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hostapd Linux documentation page

About hostapd


hostapd is an IEEE 802.11 AP and IEEE 802.1X/WPA/WPA2/EAP/RADIUS Authenticator. This page is dedicated to the Linux documentation of its implementation and use. Please refer to the hostapd home page for information for other Operating Systems.

To communicate with a kernel driver, hostapd has to use some interface. All new cfg80211 (and mac80211) based drivers that implement AP functionality are supported using the nl80211 interface.

For old kernel drivers, hostapd contains separate drivers. As far as Linux is concerned, there are 3 other drivers you can use:

The mac80211 subsystem moves all aspects of master mode into user space. It depends on hostapd to handle authenticating clients, setting encryption keys, establishing key rotation policy, and other aspects of the wireless infrastructure. Due to this, the old method of issuing 'iwconfig <wireless interface> mode master' no longer works. It also means that user space programs like hostapd need a way to send/receive management frames.

Details of nl80211

In the old days, receiving and sending management frames required a monitor mode interface. You needed one interface running in master mode for standard traffic and another one for authentication, keys management, etc. The second one didn't require any specific API; it was accessed using a standard Linux socket. This method is still supported by nl80211 driver as a fallback.

Later, nl80211 implemented special commands for sending management frames (NL80211_CMD_FRAME) and subscribing to them (NL80211_CMD_REGISTER_FRAME). This allowed user space to handle wireless infrastructure using a single interface only. This is currently the preferred method that can be used with all mac80211 drivers implementing AP mode.

Getting hostapd

Using Your Distribution's hostapd

It is advisable to try your distribution's version of hostapd before taking the time to compile and install your own copy. This will make future maintenance easier as you'll be able to use the init scripts shipped by the distro and hostapd will be updated by it as well. If your distribution ships 0.6.8 or later, you can test with this bare minimum config by creating the file hostapd-minimal.conf:

#change wlan0 to your wireless device

If that config errors out with something like:

hostapd $ sudo hostapd ./hostapd-minimal.conf
Configuration file: ./hostapd-minimal.conf
Line 2: invalid/unknown driver 'nl80211'
1 errors found in configuration file './hostapd-minimal.conf'

it means that your distro is not shipping hostapd with nl80211 driver support and you'll need to follow the build instructions that follow. If it works, you can skip down to the configuring hostapd section. If not, continue on.

Download and Compile hostapd

Using hostapd with nl80211 requires you to have at least libnl-1.0 pre8 as this release introduced genl, Generic Netlink, which nl80211 relies on. Most distributions are shipping this or a later release by now. To compile on Fedora or other distributions that separate out the headers from the binaries, you need the libnl-devel package.

Throughout this section, versions will be referred to by: x.y.z

ex: hostapd-0.6.8.tar.gz would be referred to as hostapd-x.y.z.tar.gz

You can get the latest development version of hostapd from the git repository with:

git clone git://
cd hostap/hostapd

Or you can get a stable release (0.6.8 or later recommended) by downloading the tarball from as follows:

tar xzvf hostapd-x.y.z.tar.gz
cd hostapd-x.y.z/hostapd

Next, we need to configure the hostapd build to enable nl80211 driver support. Copy defconfig to .config, and open it in your preferred text editor. Also, there are other options that you may want to enable, like 802.11n support if your hardware can do it. Most of the other encryption types and features aren't needed for most applications, so if you're questioning if you need to enable it, you probably don't need to.

cp defconfig .config
vi .config

Now find this line:


and uncomment it by removing the '#' sign. Repeat for other settings that you may be interested in. The basic configuration, with only this line uncommented, is enough to get hostapd up and running with WPA/WPA2 authentication and encryption.

Next, compile hostapd:


If this fails with errors like:

driver_nl80211.c:21:31: warning: netlink/genl/genl.h: No such file or directory
driver_nl80211.c:22:33: warning: netlink/genl/family.h: No such file or directory
driver_nl80211.c:23:31: warning: netlink/genl/ctrl.h: No such file or directory
driver_nl80211.c:24:25: warning: netlink/msg.h: No such file or directory
driver_nl80211.c:25:26: warning: netlink/attr.h: No such file or directory

you need to install/update libnl-1.0pre8 (or later). If all goes well and the compilation finishes, try the minimal hostapd again, see the section Using Your Distribution's hostapd above for that.

hostapd # ./hostapd ./hostapd-minimal.conf
Configuration file: ./hostapd-minimal.conf
Using interface wlan1 with hwaddr 00:0d:0b:cf:04:40 and ssid 'test'

If that starts as the example here shows, you can move on to configuring hostapd. If it fails to start and gives errors about the driver not being found, review the steps listed above for compiling hostapd again. If it gets the error messages:

Hardware does not support configured mode
wlan0: IEEE 802.11 Hardware does not support configured mode (2)
Could not select hw_mode and channel. (-2)
wlan0: Unable to setup interface.
rmdir[ctrl_interface]: No such file or directory

then it means the hw_mode (a, b or g) in the config file is set to a value not supported by the hardware.

Configuring hostapd

Establishing Baseline for Configuration

Before configuring hostapd, you need to know the capabilities of the clients that will be using it. Not all clients will support all of the methods you may want to implement, so a baseline configuration needs to be established. You will also want to do a survey of your area to find the channel that has the fewest other APs on it. When choosing which channel to use, it is important to remember that the channels overlap with any channels that are within 20MHz.

Examples of the baseline you might establish:

Encryption: wpa-psk + tkip
Wireless Mode: g
Normal for an environment that has to support semi-legacy devices, that don't support CCMP or WPA2
Encryption: wpa2-psk + ccmp
Wireless Mode: g+n
Normal for an environment that has only up-to-date hardware and software
Encryption: wep
Wireless Mode: b
This is the worst-case scenario, as WEP is broken and can be trivially cracked.  Don't consider this as anything more than keeping casual freeloaders out.

Once you've found your baseline, it's time to edit hostapd.conf. The configuration options will be broken into 3 sections:

Common Options: options that you will probably want to set
Additional Options: options that are likely useful to at least know you have
Extra Options: options that you aren't likely to need for most setups

Common Options

The most basic set of options for using hostapd with the nl80211 driver have already been provided as the hostapd-minimal.conf. That is all you need if you don't care about consistantly being on the same channel, don't need/want encryption, and don't need a flashy name. However, that is not a realistic idea in the real world.

First, we'll setup the wireless interface settings, then the wireless environment settings, and finally the authentication and encryption.

Wireless Interface

Settings Summary:

  • interface: Tells hostapd what wireless interface to use.
  • bridge: Set to a bridge if the wireless interface in use is part of a network bridge interface.
  • driver: For our purposes, always nl80211. If you only have 1 wireless interface, and it's going to be bridged with a wired interface, a good example setup would be:

Wireless Environment

Settings Summary:

  • ssid: Sets the name (SSID = service set identifier) of the network. Note that wireless extensions/iwconfig incorrectly calls this “essid”.
  • hw_mode: Sets the operating mode of the interface and the allowed channels. Valid values depend on the hardware, but are always a subset of a, b, g.
  • channel: Sets the channel for hostapd to operate on. Must be a channel supported by the mode set in hw_mode, as well as allowed by your country's Wireless Regulatory rules. The SSID is just for ease of configuration. It is what shows up in scan results, and can help in configuring your clients. Check the scan results for your area and choose a name.

hw_mode needs to be something that all of your hardware supports. Setting this to 'g' is probably the most common setup, and also enables backwards compatability with 802.11b devices. Note, this is not where you enable 802.11n support, as 802.11n operates on top of 802.11a or 802.11g's functionality.

channel should be chosen so that it has the minimum overlap with other APs or other networks in your area. 802.11 channels are 20mhz (4 channels) wide in total, or 10mhz (2 channels) wide on each side. This means that an access point on channel 3 will interfere with an acces point on channel 1 or channel 5. Use this to pick a channel. Most consumer APs default to channel 6, so you can use channel 1 or channel 11 in most cases for the best results. Also note that the channels available to you depends entirerly on the local regulatory rules.

An example of a good normal setup is:


802.11n Settings Summary

802.11n builds on the settings above, and adds additional functionality. If your hardware doesn't support 802.11n, or you don't plan on using it, you can ignore these.

  • ieee80211n: Set to 1 to enable 802.11n support, 0 to disable it.
  • ht_capab: A list of the 802.11n features supported by your device. The explanation of these settings in the sample config file are quite helpful, so I'll suggest reading those. You can use the command 'iw list' to find a short list of the capabilities of your device.

Example settings:


- HT DSSS/CCK mode in 40MHz: Will/Can use DSSS/CCK in 40 MHz

Authentication and Encryption

There is a lot to the authentication and encryption options in hostapd. This section will cover the basics as far as WEP/WPA/WPA2 goes, as well as some of the other commonly used options.

Settings Summary:

  • macaddr_acl: This controls MAC address filtering. MAC addresses are easily spoofed, so only consider the use of this to be augmenting other security measures you have in place.
  • auth_algs: This is a bit field where the first bit (1) is for open auth, the second bit (2) is for Shared key auth (WEP) and both (3) is both.
  • ignore_broadcast_ssid: This enables/disables broadcasting the SSID.
  • wpa: This is a bit field like auth_algs. The first bit enables WPA1 (1), the second bit enables WPA2 (2), and both enables both (3)
  • wpa_psk/wpa_passphrase: These establish what the pre-shared key will be for WPA authentication.
  • wpa_key_mgmt: This controls what key management algorithms a client can authenticate with.
  • wpa_pairwise: This controls WPA's data encryption.
  • rsn_pairwise: This controls WPA2's data encryption. First, scratch macaddr_acl and ignore_broadcast_ssid from your priorities as they only enhance security (and even then, only slightly). Also, WEP has been effectively broken now, so unless you HAVE to support WEP, scratch that from your list. This just leaves WPA/WPA2. Per the draft standard, WPA2 is required for 802.11n, and as there are known attacks on WPA now, WPA2 is the recommended authentication and encryption suite to use. Fortunately, you can have both enabled at once. If Windows clients are going to be connecting, you should leave CCMP encryption out of the wpa_pairwise option, as some windows drivers have problems with systems that enable it.

A good starting point for a WPA and WPA2 enabled access point is:


If, alternatively, you just want to support WPA2, you could use something like:


That should be all of the settings that you'll need to change for a basic, secure access point using hostapd with an AP enabled mac80211 driver.

Dynamic VLAN Tagging

hostapd can be configured to move STAs into separate VLANs based on RADIUS tunnel attributes (as specified in RFC3580,

Tunnel-Type=VLAN (13)

To enable dynamic VLAN tagging, the following options in hostapd.conf need to be set:


A value of 0 disables dynamic VLAN tagging, a value of 1 allows dynamic VLAN tagging and a value of 2 will reject the authentication if the RADIUS server does not provide the appropriate tunnel attributes.

Furthermore, hostapd needs to know how the VLAN interfaces should be named. This is done through an additional config file as specified in vlan_file.

Example /etc/hostapd.vlan:

1       wlan0.1
*       wlan0.#

This will create a wlan0.1 interface on top of wlan0 and move all STAs with the RADIUS supplied vlantag 1 to that interface. The second entry is used to dynamically create VLAN interfaces on top of wlan0; hostapd will create an interface wlan0.vlantag for each different vlantag as supplied by the RADIUS server. For example, if a STA (station, a.k.a. device) associates, and the RADIUS server attributes contain, the vlantag 100 then hostapd will create a wlan0.100 interface and map the STA to this new interface.

IEEE 802.11i/RSN/WPA2 Pre-authentication

IEEE 802.11 roaming experience can be enhanced by pre-authenticating the IEEE 802.1X/EAP part of the full RSN authentication and key handshake before actually associating with a new AP. To enable RSN pre-authentication you will need hostapd enabled RSN pre-authentication and a STA supplicant that also supports and enables RSN pre-authentication. In this section we'll provide a brief description on how to enable rsn_preauthentication, what this does, and also provide references on how to enable RSN preauthentication on OpenWrt and enabling RSN preauthentication on wpa_supplicant in order to test it.

First and foremost you need to ensure all your APs will be using the same SSID.

In order to ensure your APs and RADIUS are on the same network/switch and can talk to each other you can ping each other and review the arp -a output, you should see the MAC address of each other's AP's bridge interface on the HW address column, as well as the RADIUS server's MAC address.

For example, say we have two APs and one RADIUS server:

  • ap136:
  • db120:
  • Radius server:

On ap136:

root@ap136 ~ # arp -a
IP address       HW type     Flags       HW address            Mask     Device    0x1         0x2         00:03:7f:11:20:00     *        br-lan      0x1         0x2         68:7f:74:3b:b1:0d     *        br-lan    0x1         0x2         c8:60:00:da:57:a7     *        br-lan    0x1         0x2         00:27:10:49:c6:44     *        br-lan

On db120:

root@db120 ~ # arp -a
IP address       HW type     Flags       HW address            Mask     Device    0x1         0x2         00:27:10:49:c6:44     *        br-lan    0x1         0x2         c8:60:00:da:57:a7     *        br-lan      0x1         0x2         68:7f:74:3b:b1:0d     *        br-lan    0x1         0x2         a2:69:db:89:44:88     *        br-lan

Assuming in this example that the RADIUS server is on, in hostapd.conf you'll need to enable:


Full example conf files generated by OpenWrt AA releases:

Note: the same SSID must be used for RSN pre-authentication.

If using OpenWrt, simply enabling rsn_preauth is sufficient, OpenWrt will automatically add the rsn_preauth_interfaces for you. This is typically your bridge interface. You'll need two instances of hostapd running on two separate devices on the same network/switch. You'll also need RADIUS installed on a server on the same network/switch. FreeRADIUS is an example RADIUS solution to install, go to read how to install and configure FreeRADIUS for authenticating 802.11 users.

Be sure to test the RADIUS server. You can do this by using the eapol_test program, part of hostapd code.

cd wpa_supplicant/
cp defconfig .config
make eapol_test

Then edit a file called eapol-config, only to be used for this simple test of the RADIUS server:


You should now be able to test this user as follows:

./eapol_test -c eapol-config -a 192.168.x.x -p 1812 -s testing123 -r1

Provided you have two APs properly configured with rsn_preauth as described above and on the same network, you should now be able to configure a client for RSN pre-authentication. Details on this are available at the wpa_supplicant RSN preauthentication documentation section.

On the RADIUS server you want to see something like this: The second authentication from the STA to the second AP would go through the already established network on the first AP, after it associated with it. To be precise, when a STA decides to try to preauthenticate against another AP, it is left up to each implementation to decide. This depends on the driver behavior and how it reports scan results or PMKSA candidates. Today, wpa_supplicant does this after association and after a first scan completion.

root@radius:~# radsniff| grep ^Access
Access-Request Id 0 ->       +0.000
Access-Challenge Id 0 ->       +0.000
Access-Request Id 1 ->       +0.009
Access-Challenge Id 1 ->       +0.012
Access-Request Id 2 ->       +0.017
Access-Challenge Id 2 ->       +0.018
Access-Request Id 3 ->       +0.065
Access-Challenge Id 3 ->       +0.066
Access-Request Id 4 ->       +0.077
Access-Challenge Id 4 ->       +0.078
Access-Request Id 5 ->       +0.083
Access-Accept Id 5 ->       +0.083
Access-Request Id 0 ->       +2.162
Access-Challenge Id 0 ->       +2.162
Access-Request Id 1 ->       +2.168
Access-Challenge Id 1 ->       +2.171
Access-Request Id 2 ->       +2.174
Access-Challenge Id 2 ->       +2.175
Access-Request Id 3 ->       +2.216
Access-Challenge Id 3 ->       +2.217
Access-Request Id 4 ->       +2.222
Access-Challenge Id 4 ->       +2.223
Access-Request Id 5 ->       +2.225
Access-Accept Id 5 ->       +2.225

These logs reveal the STA chose to authenticate with ap136 first and then db120 second, once connected on the network with ap136.

Assuming you can log in to the STA you should be able to see two PMKSA entries:

root@android:/data/local # wpa_cli -i wlan0 pmksa                                                                                                            
Index / AA / PMKID / expiration (in seconds) / opportunistic
1 00:03:7f:47:20:a5 eb25d3d579742c0384230fa66748f857 43042 0
2 00:03:7f:42:10:09 a99081d41e18f4632994b59b50bb2447 43044 0

The first one should correspond to the BSSID / MAC address of the WLAN interface of ap136, so for example for ap136 this would be the MAC address of wlan1. The second one corresponds to the BSSID / MAC address of the WLAN interface of db120, in this case wlan0. To test PMKSA caching you can roam from the STA of one AP to another and verify that upon reassociation to the first AP that the STA still has present the same PMKID (third field above, or sniff it from the network).

For testing purposes of RSN preauthentication you want to disable Opportunistic Key Caching as otherwise the PMKSA that the AP derived may have come from Opportunistic Key Caching instead of RSN preauthentication. Opportunistic Key Caching enables the PMKSA entries to be shared between configured interfaces and BSSes (i.e., all configurations within a single hostapd process).

Admission Control Mandatory Settings

Admission Control Mandatory (ACM) can be used to limit access to higher priority ACs for traffic control if admission control were implemented but it is not implemented in hostapd today. ACM can be enabled for the 4 ACs but should be disabled by default in hostapd.conf:


ACM should be disabled by default. In mac80211 we have a workaround to deal with strange access points that have configured all ACs to require admission control to transmit frames using AC_BK. Setting all ACs to require admission control would be a very strange configuration and that should never be used.

There is no point in setting wmm_ac_[option]_acm=1 with any mac80211-based driver since they do not support admission control anyway. The only use for this, with a driver that does not support admission control, is for testing purposes.

Automatic Channel Selection

This is a work in progress. The patches are yet to be included in mainline hostapd.

See the ACS sub-page for more details.

en/users/documentation/hostapd.txt · Last modified: 2022/10/11 07:20 by