you don't even have a Pi yet it would make sense to load the SD card (when you get it) with the latest version of Raspbian, which at the time of writing is "2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian.zip". This version (and previous versions since September 2012) have included a Wifi setup utility on the desktop. Plug the wifi adaptor in, wait a bit, run the config utility, and it walks you through picking the network from those available and entering the network key, just like similar utilities on Windows computers and other devices.

If you have ordered a pre-loaded SD card with your Pi, the only problem to watch out for there is that it may be loaded with a very old version of Raspbian or Debian which does not include the wi-fi-y goodness that newer versions do - If so, the best thing to do is flash it with a newer version as soon as you get it.

Another (expensive) option is to use an ethernet-to-wifi adaptor like the Netgear WNCE2001 which is basically a box with a network port at one end and a wifi communicator at the other - any device you plug into the network port on it thinks it is connected to a wired ethernet network, and so does not require any special setup, although you will have to use a PC (or even the Pi itself) to set up the wifi configuration of the WNCE2001 initially so that it knows how to connect to your wifi network.

If you are considering trying out the RISCOS operating system at any point, that is another reason to choose this type of adaptor, as RISCOS currently only supports networking / internet through the Pi's ethernet port - it does not, as far as I know, have wifi support at this time.

The advantage of these generic ethernet-to-wifi devices is that they can be used to connect anything else that you have which has an ethernet port to your wifi router - Xboxes, net enabled media players and so on. So they are versatile, but much bigger than the Edimax adaptor, and much more expensive.
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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:18 pm
Thanks a lot everyone, I think the Edimax is a safe bet. Just out of curiosity, are a lot of these so called 'nano' WiFi dongles based on the Edimax hardware?
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:25 pm
It just means small I think, many will have the RTL8188CUS chipset because its well established and cheap. It's not Edimax's hardware, its Realtek's. Edimax just put a plastic skin around it and put their name to it.
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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:28 pm
So the vast majority of those cheap USB dongles should be compatible?
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:39 pm
If they have said chipset yes. There are other cheap ones around that also work with the Pi. The Ralink RT5370 for example, I standardised on the Realtek because I found it to be more stable, if not as fast as the Ralink. I presently have 3 Pis running full time with RTL8188CUS wifi adapters, 2 of them the Comfasts from Ebay I posted earlier. Unfortunately, the type of chipset rarely makes it into the sales pitch.
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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:43 pm
Pluggy, have you ever had any problems with these dongles?
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:53 pm
Not that I can specifically point at the Wifi Adaptor, no. One of the Pi's is rather overworked and sometimes bombs out. The other 2 have been running for weeks. Theoretically any adaptor which has open source linux drivers will work with the Pi, unfortunately the Pi has USB issues which causes problems with many USB devices. If you look closely, the RTL8188CUS drops an obscene number of packets, but the TCP/IP protocol which sits on top of the driver and USB saves it.
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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:04 pm
Right then, with that in mind, I think I may go for a comfast dongle.

Many thanks to Pluggy and everyone else who helped ;)
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:05 pm
PS, I have a model A, it doesn't like the RTL8188CUS adaptors and frequently crashes, it works fine with a USB-Ethernet adaptor plug into it. I don't use a hub with any of them. But no problems on the 'B'
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by ElectronicsGeek » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:59 pm
I think that might be a power supply problem
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by Bright Sparks NZ » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:12 pm
Seems to me a wizard or some data on setting up wifi dongles would be in order. I can understand pulling too much current can cause issues but it looks like there is a lot of middle ground for versions of board and dongle type types issues and problems aside from things 'browning out'.

Wifi being almost as important as a keyboard and screen it seems to need sorting out.
>>>How about a new line on the Raspi_Config startup setting options anyone ?<<<

Linux is good from what I have seen but seems to suffer from too many experts on the committee ! Finding really basic stuff is so hard at times. E.g. re-finding the raspi_config feature (as important as a spare wheel) took me ages yesterday.... Yes easy when shown no doubt.

~ Andrew
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:23 pm
ElectronicsGeek wrote:I think that might be a power supply problem


Unlikely, since a 'B' with the same power supply works perfectly and the 'A' pulls a lot less current.
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by pluggy » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:34 pm
Theres not much wrong with linux, all the wifi adaptors I've tried with Ubuntu on a PC just work, It comes up with a list of available access points, select one, type in the wifi Key and it goes. The Pi has a couple of problems, its lack of power means that the desktop on the Pi is limited as to what it can handle and so a lot of stuff is left to the command line, it has USB issues which means a lot of USB stuff that works perfectly on Linux on another platform, half works or doesn't work at all on the Pi. Like my sig says.....
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by ElectronicsGeek » Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:18 am
Theres not much wrong with linux, all the wifi adaptors I've tried with Ubuntu on a PC just work, It comes up with a list of available access points, select one, type in the wifi Key and it goes. The Pi has a couple of problems, its lack of power means that the desktop on the Pi is limited as to what it can handle and so a lot of stuff is left to the command line, it has USB issues which means a lot of USB stuff that works perfectly on Linux on another platform, half works or doesn't work at all on the Pi. Like my sig says.....


You have no problems whatsoever with wireless on Linux? Every time I install a new distro, I have to find the right package for the wireless chipset in my netbook. I have come across only a few distros that give you 'out-of-the-box' support.

Seems to me a wizard or some data on setting up wifi dongles would be in order. I can understand pulling too much current can cause issues but it looks like there is a lot of middle ground for versions of board and dongle type types issues and problems aside from things 'browning out'.

Wifi being almost as important as a keyboard and screen it seems to need sorting out.
>>>How about a new line on the Raspi_Config startup setting options anyone ?<<<

~ Andrew


I agree, that would be an excellent idea.

Quick question to everyone, does NDiswrapper work on the Pi? I haven't read much into this software, but from what I know, it allows (I hate to say this word) Windows wireless dongle drivers to work with Linux. Any thoughts?
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by sej7278 » Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:33 am
ElectronicsGeek wrote:You have no problems whatsoever with wireless on Linux? Every time I install a new distro, I have to find the right package for the wireless chipset in my netbook. I have come across only a few distros that give you 'out-of-the-box' support.


you're doing something wrong there, maybe your distro's are a bit naff like suse or something? i've not bought any hardware in the last decade or so that didn't work out-of-the-box on linux.

as for wifi you must have some weird netbook as pretty much any ralink, realtek or intel chip will work on linux and that's pretty much all you ever get these days, which is why the wifi dongle's "Just Work" (TM) with the pi.

don't go near ndiswrapper (I doubt it would work on arm anyway) what's your wifi dongle if it doesn't work then - certainly all the ones in this thread work. you sure its not a power/usb issue?
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by pluggy » Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:49 am
I've installed Ubuntu 12.04 on a dozen or so laptops, in all but one case which was a bit of an obscure one, the wireless just worked. The one that didn't work straight off didn't take long to get going. All the wireless adaptors I've plugged into my desktop here have just worked. I take it for granted that I won't have any problems. Maybe I'm lucky.

I don't take anything for granted on the Pi, The USB sucks, and the pitiful CPU performance adds to the problems. Getting anything USB other than mice and keyboards working on the Pi I consider a triumph.

Ndiswrapper won't work on the Pi, because its a fudge to make windows x86 drivers run under linux, its dependent on the platform having an X86 processor. Its something I haven't reverted to for several years.
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by poing » Sat Mar 23, 2013 10:19 am
I also have said Edimax dongle and it works fine. A disadvantage is that it won't work as Access Point. Therefore I switched to these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/130859135182?ss ... 1497.l2649

After a fresh install of wheezy I just edit /etc/network/interfaces to look like this:
Code: Select all
auto lo

iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-ssid xxxxxxx
wpa-psk xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


and then it works as a client. To set it up as access point follow this tutorial: http://elinux.org/RPI-Wireless-Hotspot
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by ElectronicsGeek » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:02 pm
sej7278 wrote:
ElectronicsGeek wrote:You have no problems whatsoever with wireless on Linux? Every time I install a new distro, I have to find the right package for the wireless chipset in my netbook. I have come across only a few distros that give you 'out-of-the-box' support.


you're doing something wrong there, maybe your distro's are a bit naff like suse or something? i've not bought any hardware in the last decade or so that didn't work out-of-the-box on linux.

as for wifi you must have some weird netbook as pretty much any ralink, realtek or intel chip will work on linux and that's pretty much all you ever get these days, which is why the wifi dongle's "Just Work" (TM) with the pi.


I would hardly call my choice of distros naff, the problem is the b43 chipset in my laptop. Linux Mint XFCE didn't support it until I downloaded a few packages.
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by SiriusHardware » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:25 pm
Bright Sparks NZ wrote:
Seems to me a wizard or some data on setting up wifi dongles would be in order.



The GUI 'Wifi Config' utility/wizard already supplied on the desktop could hardly be more user friendly than it is already. However, I can see a case for your idea of putting a wifi setup option in raspi-config as well, for those people who don't ever use the desktop.

Bright Sparks NZ wrote:I can understand pulling too much current can cause issues but it looks like there is a lot of middle ground for versions of board and dongle type types issues and problems aside from things 'browning out'.
~ Andrew


Problem is, for every 99 people for whom something (like the Edimax 7811UN being discussed here) works perfectly, there is always one person seemingly with the exact same setup who has problems - so it's difficult for advice to be more than general. It never seems to be possible to state that hardware x + hardware y + hardware z WILL definitely work for everybody.

I have always used the EW-7811UN plugged into a powered hub, which was necessary from the start since I always had three devices (Mouse, Keyboard, Wifi Adaptor) and only two USB sockets to plug them into. Some people report being able to use these dongles plugged directly into the Pi - some say that they take more power than the Pi can comfortably supply, and must be powered from a hub. Since I have always used mine the second way without problems, that would be my personal recommendation: But I can't definitely say it would be the best way for everyone else.
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by kbailey » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:38 am
The Edimax EW7811UN on amazon or mcmelectronics is very good; the raspbian wheezy distro takes to it in a matter of seconds.

The RoHS one on Amazon is cheaper. It also runs a bit warmer, indicating more power use. My first was downright HOT and mcm sent me new one. it also linked up with drivers in the distro in seconds. MCM sent me a replacxement, and it works fine- if SLIGHTLY warm.

The price difference was around $9, with edimax being pricier. NEITHER is long range or high powered, but for a wireless across the room link they are cherry.

Both are made in China. Edimax has no findable guaranty. RoHS comes with a 2 year warranty as stated on the box back.
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by pete54321 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:14 pm
Hey everyone, I was just wondering what kind of setup is needed for using a wifi adapter with rip. I'm running the latest version of XBMC, will I need to install anything extra or is it more 'plug and play'?
Thanks
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by BoomerZack » Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:36 am
Can i just say that if you are going to buy one of these (which i did and they are fantastic and under £4.00):

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/261166708533?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1497.l2649

they do still need a bit of config to get them working, or at least the drivers need to be downloaded, (well on raspbian anyway!) so to help anyone wishing to buy comfast or any wifi dongle that uses the RTL8188CUS chipset take a look here for a real quick and easy guide to getting these working:

http://pingbin.com/2012/12/setup-wifi-raspberry-pi/
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