Connect to Wifi in Linux with nmcli

nmcli is a command line tool for interacting with NetworkManager which handles wifi. It is useful as it is installed in many distros by default, and therefore provides a standardized way of connecting to wifi and managing connections.

Connect to Wifi

nmcli d wifi list --rescan yes

note: d is short for device and --rescan yes makes sure that nmcli scans for wifis before listing them.


IN-USE  BSSID              SSID                      MODE   CHAN  RATE        SIGNAL  BARS  SECURITY  
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  Internet-one              Infra  3     270 Mbit/s  65      ▂▄▆_  WPA2      
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  Internet-two              Infra  36    270 Mbit/s  49      ▂▄__  WPA2      
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  third-internet-ssid       Infra  10    270 Mbit/s  47      ▂▄__  WPA2      
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  your-wifi                 Infra  5     403 Mbit/s  35      ▂▄▆_  WPA1 WPA2 
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  awesome                   Infra  44    270 Mbit/s  39      ▂▄__  WPA2      
        NN:NN:NN:NN:NN:NN  totaly-secure-wifi        Infra  9     405 Mbit/s  35      ▂▄__  WPA1 WPA2 

Select the SSID of your internet and connect to it like this:

nmcli d wifi connect "your-wifi" --ask

note: --ask prompts you for a password if needed.


When you have connected to a wifi, the wifi will be saved as a connection, and you will not have to provide your password again. You can run the following command to see all the stored connections.

nmcli c show

note: c is short for connection.

The connections are stored in /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections. This folder can only be accessed by root. Inside each connection file metadata about the wifi is stored, this includes its password in plain text!

This makes is possible to transfer all your connections to another computer by simply copying the connections over. The new computer will now automatically connect to the transferred wifis.

Getting more Information

This is of course not everything nmcli can do. If you want to find out more about nmcli you can view the manual online or simply read the manual in the terminal like this:

man nmcli

And if you need a list of options in a command just run this:

nmcli [command] -h