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Chromebooks getting support for USB Wi-Fi dongles

Apparently, the Chromium team has seen reports of “wonky” Wi-Fi connections on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices. I’ve never had issues using the internal Wi-Fi radio on my Chromebooks, but of course, that’s a minutely small sample. As a result, the team will be adding support for certain USB Wi-Fi dongles so users will have backup connectivity if the internal wireless radios aren’t up to snuff in some environments.

Here’s the change log description of this work in progress:

“USB Wifi can sometimes be helpful as a backup, if the internal Wifi is wonky. There are various popular USB Wifi dongles on the market that use varieties of this Ralink chipset. Let’s enable support for some newer ones.”

If you have an older Wi-Fi dongle — say one that works with 802.11b or g networks, this change won’t likely help you. But 802.11n and ac dongles using Ralink’s 33xx, 35xx and 53xx chipsets are planned for support.

Note that MediaTek bought Ralink in 2011 and although the company’s Wi-Fi dongles may be branded by either name, they often power dongles with other, often more recognizable brand names. Hopefully, some of the USB Wi-Fi devices support USB-C without an adapter since many newer Chromebooks have moved on to that format.

author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

30 thoughts on “Chromebooks getting support for USB Wi-Fi dongles

    1. I have an Asus C201PA and although the Wi-Fi is good if I am within 6 feet of the router, if I move away from it to about 12 Feet the signal just drops out. It does (sometimes) pick up after a few minutes. I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good dongle for this machine. I am using Chrome 71.0.3578.49 O/S.

  1. A lot of reports of “wonky WiFi” after the latest dev channel update to 69.0.3494.0. The problem with WiFi dongles has always been identifying the chipset to determine support. Sometimes manufacturers even switch chipsets without changing the model. Maybe they’ll now advertise as “Chromebook compatible!”, lol.

  2. I’ve experienced wifi issues when connected to curtain AP’s. Mainly Aruba Networks access points. My Windows box and other wifi devices on the network never have any issues, but unfortunately my Acer Chromebook 15 intermittently and very briefly drops connection. It’s super annoying, especially when your in an RDP session trying to get work done and you keep getting kicked out. Ping test results show every 30 seconds or so network unreachable, but quickly re-establish the connection. I suspect it has something to do with the band steering mechanism in the AP that the Chromebook can’t handle properly, but I haven’t done much testing other than the pings. I ended up just purchasing and using a USB to Ethernet dongle. Much more of a stable connection.

  3. I have wonky wifi problems with a DELL 13-7310 with Intel I3 8GB 128GB.

    That’s really a pain.

    Waiting for a Wifi dongle

    Some people said that this wifi dongle works :
    Edimax EW-7811Un 150Mbps 11n Wi-Fi USB Adapter, Nano Size Lets You Plug it and Forget it, Ideal for Raspberry Pi / Pi2, Supports Windows, Mac OS, Linux

    1. I have the same Dell chromebook and also have wifi problems. I bought this USB wifi dongle on Amazon: “Ralink RT5370 Raspberry PI wifi adapter/ wifi dongle with soft AP function” (looks like the one pictured in the article) and it fixed the issue. I ran a wifi signal strength app as an Android app on the chromebook both with and without the USB adapter — there was a big improvement in signal strength with the adapter.

      1. Thanks for the information. I will buy it.
        Have you had to stop the Dell wifi and how?

        Best regards


      2. Bruno, Thanks for this recommendation. I purchased the same one and it works but only on 2.4GHz curious if you have found any for 5G?

  4. I have an Asus C201PA and although the Wi-Fi is good if I am within 6 feet of the router, if I move away from it to about 12 Feet the signal just drops out. It does (sometimes) pick up after a few minutes. I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good dongle for this machine. I am using Chrome 71.0.3578.49 O/S.

  5. I am having the same issue with my dell 7310. I am about to purchase the usb dongle you listed, but I have a couple questions. Are you on the stable channel? Also, for the dongle to work, do you need to turn off the wifi in the chromeos menu?

  6. I purchased a dongle to see if it would resolve some issues I am having but cannot figure out how to diable the built-in antenna. Could anyone please advise?

  7. I bought on Amazon this dongle :
    Adaptateur USB WiFi N 150Mb Nano Mini Wireless WiFi Ralink RT5370 Micro Chip 150 Mbps – EDUP EP-N8531 Mini Wireless Wi -Fi Nano récepteur Pour Internet
    Etat : Neuf
    Vendu par eme ETS
    Expédié par Amazon

    Works without problem. No driver to install.

  8. Thanks to all who posted, I’m having the same issue with my Dell 7310. I did purchase the canakit raspberry pi and it worked without having to download a driver. However, it only works on 2.4GHz and I’m searching everywhere for one that will work on 5GHz.

    Seems all the ones mentioned above do not support 11AC (5GHz). Has anyone found one yet? If so please share.

    I love my Dell 7310, had the antennas and wifi card tested. The only thing found is that the wifi signal gets weaker the more the lid it open so it’s very strong with the lid closed or only open a few inches but it’s unusable in that position.

    I’ve also searched on the chromium OS developers site and they claim that some are compatible with 5GHz, but don’t provide a list.

      1. Not yet, searching chipsets and not tech savvy. Seems like the last OS update changed some things but still 2.4.

    1. Hi Bailey – Would you please detail exactly how you disabled the on-board Dell wifi adapter and then how you got the USB one to be recognized.

      Thank you

      1. Hi Chris,

        I didn’t have to disable it at all. I just plugged in the dongle and it’s defaulting to that.

        However, this dongle only supports 2.4 ghz so I had to forget the 5 ghz in my wifi so it wouldn’t try to connect.

        I’ve searched to the end of the internet and haven’t been able to find a 5 ghz dongle

  9. Nichole,
    How do you “forget the 5GHz in my wifi” ?

    Does that mean turning off 5GHz at the router ?

    If so, I’d be limiting my other “ac” wifi devices; cool for testing, but I wouldn’t sustain that mode.

    1. No, not on the router. Click on it on the chrome book, then go go to settings, then go to advanced and click forget. Then the chromebook won’t try to connect to it.

      1. Ooooh I got it….I did have a 5G selected.
        That seems to have helped some.
        But I will still be watching this thread for Chromebook Plug&Play wifi adapters.
        Many thanks Nichole!

        1. Same here. Installed chrome os on older sff pc. Ethernet works but i would prefer a dongle.
          Installed chrome os on old dell pc and it works with internal onboard wifi but does not recognize the dongle.

  10. I have a Lenovo C640 Chromebook and the internal wireless is pretty bad. If I do a speedtest, I’ll average 1.2Mbps…when I have fiber to the house and my other laptop pulls up to 785Mbps.

    Are there specific USB wireless dongles that are compatible? I know this article is a few years old at this point.


  11. It’s not just an issue of a “wonky” internal adapter. In my situation I get decent wifi reception in the hallway but not in my room. I have a usb wifi adapter connected to a 10 foot USB extension cable sitting in the hallway and the other end is plugged into my windows laptop in my room. I would like to have that option with my chromebook also.

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