BackTrack is a very popular free Linux distribution that is commonly being used to hack into wireless networks by using Aircrack-ng to crack the WEP/WPA encryption. The reason why BackTrack is being used instead of Windows is because there are no patched drivers available for Windows that supports injection, unless you are willing to fork out $300 or $700 for an AirPcap TX/NX adapter. It is relatively easy to get BackTrack running by installing using UNetbootin and booting up the live version from USB but the most important thing is to make sure that your USB wireless adapter supports monitor mode and packet injection.
If you’re looking to purchase a fully compatible plug and play USB wireless adapter that works really well with BackTrack 5, it can be tricky because some brands with the exact model can have a different chipset for different version numbers. For example, the TL-WN822N USB wireless adapter by TP-LINK comes with 3 versions. The version 1 uses two different chipsets, which is Atheros AR9170 and AR9102 while version 2 has the Atheros AR7010 and AR9287 chipsets, and the latest version 3 uses Realtek RTL8192CU. The chipset on a USB wireless adapter is the most important information but normally is not shown on the product box or even on the device itself.
To help you in purchasing the correct adapter, here we list the safest USB wireless network adapter that we’ve tested to have the best plug and play compatibility with BackTrack 5, Kali Linux and Aircrack-ng. You can find a few online resources suggesting some USB wireless adapters that are compatible with BackTrack 5, but most of them are either outdated or simply recommend the Alfa AWUS036H which only supports B and G wireless standards but not N. We do not recommended to just blindly purchase any of the newer adapters released and sold by the manufacturers because most likely BackTrack 5 would not have the updated drivers to support it.
After testing more than a dozen USB wireless network adapters, we found out that the 3 chipsets listed below are the most stable with BackTrack 5. You can click on the hyperlink to see the list of brands that use the chipset.
- 1. Atheros AR9271 – IEEE 802.11B/G/N
- 2. Ralink RT3070 – IEEE 802.11B/G/N
- 3. Realtek RTL8187L– IEEE 802.11B/G
Most of the wireless network adapters listed on the page from the hyperlink above were released a few years back making it difficult to purchase because manufacturers normally releases new products very frequently and phase out the old versions. After screening through the list, here are our recommended USB wireless adapters that have the best compatibility with BackTrack 5, Kali Linux and Aircrack-ng. Alfa prices were taken from Rokland Technologies, an official Alfa distributor in the USA while TP-LINK from Amazon.com.
Atheros AR9271 chipset
1. Alfa AWUS036NHA – $28.97
2. TP-LINK TP-WN722N OR TP-WN722NC $15.99
TP-LINK TP-WN722N USB Wireless Network Adapter
1. Alfa AWUS036NH – (Bigger size) $27.99
2. Alfa AWUS036NEH – (Smaller size) $21.97
Alfa AWUS036NEH USB Wireless Network Adapter
1. AWUS036H – (Bigger size) $24.99
2. AWUS036EW – (Smaller size) $19.97
Alfa AWUS036H USB Wireless Network Adapter
We’ve put some of the USB wireless adapters mentioned above to the tests to determine the signal performance and you can find the results on page 2.