How to Scan for (& Connect to) Wifi Access Points from Command Line in Linux

This is a beginner’s guide shows how to scan for wireless access points in Linux from command line.

NetworkManager has a built-in command-line interface called nmcli. With nmcli, you can create, display, edit, delete, activate, and deactivate network connections, as well as control and display network device status.

Supported Linux systems:

As the command line interface for NetworkManager, it should work on most Linux systems including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and more.

Command to list wireless access points:

To scan for Wi-Fi access points, simply open terminal and run command:

nmcli device wifi list

It will output a list of APs with information including BSSID, SSID, MODE, CHANNEL, SIGNAL, and more. Just as the top feature image shows.

Connect to a Wi-Fi AP via Linux command:

Simply run the command below in terminal will connect to a specified Wifi AP:

nmcli --ask device wifi connect "SSID_HERE"

with --ask flag, it asks for password before connection.

You can also type the password within the command, so it will be:

nmcli device wifi connect "SSID_HERE" password "PASSWORD_HERE"

And it will prompt that your Wi-Fi device activated successfully once connected.

Other nmcli commands:

The powerful command line tool can do many other useful things including:

  • Toggle on or off networking via command:
    nmcli networking on
    nmcli networking off
  • Enable or disable wifi via command:
    nmcli radio wifi on
    nmcli radio wifi off
  • Reload connection profiles via command:
    nmcli connection reload

It can also tell the current Wi-Fi connection password along with a QR code for sharing with friends.

For more about the tool, run man nmcli in terminal and enjoy!

Merilyn Ne
Hi, I'm Merilyn Ne, a geek who has been working on Ubuntu Linux for many years and would like to write useful tips for beginners. Forgive me for language mistakes. I'm not a native speaker of English.