Raspberry Pi Zero – Setting up WiFi over the serial console

Raspberry Pi Zero - Setup WiFi via serial console

Setting up the Raspberry Pi Zero via the serial console (without using a Micro HDMI adapter or USB hub for the keyboard/WiFi adapter) is quite simple if you have a SparkFun FTDI Basic Breakout (this MUST be the 3.3 volt version) or similar and a few pieces of wire or breadboard jumper wires.

Here I’m connecting both the Raspberry Pi Zero and FTDI Basic to the same USB hub so taking advantage of the shared ground via the USB hub.

Connect the FTDI Basic RXI to pin 8 (TXD) on the Raspberry Pi Zero (fourth pin from the left on the outside edge of the PCB) and the TXO pin on the FTDI Basic to pin 10 (RXD) on the Pi (fifth pin from the left on the outside edge of the PCB) – I poked the pins through the PCB from underneath and used the weight of the Zero to hold them in place.

With a flashed SD card in and WiFi USB connected (I used a USB OTG Converter Shim rather than a more bulky OTG adapter cable) power up the FTDI Basic and connect to the COM port using your chosen serial terminal with 115,000 baud (speed), 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, None (Parity) and disable any flow control – for this I use PuTTY.

Next power up the Raspberry Pi via the micro USB PWR port and you should see it boot up in the terminal window.

Raspberry Pi - Serial Console Booting - PuTTY

The Raspberry Pi documentation can now be followed to setup the WiFi adapter via the command line which basically comprises of adding the following to the “/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf” file.


Then either “ifdown wlan0 && ifup wlan0” or “reboot” if the changes are not automatically picked up.

You should now be able to connect to the Raspberry Pi Zero over the WiFi connection (“ifconfig” should show the current IP address) and the FTDI Basic can be disconnected.

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