Setting up a Wi-Fi network on a Raspberry Pi

Almost every Raspberry Pi project will require a network connection. While Ethernet is faster, Wi-Fi is much more flexible. But how do you set up Wi-Fi on a Raspberry Pi? And what if your Raspberry Pi doesn’t have built-in wireless?

Here’s everything you need to know about setting up Wi-Fi on a Raspberry Pi.

Ethernet or wireless?

The benefit of Ethernet over wireless LAN on the Raspberry Pi – as with most other platforms – is that no configuration is required. Just make sure the cable is connected to a router, plugged in and your Pi and turned on.

Setting up Wi-Fi on a Raspberry Pi is usually easy, but it depends on the model and operating system. However, spending time configuring wireless networks will improve the flexibility of the Pi. Projects indoors and out are made possible with the addition of Wi-Fi.

Read more: What is an Ethernet cable?

Setting up a Wi-Fi network on a Raspberry Pi OS

If you are booting into Raspberry Pi OS for the first time, you will be asked to set up a wireless connection.

When the Pi launches on the desktop for the first time, you will be asked to complete some setup details. One of these options is to connect to a wireless network. Choose the correct network name (SSID) and enter the password. Moments later, Pi will call.

Connect to Wi-Fi on Raspberry Pi

Alternatively, you may have been using Raspberry Pi OS for a while without Wi-Fi, after skipping the partition during the first boot. In this case, you can enter the Wi-Fi credentials on the desktop:

  1. tap on Wi-Fi icon

  2. Click on the SSID of the corresponding wireless network

  3. Enter the passkey

  4. click Yes

Your Raspberry Pi should now be connected.

Wi-Fi on older Raspberry Pis

Wireless networking has only been built into the Raspberry Pi since the release of the Raspberry Pi 3B in 2016. All models prior to that, including the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi 1A, ship without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

If the Pi was purchased as part of a bundle, it will likely ship with a wireless USB adapter (also known as a “dongle”). But if you bought it as a standalone unit, you’ll need to find a compatible dongle to get Wi-Fi.

Many Wi-Fi dongles will work with the Raspberry Pi because they support Linux, which the Raspberry Pi OS is based on. For a list of compatible devices, see linux.org. Besides everything you need to know about Pi hardware, you will find a section on USB Wi-Fi dongles for Raspberry Pi. These are inexpensive ingredients available at stores like ThePiHut.com and Pimoroni.

Related: Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters

Configuring Wi-Fi on older Raspberry Pi models

The following details are for Wi-Fi setup using a USB adapter on a Raspberry Pi prior to 2016 running Raspberry Pi OS Lite. These steps will also work if you are using an old Raspbian architecture on an aging Raspberry Pi.

With the Raspberry Pi turned off, plug in the USB Wi-Fi adapter, and make sure the SD card is inserted correctly. Turn on the computer and when the desktop opens, launch the terminal emulator.

Start by making sure your operating system is fully updated:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

After this is complete, check that the USB dongle is detected:

lsusb

Your Wi-Fi device should be listed in the results.

At this point, try clicking on the Wi-Fi network icon in the upper-right corner of the desktop. This should allow you to connect to the network as if the USB adapter were an internal wireless radio.

Connect to Wi-Fi automatically

Instead of spending time configuring Wi-Fi after installing the operating system, you can enter the credentials before booting. This makes the entire first boot more streamlined. You only have two options:

  • Use advanced settings in Raspberry Pi Imager

  • Configure wpa_supplicant.conf file manually

(The third option, Raspberry Pi Bakery, has been discontinued, while it still could be Downloaded from GitHubIt reportedly does not work with Raspberry Pi 4.)

Let’s look at the two options in turn.

Pre-configure Wi-Fi settings with Raspberry Pi Imager

Raspberry Pi Imager is the best way to install an operating system on a Raspberry Pi. Before writing the disk image to your SD card, it is worth checking the advanced options screen.

  1. Journalism Shift + Ctrl + X.

  2. In the Advanced Options popup, scroll to Wi-Fi Configuration

  3. Check the box to enable setting

  4. Enter file SSID And password for your wireless network

  5. Designation Wi-Fi country

  6. click Memorizes

Raspberry Pi Imager advanced settings

The window will close, so continue writing the disk image to your SD card. When the Pi boots for the first time, as long as the credentials are correct, it will automatically connect to your network.

This option works with all operating systems included in the Raspberry Pi Imager.

Edit wpa_supplicant.conf for simplified first boot

Wireless network information is stored in a file called wpa_supplicant.conf. This file can be edited before turning on the Raspberry Pi, ensuring that the network SSID and password are preconfigured.

By default, wpa_supplicant.conf can be found in the /etc/ directory. However, you can create a new one in the eBay boot partition. After writing the disk image to the SD card, remove the media from your computer and then reinsert it. In the /boot/ directory of the SD card, create a new text file called wpa_supplicant.conf.

Make sure to remove the .txt file extension if it is kept.

Next, open wpa_supplicant.conf in your operating system’s text editor. You are now ready to edit the file, taking care to set the correct file countryAnd ssid, And psk (password).

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
update_config=1
country=US
network={
ssid="SSID"
psk="PASSWORD"
key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
}

Uses Ctrl + X to exit and save, then s And Enters For confirmation. When the Pi starts up, this information should be used to automatically connect the device to your wireless network.

Forget Ethernet – make your Raspberry Pi wireless!

Whether you’re using an old Raspberry Pi with a wireless USB adapter or relying on a newer model with built-in Wi-Fi, it’s easy to get online. Connecting to your wireless network means either a few mouse clicks and a password, or a bit of editing a text file. You can also preconfigure your Raspberry Pi OS with wireless credentials before you boot up for the first time.


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