Try Pi WiFi: Using the Plugable USB WiFi Adapter with Your Raspberry Pi 2

2-Pi

UPDATE: Raspian has changed the WiFi interface, and the content of this article may not work on your Pi. Please see the final comment for instructions that work in the latest version. This post will be updated after I have a chance to test the new method thoroughly.

Just about everyone who has rode the Raspberry Pi wave in the last two years is excited about the possibilities presented by the new Raspberry Pi 2. With six times the processing power, it has the potential to turn a fun computer for experiments and hacks into a respectable piece of hardware that could almost replace a desktop computer.

But what if your desk is far from an Ethernet connection? What if you want to use the Pi in an isolated place to control security cameras or home automation? You’ll probably need a WIFI connection, but the Raspberry Pi doesn’t come with this capability built in.

The Plugable USB-WIFINT is useful in this situation. All you have to do is plug it in, set your network ID and password, and you are ready to roll. The same procedure should work with any WIFI adapter that uses the same Realtek RTL8188CUS chip set. It also works with any Raspberry Pi model updated to the latest version of Raspian. To get started, you’ll need your SSID (wireless network name) and the password for the network.

Connecting from the Graphical Interface

1. If you already have an internet connection, make sure your Pi is up-to-date by issuing the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Accept any updates and wait for them to be installed. If you don’t have an internet connection, you can do this after the adapter is installed.

2. Plug in your Plugable USB-WIFINT adapter. The red light on it should blink for a few moments.

3. On the desktop, click Menu > Preferences > WiFi Configuration.

Pi_WIFI_1

A window titled wpa_gui will appear on the screen. You should see wlan0 in the Adapter field.

Pi_WIFI_3

4. Click the Scan button to scan for wireless networks in your vicinity.

Pi_WIFI_5

5. Double-click on your network in the scan results. A configuration screen for your network should open. Enter your network key into the PSK field.

Pi_WIFI_4

6. Click Add, then click Connect on the main window. You should now be connected to WIFI.

Pi_WIFI_2

If you have any questions at all, please comment below or email support@plugable.com. We’re happy to help!

17 comments on “Try Pi WiFi: Using the Plugable USB WiFi Adapter with Your Raspberry Pi 2”

  1. Jman Reply

    Does this work only for rasebarry pi 2? Can it work for the other model of the rasebarry?

    • Bernie Thompson Bernie Thompson Reply

      Hi Jerome – Yes, it works for all current and old Pi models. Thanks!

  2. Qwertylicious Reply

    Would this work with the beaglebone using the new Dbebian OS too? Thanks

  3. Qwertylicious Reply

    Can this adapter be used with the Beaglebone too? It is running the latest kernel I believe. Is it working only with the raspberry pi? if so, may I know why?

    • Bernie Thompson Bernie Thompson Reply

      Yes! It’ll work with all kernel versions 2.6.38, 3.0.8 and later, including on the Beaglebone – the UI may vary per distro. Thanks for asking!

  4. psarode Reply

    if we use “sudo apt-get update” then do we still need to separately install the USB wifi drivers that come on cd when we get the product?

    • David Roberts David Roberts Reply

      With the Raspberry Pi and Raspbian, you don’t need to separately install any drivers for this WIFI adapter. The drivers are already built in. Running sudo apt-get update just makes sure all the software on your Pi is at the latest version.

  5. Yattaro Reply

    And yet still no support for Mavericks or Yosemite on Mac? Seriously?

    • David Roberts David Roberts Reply

      Thank you for your comment.

      It is often difficult for third-party device makers to add functionality to Macs. In the case of this device, OS X will only recognize an Airport card as a wifi device. Realtek, the chipmaker for this adapter, was able to write a driver that tricked OS X versions before Mavericks into thinking the adapter was actually a USB-Ethernet device, thereby getting by that limitation.

      It used a proprietary interface between the device and the OS to connect to the wireless and then just acted to OS X like it was connected through an Ethernet cable (which OS X allows). It was a kludge and a not-very satisfactory solution, especially since it required a non-standard application for setting up the wireless, but it mostly worked.

      On Mavericks, Apple closed the door on this trick, and since the chipset in this adapter is rather old (we keep it because it has wide compatibility in the Windows and Linux worlds), and because the demand for third-party WiFi devices is so low in the OS X environment, Realtek, the chipmaker, can not or will not develop another work-around the OS X limitation.

      I hope this clears things up a bit.

    • David Roberts David Roberts Reply

      It looks like Raspian has changed the interface, and I’m going to have to update the article. Here is what you can do if you have the new version:

      Start out by updating:
      1. Open a terminal and type these commands. You’ll have to enter your password:
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get upgrade

      2. When you issue the upgrade command, it will tell you four numbers:
      ‘X upgraded, X newly installed, X to remove and X not upgraded.”
      If “X not upgraded” is more than zero, type no and then issue this command:
      sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
      Otherwise, press Enter, or enter ‘Y’

      If there are a lot of files to be upgraded, it may take a while. Also, some of the upgrades may ask you for input. Generally it is better to just accept the default for whatever it asks.

      3. If you can see an icon with two computers or a wifi symbol in the upper-right of the screen, that is the new network interface. With the adapter plugged in, click there. You should see the available networks.

      4. Click the network you want, enter the pass phrase and you should be able to connect. If not, please contact us at support@plugable.com.

  6. Chris Reply

    It looks like something else has changed. I downloaded the latest Raspian (Jessie) and I can see wireless networks when I click the icon, but after I type the passkey nothing happens. I can re-click the AP and type in the key again without any change at all.

    • David Roberts David Roberts Reply

      Hi Chris,

      I haven’t been seeing this on my version of Raspbian Jessie. It has been working well with the adapter. I do some investigation to see if I can reproduce the problem, and if I can, I’ll work out a solution and post in an updated post for Jessie.

      David

      • Chris Reply

        Well, I ended up switching to a Edimax EW-7811Un and that worked fine. I verified I wasn’t getting any type of voltage drop and unplugged the Plugable Bluetooth dongle and the Logitech USB keyboard dongle I was using as well and still had the same issues.

        The only thing I didn’t do was use a dedicated HDMI monitor instead of the new Raspberry Pi touchscreen.

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