UniFi - Device Adoption Methods for Remote UniFi Controllers


This article describes several different layer-3 methods for deploying UAPs. Our recommended methods are found below under the Chrome Web Browser and Mobile App sections.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Initial Setup
  3. Chrome Web Browser (recommended)
  4. Mobile App (recommended)
  5. Discovery Utility
  6. DNS
  7. DHCP Option 43
  8. SSH
  9. User Notes & Tips
  10. Related Articles


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In many deployments where it's not possible/desired to have the UniFi Controller running at the premise, you can run the Controller in the cloud or your NOC. Say we have a large-scale project with many Devices, we could:

  • Take a laptop to the UAP Site to adopt devices via Chrome Browser (easiest method)
  • On Amazon, create a virtual controller instance on EC2. Read this article on the subject.
  • Configure/stage a few APs in our lab and customize the guest portals.
  • When we're at the customer's site, open a browser to the cloud-based controller.
  • Either configure DHCP server, DNS server, or simply use the UniFi Discovery Utility to make all local APs inform back to the controller.
  • On-going management/monitoring can be done anywhere and Amazon would provide us with great firewall configurations.

Initial Setup

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Please make sure you're familiar with how UniFi works (e.g. where AP and Controller is in the same L2) before attempting L3 Management. Also remember that in order to adopt 1. WAN port connected to the Internet
2. LAN port connected locally to access management features on the USG

UniFi APs have a default inform URL http://unifi:8080/inform. Thus, the purpose of using DHCP option 43 or DNS is to allow the AP to know the IP of the Controller.

Chrome Web Browser 

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After installing the Discovery tool plugin (freely available in Chrome Web Store) on your desktop PC running Chrome browser, locally-available, unmanaged UniFi Devices (i.e., same L2 network as your desktop PC) will appear "Pending Adoption" for L3 management via either of two cloud-ready UniFi interfaces: the SDN Dashboard and the Controller itself.

Via UniFi SDN Cloud Dashboard

1. Go to https://unifi.ubnt.com/ and log in with your UBNT credentials.

2. Go to the Devices section and locate the model with the Pending Adoption status. Click ADOPT.SDN.png

3. In the Adopt window that will appear, select the Controller and the Site that will be adopting the device and click Adopt.


Via the UniFi Cloud Controller

1. Launch the UniFi Controller, go to the Devices section, find the device you wish to adopt with the status "Pending Adoption - Locally Discovered" and click Adopt under Actions.


Mobile App 

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1. After installing the UniFi Mobile App (freely available in iOS App Store & Android Play Store), launch the app, and tap Direct Access (in iOS, in Android you will see the Direct Access section on the screen once you launch the app, see images below).

NOTE: Your mobile device must be connected to the same network as your devices, and must be able to access the Controller directly (using HTTP). A public IP and/or port forwarding may be necessary. The inform port of the Controller must be 8080.

2. Select your Controller from the list, or tap the "+" button to log in and add your Controller.





3. For iOS: Once logged in to the Controller, tap More. Here you will see the Layer 3 Adoption option under Utilities.

For Android: Tap the three-line "hamburger" menu and scroll down until you see L3 Adoption under Utilities. 




3. Devices will be displayed on this screen. Tap on the device you wish to adopt and select Adopt





4. After a few seconds (15-30 seconds, times will vary) the device will appear under the Devices section, which you can access by clicking on the Devices icon on the bottom menu bar.

Discovery Utility

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Not many environments can have a DHCP server that's configurable, even less likely with a DNS server. That's where UniFi Discovery Utility comes in. It listens to the multicast/broadcast packets from UniFi APs and allows you to configure the AP to inform any URL you'd like. (only APs in a default state or not in contact with any Controller will be displayed)

UniFi Discovery utility is installed along with your UniFi Controller.

  • On Windows, it's in Start Menu->Ubiquiti UniFi->UniFi-Discover
  • On Mac, /Applications/UniFi-Discover.app (or use Spotlight to find it)
  • Run "java -jar <unifi_base>/lib/ace.jar discover"

To perform L3 adoption with the discovery utility:

  1. Wait until the AP shows up
  2. If the AP is not in a default state. click "reset", specify the SSH username/password and click "Apply"
  3. Click on "manage", modify the inform URL and leave the SSH username/password as ubnt/ubnt and click "Apply"
  4. Open a browser to your remote UniFi Controller and you should see it is "Pending Approval"
  5. Click on "adopt". You'll see it going to "Adopting" state, ignore it as it'll eventually become "Adoption Failed" or "Disconnected"
  6. perform [step 3] again (no need to wait for [step 5] to finish)
  7. AP is now managed by the Controller. Once adopted, the Controller will upgrade these units automatically.

The option of the Ubiquiti Discovery Tool Chrome Extension is also available, downloadable directly from Google Chrome here, or from our UBNT download page.

NOTE: If your L3 Controller is available over the WAN then you need to make sure the necessary ports are open at the Controller side (minimum port 8080 for inform). If you do not have a static IP then you may want to consider using a dynamic DNS service, and use the domain name instead of the IP for the inform address. If you're using a USG then you can use the DDNS client that is available on that device itself.


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  • You'll need to configure your DNS server to resolve 'unifi' to your Controller's IP address. Make sure that AP can resolve Controller's domain name. For example, if you are setting http://XYZ:8080/inform, then ping from AP to determine if XYZ is resolvable/reachable.
  • Or, using FQDN for the Controller inform URL, http://FQDN:8080/inform
  • Troubleshooting - AP (with static IP) fails to connect to the L3 Controller
    • When configuring an AP from DHCP to static in the Controller UI, make sure you have put the IP of DNS. If not, then the AP cannot contact DNS to resolve Controller domain name.
    • If the AP has been reset (by pushing reset button), make sure that you have informed AP twice (using discovery utility) about the Controller's location (this will be improved in the coming release 2.3.0)

DHCP Option 43

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If using Ubiquiti's EdgeMAX routers, then DHCP option 43 can be done by just entering the IP address of the UniFi Controller in the "unifi" field on the DHCP-server.

NOTE: The UniFi Security Gateway (USG) will not use DHCP option 43 to add the UniFi Controller location when obtaining a DHCP lease on the WAN interface.

To use DHCP option 43 You'll need to configure your DHCP Server. For example:

Linux's ISC DHCP server: dhcpd.conf

# ...
option space ubnt;
option ubnt.unifi-address code 1 = ip-address;

class "ubnt" {
        match if substring (option vendor-class-identifier, 0, 4) = "ubnt";
        option vendor-class-identifier "ubnt";
        vendor-option-space ubnt;

subnet netmask {
        option ubnt.unifi-address;  ### UniFi Controller IP ###
        option routers;
        option broadcast-address;
        option domain-name-servers,;
        # ...

Cisco CLI

# assuming your UniFi is at
ip dhcp pool <pool name>
network <ip network> <netmask>
default-router <default-router IP address>
dns-server <dns server IP address>
option 43 hex 0104C0A8030A # -> CO A8 03 0A

# Why 0104C0A8030A ?
# 01: suboption
# 04: length of the payload (must be 4)
# C0A8030A:

Mikrotik CLI

/ip dhcp-server option add code=43 name=unifi value=0x0104C0A8030A
/ip dhcp-server network set 0 dhcp-option=unifi

# Why 0104C0A8030A ?
# 01: suboption
# 04: length of the payload (must be 4)
# C0A8030A:

Cisco has a good write-up for DHCP option 43 setup. You can also use the IP of the Controller in the inform URL instead of the domain name.

User Tip: Find more DHCP Option 43 instructions in the User Notes & Tips section. 


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If you can SSH into the AP, it's possible to do L3-adoption via CLI command:

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These notes have been added thanks to user collaboration. Have anything to contribute? Click on the Give Feedback button below!

Windows Server DHCP Option 43

User Tip: For Windows Server please see this external blog post.
NOTE: As in all our examples, we are using a sample IP address, you would input your own.

1. Input your IP in https://www.browserling.com/tools/ip-to-hex


2. Click Convert to Hex!


3. Add 01:04 to the beginning of the converted IP, so it would look something like this: 


4. Insert this in the Value field.

Screen_Shot_2018-02-21_at_2.07.32_PM.pngUsing Palo Alto Networks with DHCP Option 43 (Pan OS 7.1)

Related Articles

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Intro to Networking - How to Establish a Connection Using SSH

UniFi - Changing the Firmware of a UniFi Device

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