How to use an external 5GHz Wi-Fi USB dongle in Recalbox

  • Hi,

    I've been digging a lot in the forum, and I found in the newer RecalBox version there will be support for more than one Wi-Fi interface in the configuration menu, but in the current version (4.1) there is only support to configure only one. I have another 5GHz Wi-Fi device, with support in RecalBox, but I was not able to find a way to configure it, actually, booting RecalBox with the external attached interface, I realized there was no posibility of making work the internal Raspi Pi 3 Model B Wi-Fi device (both external and internal Wi-Fi stopped working). Hence I started to investigate and finally I could make the devices work together for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks. Here is how I made it.


    • You have a Raspi 3 Model B, or at least one with an internal Wi-Fi device.
    • You have one external Wi-Fi device that supports 5GHz networks and it has support under RecalBox kernel modules (i.e:
    • You have a 5Ghz network available to connect to.
    • You want to connect your 5Ghz device to a 5Ghz network to have more bandwith for (i.e) watching movies with KODI or copy files to your RecalBox with more speed than the internal 100Mb Ethernet or 2GHz Wi-Fi device.
    • You will be able to include the network name of your 5GHz network Network configuration Menu within RecalBox (Menu --> Network Configuration --> Wifi SSID).
    • All the modifications, are hand made and most probably those could be better programmed than they are, but I can assure it works as it is.
    • You have minimum Unix knowledge to connect over ssh and/or edit files (vi) inside RecalBox.

    Well, let's start.

    I recommend to connect over the Ethernet cable IP until you have tested that the modifications fit your needs and it works (for me at least it does).

    In RecalBox, there is a script that handles all this stuff (wifi, networks, CPU speed, etc) which takes care about the Wi-Fi configuration stop/start, but it doesn't consider the idea (it will in the next Recalbox version) that you have more than one network interfaces (Raspi3 comes with an internal 2GHz network device). If you have another external device this script will break the Wi-Fi configuration as it looks up for wlan devices, but, as the system has two (the internal one and your external Wi-Fi device), it will run sed and join both device names (wlan0 and wlan1) and that will break the configuration as the resultant name (wlan01) doesn't exist in the system.

    Doesn't matter how many times you will modify the wpa_supplicant.conf file, or the network configuration files, all are overwritten within this script each time it is called, hence I realized that the only way was modifying the script file from inside.

    If you want to modify anything in this script, you will realize the file is in ReadOnly mode as well as many other /etc or system files. The first thing you must do is changing the RO option for the / folder.

    To do so run as root:

    mount -o remount,rw /

    then, make a copy (always backup everything you want to modify!!) of the script you are going to modify (/recalbox/scripts/ with:

    cp /recalbox/scripts/ /recalbox/scripts/

    Then edit the script called /recalbox/scripts/

    and go to the line 318. It shows this line:

    if [[ "$command" == "wifi" ]]; then

    and perform the modifications as follows:

    in the line 326, replace:

    wlan="wlan`ifconfig -a | sed -n \"s/wlan\(.\).*/\1/p\"`"


     for i in `ifconfig -a |grep -i wlan| awk '{print $1}'`; 

    Then in the line 333, include the following:

    (you can remove this line or comment it) instead of:

     sed -i "s/wlan[0-9]\+/$wlan/g" /var/network/interfaces # directly modify the file and not the link because sed create a temporary file in the same directory


    if [[ ! `grep -i $wlan /var/network/interfaces` ]] ;then  echo -e "\nauto $wlan\niface $wlan inet dhcp\nwpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf\n" >>  /var/network/interfaces ; fi

    in the line 364, after:

    /sbin/ifup $wlan >> $log

    the script exists with

     exit $?

    so this if has been included to avoid the script exiting after trying to configure the first wlan device (that will fail as it cannot detect the 5GHz network), and also in case the Wlan0 is able to connect to a 2GHz network, to do not continue trying with wlan1 (it avoids double IP in the same network):

    if [[ "$?" == "0" ]]; then
      exit $?

    Note: remember closing the for bucle with done before the line 368 that looks like:

    if [[ "$command" == "hcitoolscan" ]]; then

    so it should looks like:

    if [[ "$command" == "hcitoolscan" ]]; then

    you can use this snip of the script and then replace from line 318 to line 368

    if [[ "$command" == "wifi" ]]; then
        if [[ ! -f "$wpafile" ]];then
                echo "`logtime` : $wpafile do not exists" >> $log
                exit 1
     for i in `ifconfig -a |grep -i wlan| awk '{print $1}'`;
        #wlan="wlan`ifconfig -a | sed -n \"s/wlan\(.\).*/\1/p\"`"
        if [[ "$?" != "0" || "$wlan" == "wlan" ]] ;then
                echo "`logtime` : no wlan interface found" >> $log
                exit 1
                echo "`logtime` : $wlan be used as wifi interface" >> $log
        #sed -i "s/wlan[0-9]\+/$wlan/g" /var/network/interfaces # directly modify the file and not the link because sed create a temporary file in the same directory
        if [[ ! `grep -i $wlan /var/network/interfaces` ]] ;then  echo -e "\nauto $wlan\niface $wlan inet dhcp\nwpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf\n" >>  /var/network/interfaces ; fi
        if [[ "$mode" == "enable" ]]; then
                echo "`logtime` : enabling wifi" >> $log
                cat $wpafile | grep network >> $log
                if [ "$?" != "0" ]; then
                        echo "`logtime` : creating network entry in $wpafile" >> $log
                        echo -e "network={\n\tssid=\"\"\n\tpsk=\"\"\n}" >> $wpafile
                sed -i "s/ssid=\".*\"/ssid=\"`echo $ssid | sed -e 's/[\/&]/\\\\&/g'`\"/g" $wpafile
                sed -i "s/psk=\".*\"/psk=\"`echo $psk | sed -e 's/[\/&]/\\\\&/g'`\"/g" $wpafile
        if [[ "$mode" == "disable" ]]; then
                sed -i "s/ssid=\".*\"/ssid=\"\"/g" $wpafile
                sed -i "s/psk=\".*\"/psk=\"\"/g" $wpafile
                for i in `ifconfig -a |grep -i wlan| awk '{print $1}'`;
                        ifdown $i;
                exit $?
        if [[ "$mode" =~ "start" ]]; then
                if [[ "$mode" != "forcestart" ]]; then
                        settingsWlan="`$systemsetting -command load -key wifi.enabled`"
                        if [ "$settingsWlan" != "1" ];then
                                exit 1
                echo "`logtime` : starting wifi" >> $log
                killall wpa_supplicant >> $log
                /sbin/ifdown $wlan >> $log
                rb_wpa_supplicant "$wlan" &
                waitWifi $wlan 20
                /sbin/ifup $wlan >> $log
                if [[ "$?" == "0" ]]; then
                        exit $?
                ifconfig $wlan | grep "inet addr" >> $log

    you can test it with:

     /bin/bash -x /recalbox/scripts/ wifi enable "your 5GHz SSID" "your psk password"

    The menu in RecalBox will take bit longer (there is a 20 sleep inside it) as first it will try to connect over the wlan0 device (internal one) and then, it will try to login using the wlan1 (5Ghz device).

    Remember to mount / as RO again.

    mount -o remount,ro /

    Note: It will show as not connected in recalbox menu however, you will see the IP address (I didn't have more time to investigate why it states not connected).

  • @cvillabrille Hi !

    congratz for your investigations 🙂

    A few remarcks though:

    • why not just disable the internal wifi ?
    • all those modifications will be deleted on update

  • @Substring
    Thanks for your comments, however, I didn't find the way of disabling the internal Wi-Fi device. Maybe you can update here how to do it (I will really appreciated 🙂
    Also, I know modifications will be lost once updates will come, that's why I have made a backup of the script, and then I will add again the modifications.

    Again, this is not intended to be the best solution, just tried to help a bit for those who are in the same situation as me (where I didn't even know the internal wifi could be disabled 😞 ).

    I know with the newest version of RecalBox it will be included, but at least, I have played a bit and made some modifications to fit my needs. Of course it doesn't mean this is the best solution (I know it is not).

  • @cvillabrille You need to blacklist blacklist brcmfmac and brcmutil
    Even :

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