I'm in the midst of ordering a USB wifi-dongle for my Raspberry Pi. I have Raspbian installed (used NOOBS) on it, and my question is: If the specification of the wifi-dongle says it's Linux compatible, is it also Raspbian (Raspberry pi) compatible?

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    Note that in the answers below there's a distinction between devices which are compatible because their drivers already exist on the system and are available for use (most wifi adapters) and things that require special downloads. Avoid the latter. – goldilocks Apr 14 '16 at 22:09

Raspbian is Debian Linux. If the USB WiFi dongle claims to be supported in current Linux kernels, then you should be fine. But if it includes a Linux driver, then you may be in trouble.

The reason for this is that vendors that provide Linux drivers are often doing so with opaque binary blobs compiled for x86 CPUs. The Pi boards are all based on ARM CPUs, so a binary blob targeting x86 won't work.

I'm using this Kootek WiFi adapter on my 2B, and it worked out of the box with no trouble.

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    The other major issue with vendor compiled drivers is even if they do have an ARM version, they do not keep them updated and drivers must match the kernel version in use. In general, avoid out of tree drivers (anything you have to download) unless you are proficient enough to check if they can be built and/or installed before you actually have the device. – goldilocks Apr 14 '16 at 22:05
  • To be honest, with the pi, if you need to ask the question of compatibility, I would stick to either the Official Pi Foundation WiFi module or the On Board WiFi module on the RPi3. – Aron Apr 15 '16 at 10:05
  • @Aron I find your attitude a little strange regarding an ultra low cost educational computer. It isn't difficult to learn how to determine whether hardware will work with a particular Linux kernel. The official dongle costs nearly as much as the Pi itself, so I can see why budget conscious people might look for an alternative. – ObscureRobot Apr 18 '16 at 13:39
  • @ObscureRobot That is true. But if you are asking here, it means you failed at Google. There is a lovely wiki that lists all the WiFi modules that are known to work....I know that...but if you can't find that, my advice is to get the RPi3. – Aron Apr 18 '16 at 13:42

I think that you are trying to determine whether the USB device is compatible with your stack: chipset (ARM) + OS (Debian). If that is the case, then it the question is whether a device driver is available for the stack.

Usually the hardware is implicit / assumed to be PC hardware (Intel / AMD CPU). If you are buying a USB wifi adapter for your rPi, stick to what others are using in the forums or Google the device to see if other are using it with rPi.


Yes it is! Raspbian is a Debian, and quite an old one - too many programs are far further in versions rather than in Raspbian repos. So the only potential issue you can occur is the case when a driver is added in the mainline kernel : AFAIK Raspbian still in 4.1 line, but mainline is 4.6 nowdays

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    This answer is incomplete - what if you're reliant on a vendor-provided binary driver? It's very unlikely they will have provided a ARM compiled version. – JBentley Apr 15 '16 at 10:46
  • @JBentley then plug your USB dongle to the KVM and use it for running x86 on ARM. As Far As I Know it is working already – Alexey Vesnin Apr 15 '16 at 10:58

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