Best WiFi Adapters for Kali Linux to Buy in 2024

Best WiFi Adapters for Kali Linux

Looking for the best WiFi adapter to use with Kali Linux? We understand that finding the perfect one can be challenging, especially when you're unsure of which features to consider. That's why we've created this comprehensive guide to help you identify the perfect adapter that works flawlessly with Kali Linux.

In this guide, we'll examine the best WiFi adapters for Kali Linux, allowing you to make an informed decision when selecting one. We'll compare the features of each adapter, discussing their strengths and best use cases with Kali Linux. Additionally, we'll provide evidence to support our reviews, ensuring that you're getting the very best recommendations.

By the end of this guide, you'll have a clearer understanding of what to look for in a WiFi adapter tailored for Kali Linux. Moreover, you'll be able to determine which one is most suitable for your specific needs. 

So, without further delay, let's dive into the world of WiFi adapters designed for Kali Linux.

Our Quick List

For the TL;DR version, we’ve listed our top picks in the chart below. They address some of the use cases or considerations that you might have when researching the best WiFi adapter for the task at hand.

You can jump to a specific adapter using the list below, or scroll to read our full reviews.

CategoryChoice
Best BudgetAlfa AWUS036ACS
Best Low ProfilePanda PAU05
Most BalancedAlfa AWUS036ACHM
Best PerformanceASUS USB-AC68
Most ModernAlfa AWUS1900
Our FavoriteAlfa AWUS036ACH

Do I Need an External WiFi Adapter

The answer here really depends on which stage of the educational path you’re on. 

In most penetration testing scenarios, an external WiFi adapter is unnecessary, unless you are directly attacking the security of a wireless network or trying to break into it.

However, if you just finished reading "How to Hack WiFi With Kali Linux Like a Pro" or "How to Use Aircrack-ng: A Guide to Network Compromise" and want to follow along, then this would be an example of when you would need a special WiFi adapter. Specifically one with a chipset that supports monitor mode and packet injection.

And, if you read our article on the 25 Top Penetration Testing Tools for Kali Linux, you’ll need these features for the aircrack-ng tool.

Using an external WiFi adapter offers several advantages, including:

  • Enhanced Compatibility - Such as monitor mode and packet injection.
  • Improved Performance - Some external adapters may provide better performance in regard to signal strength, range, and reliability. This depends on your adapter, such as whether you buy our Best Performance pick vs the Best Low Profile. Other times, the native card in your device might have great performance on its own.
  • Easy Replacement - WiFi standards change and update every few years. An external WiFi adapter can be an easier way to get the latest speeds and enhancements.

What Are Monitor Mode and Packet Injection?

Monitor mode, also known as promiscuous mode, allows a WiFi adapter to capture and analyze all wireless traffic, even if it’s not addressed to your device. This allows penetration testers and ethical hackers to gather information about the network, identify vulnerabilities, and assess the security of the network during the course of their tests.

Packet injection is another vital function that allows the adapter to deliver custom-crafted packets to the network. This allows you to simulate attacks, exploit vulnerabilities you find, and test the effectiveness of security measures. Think of this in terms of how we described arp spoofing in our article What Is Arp Spoofing and How Does It Work? A Novice’s Guide.

Not all WiFi adapters, or rather their chipsets, support these features. This is why it’s important that you don’t waste your money buying an adapter without a compatible chipset, thinking that you simply need something different than what your device came with.

If you haven’t started hacking yet and need to install Kali Linux, follow our guide here:

How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox & Start Hacking Now

Or if you need to set up a practice lab for hacking, we have a guide for that here:

How to Create a Virtual Hacking Lab: The Ultimate Hacker Setup

Best WiFi Adapters for Kali Linux

There are many WiFi adapters that meet our needs. The next few sections will provide detailed information on the hand-picked adapters that we find to be the best solution for different purposes.

For reference, these are considered by their support in Kali Linux 2023.1.

Best Budget - Alfa AWUS036ACS

Best Budget - Alfa AWUS036ACS

FrequencyBoth 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n/ac
ChipsetRealtek RTL8811AU
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali?Yes
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$29.99

Why is it our choice? 

The Alfa AWUS036ACS is an affordable option that offers native compatibility with Kali Linux. While the Realtek RTL8811AU chipset is a little older, this adapter still meets all the marks. The fact that this supports both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz for the price mark of around $30 is a plus.

Best Low Profile - Panda PAU05

Best Low Profile - Panda PAU05

FrequencyOnly 2.4GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n
ChipsetRalink RT3070
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali?Yes
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$62.99

Why is it our choice? 

There are times when you don’t want to stand out while performing your tests and people will certainly notice your large antennae. This low-profile adapter supports monitor mode and packet injection while looking like any USB thumb drive or a benign Bluetooth device. Although you do sacrifice some of the speed (802.11n will only net up to 300Mbs) and frequency range (no 5Ghz here) by ditching the antenna.

Most Balanced - Alfa AWUS036ACHM

Most Balanced - Alfa AWUS036ACHM
FrequencyBoth 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n/ac
ChipsetMediaTek MT7612U
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali?Yes
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$39.99

Why is it our choice?

This WiFi adapter offers a good balance between performance, compatibility, and price. It offers good range and signal strength and supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands and the higher data transfer rates of 802.11ac. This is a well-rounded choice for ethical hackers who want a reliable and cost-effective option.

Best Performance - ASUS USB-AC68

Best Performance - ASUS USB-AC68
FrequencyBoth 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n/ac
ChipsetRealtek RTL8814AU
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali?No (requires driver installation)
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes (after driver installation)
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$89.99

Why is it our choice?

This is a high-performance WiFi adapter that offers fast data transfer rates of up to 1900Mbps, thanks to its 3x4 MIMO design and two external foldable antennas that allow for beamforming. However, the RTL88xxAU chipset does not support monitor mode and packet injection by default on Kali Linux 2023.1 without the right drivers. We show you how to install the drivers below.

Most Modern - Alfa AWUS1900

Most Modern - Alfa AWUS1900
FrequencyBoth 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n/ac
ChipsetRealtek RTL8814AU
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali? No (requires driver installation)
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes (after driver installation)
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$64.99

Why is it our choice?

This adapter is a modern and powerful WiFi adapter designed for advanced users. It supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands and offers fast data transfer rates of up to 1900Mbps. The adapter comes with four detachable high-gain antennas for exceptional range and signal strength. As mentioned earlier, you can install the required drivers for the RTL8814AU chipset using the same steps below.

Our Favorite - Alfa AWUS036ACH

Our Favorite - Alfa AWUS036ACH
FrequencyBoth 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Standards802.11a/b/g/n/ac
ChipsetRealtek RTL8814AU
Does it work out-of-the-box with Kali?No (requires driver installation)
Monitor mode and packet injection?Yes (after driver installation)
Where to BuyAmazon
Price$64.99

Why is it our choice?

This WiFi adapter is our top pick to pair with Kali Linux for a few reasons. It’s a powerful adapter that supports both frequencies, 802.11a-ac standards, and great connection speeds at longer ranges. As with the RTL8814AU, you can install the required drivers for the RTL8812AU chipset using the same steps below

Installing Realtek RTL88xxAU Drivers

Kali Linux doesn’t come pre-installed with the Realtek RTL88xxAU drivers required for the last three adapters mentioned above. However, they’re really easy to install and unlock monitor mode and packet injection.

To start off, make sure your operating system is up-to-date. In the terminal, run:

sudo apt update

sudo apt upgrade

Once done, run the following command to install DKMS and the driver:

sudo apt install dkms realtek-rtl88xxau-dkms

Installing Realtek RTL88xxAU Drivers - 1

This will install DKMS and dependencies as well as the drivers you need for both the RTL8812AU and RTL8814AU chipsets mentioned above.

Install DKMS

Once the process is complete, reboot the system normally or by typing the following command:

sudo reboot

That’s it! Your WiFi adapters are ready to go for monitor mode and packet injection.

Conclusion

Choosing the best WiFi adapter for your penetration testing or ethical hacking efforts comes with a lot of decisions. Do you favor being discreet or do you favor the reliability of having beamforming for your connection? Or sometimes it’s in-between.

The most important thing is ensuring that the adapter is going to work with Kali Linux, which means that having the features of monitor mode and packet injection is essential. This article provides a great assortment of adapters for you to consider.

Best WiFi Adapters for Kali Linux

To learn more about WiFi hacking, check out these great courses:

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  • Andrew DeVito

    Andrew is a Content Writer at StationX. He comes from a multi-discipline professional background with over 20 years of combined experience in healthcare compliance, financial cyber security regulations, wireless and mobile security, and threat modeling. He is dedicated to translating complex technical concepts into an easily understandable language to help you successfully navigate the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

  • Dresch says:

    Any WiFi 6E cards/modules that work with Kali? 6GHz spectrum?

  • Bryan Moscato says:

    I know you are not speaking about hardware compatibility… the Alfa AWUS036ACS does not work out of the box with Raspberry PI 5 running the most recent version of Kali.

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