Setting up the wireless interface on Ubuntu Linux is likely one of the first things you'll need to do after installing the operating system and booting into it for the first time. As long as you have the proper hardware, Ubuntu can easily connect to Wi-Fi networks configured with various types of security like WEP, WPA, and WPA2.

In this guide, we will cover the step by step instructions to connect to a Wi-Fi network from the GNOME GUI (the default desktop environment) on Ubuntu. We will also show how to connect to Wi-Fi from command line, which is handy in the case of headless servers or those running without a desktop environment. Follow along with us below to find out how.

In this tutorial you will learn:
  • How to connect to Wi-Fi network in GNOME GUI
  • How to connect to Wi-Fi network via command line
  • How to enable or disable the system's Wi-Fi adapter
Configuring the wireless interface on Ubuntu Linux
Configuring the wireless interface on Ubuntu Linux
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Ubuntu Linux
Software N/A
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Connect to Wi-Fi network from GNOME GUI

 

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You can follow the steps below to learn how to connect to a Wi-Fi network from GUI. These instructions are for GNOME in particular, the default desktop environment on Ubuntu and many other Linux systems. However, all desktop environments should have very similar steps.

  1. To connect to a Wi-Fi network, get started by clicking on the upper right corner, on the GNOME menu, and expand the Wi-Fi option. Then, click on "select network."
  2. Select a network in the upper right corner of GNOME
    Select a network in the upper right corner of GNOME
  3. Next, highlight the Wi-Fi network you wish to connect to, then click "connect."
  4. Select a wireless network to connect to
    Select a wireless network to connect to
  5. As long as the Wi-Fi is secure, it will prompt you for a password to connect. Enter the network key and then click connect.
  6. Enter the network key if you are connecting to a secure wireless network
    Enter the network key if you are connecting to a secure wireless network
  7. To view more information about the network you've just connected to, click on the "Wi-Fi settings" option.
  8.  


    Click the Wi-Fi settings option to view advanced configuration
    Click the Wi-Fi settings option to view advanced configuration
  9. Then, click on the configuration icon next to your network's name (SSID).
  10. Click on the configuration icon (cog wheel)
    Click on the configuration icon (cog wheel)
  11. In this menu, you can see information about your local IPv4 and IPv6 address, default gateway, DNS, etc. You can also click "forget connection" if you wish to remove this network from the list of known Wi-Fi networks, or poke around the other menus for more configuration.
  12. This menu contains all the relevant information for the wireless network we are connected to
    This menu contains all the relevant information for the wireless network we are connected to
     


  13. Note that you can quickly turn your Wi-Fi interface on or off at any time under the GNOME network menu in the upper right corner. This is sometimes a basic troubleshooting step if you are having connectivity issues.
  14. Turn the wireless interface on or off
    Turn the wireless interface on or off

Connect to Wi-Fi network via command line

If connecting to a Wi-Fi network from GUI isn't an option for you, as would be the case of a headless server, you can also use the command line to connect to a Wi-Fi network on Ubuntu. Follow the steps below to find out how.

  1. The first thing we need to do is identify the name of our Wi-Fi adapter. Common names on Ubuntu include wlan0 or wlp3s0. Execute the following command to find yours.
    $ ls /sys/class/net
    enp0s25  lo  wlp3s0
    
    The first adapter listed is our ethernet connection, then the loopback interface, then wlp3s0, which is our Wi-Fi adapter.
  2. Next, navigate to the /etc/netplan directory and locate the appropriate Netplan configuration files. The configuration file might have a name such as 01-network-manager-all.yaml or 50-cloud-init.yaml.
    $ ls /etc/netplan/
    
  3. Edit the Netplan configuration file:
    $ sudoedit /etc/netplan/50-cloud-init.yaml
    
     

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    and insert the following configuration stanza while replacing the SSID-NAME-HERE and PASSWORD-HERE with your SSID network name and password:
        wifis:
            wlan0:
                optional: true
                access-points:
                    "SSID-NAME-HERE":
                        password: "PASSWORD-HERE"
                dhcp4: true
    Make sure that the wifis block is aligned with the above ethernets or version block if present. The entire configuration file may look similar to the one below:
    # This file is generated from information provided by the datasource.  Changes
    # to it will not persist across an instance reboot.  To disable cloud-init's
    # network configuration capabilities, write a file
    # /etc/cloud/cloud.cfg.d/99-disable-network-config.cfg with the following:
    # network: {config: disabled}
    network:
        ethernets:
            eth0:
                dhcp4: true
                optional: true
        version: 2
        wifis:
            wlp3s0:
                optional: true
                access-points:
                    "SSID-NAME-HERE":
                        password: "PASSWORD-HERE"
                dhcp4: true
  4. Once ready, apply the changes and connect to your wireless interface by executing the bellow command:
    $ sudo netplan apply
    
    Alternatively, if you run into some issues execute:
    $ sudo netplan --debug apply
    
  5. If all went well you would be able to see your wireless adapter connected to the wireless network by executing the ip command:
    $ ip a
    
  6. If at any time you need to disable or enable the Wi-Fi adapter, use the following ip commands. Sometimes turning the interface off and back on can be a basic troubleshooting step.
    $ sudo ip link set dev wlp3s0 down
    AND/OR
    $ sudo ip link set dev wlp3s0 up
    

Closing Thoughts

In this guide, we saw how to setup the wireless interface on an Ubuntu Linux system by connecting to Wi-Fi networks via GNOME GUI and command line. We also learned how to enable or disable the system's Wi-Fi adapter. Following these steps should get you connected to the local network and internet in a matter of seconds, whether you are on a desktop system or headless server.

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