June 17, 2024

Find and connect to WiFi networks from the command line


$ nmcli device wifi

to list available Wifi access points.

You should see something like this:

IN-USE  BSSID              SSID               MODE   CHAN  RATE        SIGNAL  BARS  SECURITY 
    A2:C9:EB:E7:DB:B8  Wifi_name          Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  100     ▂▄▆█  WPA2     
    9C:C9:EB:E7:DB:B8  --                 Infra  3     130 Mbit/s  100     ▂▄▆█  WPA2     
    9C:C9:EB:32:41:DD  --                 Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  85      ▂▄▆█  WPA2     
    A2:C9:EB:32:41:DD  Wifi_name          Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  82      ▂▄▆█  WPA2     
    A2:C9:EB:E9:92:87  Wifi_name          Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  75      ▂▄▆_  WPA2     
    9C:C9:EB:E9:92:87  --                 Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  70      ▂▄▆_  WPA2     
    A2:C9:EB:E9:88:49  Wifi_name          Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  29      ▂___  WPA2     
    9C:C9:EB:E9:88:49  --                 Infra  3     130 Mbit/s  25      ▂___  WPA2     

Then pick the BSSID of the access point you want to connect to e.g. A2:C9:EB:E7:DB:B8, and run:

$ nmcli device wifi connect A2:C9:EB:E7:DB:B8 password [password]

If the connection to the access point was successful, you should see:

Device 'wlp2s0' successfully activated with 'redacted_address'.

To test the connection was established, you can run:

$ ping yctct.com

See man nmcli to learn more about nmcli.


  • when I connect to a WiFi access point using nmcli, I have to disconnect from the VPN, for the internet connection to establish; then I can reconnect to the VPN
  • sometimes, nmcli says my laptop is connected to an access point, however, ping yields 100% packet loss; I need to figure why. Solution is to disconnect and reconnect VPN.

Add Aliases

Each time I switch back on the WiFi switch that is on the case of the Thinkpad X220, I have to reconnect to the access point. The command are long; I added two aliases:

alias wifi='nmcli device wifi' # to check that the access point I want to connect to is stared 
alias wico='nmcli device wifi connect [stared_SSID]' # to activate a connection with the stared access point (does not need password)

This was tested on a Thinkpad X220 running GNU/Linux Trisquel 11 on osboot.

Note: I found nmcli with the help of the utility apropos by running apropos network.

personal computing command-line interface (cli) gnu linux trisquel shell literacy office applications wiki nmcli

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