Any modern home isn’t modern without a wireless router. But with at least one wireless router in nearly every home, the WiFi radio spectrum can get cluttered pretty easily.
Most wireless routers use the 2.4 GHz radio band to transmit data. This radio band is divided into multiple channels, which are like the lines on the highway. In North America, the 2.4 GHz radio band is divided into exactly 11 channels, with channels 1, 6, and 11 being the only channels that don’t overlap with other channels.
In theory, 11 channels should be more than enough even for densely populated urban areas, but, in reality, people seldom change the default configuration of their wireless router, which results in a situation where too many wireless routers transmit data on the same channel.
WiFi analysis performed using a wireless network analyzer can reveal which WiFi channels are used the least and provide plenty other information necessary for comprehensive WiFi optimization. WiFi analysis isn’t hard to do, provided you use a good WiFi analyzer app, and its benefits are plentiful.
A WiFi analyzer can be an invaluable tool for diagnosing problems and optimizing your wireless network. You can use a WiFi analyzer app to improve the speed and reliability of your network. There are many apps from which to choose, so what features should you look for? A good wireless analyzer app should be able to do several things.
To start with, it should quickly detect all nearby wireless networks and gather enough information about them. At the very least, the app should be able to retrieve network names, also known as Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs), security settings, and signal strength data.
Some of the more feature-packed WiFi analyzers also come with heatmapping functionality, which allows you to capture signal strength data on a map to reveal areas of signal weakness and possible high interference.
Best WiFi analyzer apps are not just packed with useful features, but they are also exceptionally easy to use even by people who have little to no previous experience with WiFi analysis.
Here are some attributes you will find important in a WiFi analyzer.
Quality data collection — There are many statistics that an analyzer can provide about your network and those located nearby. At a minimum you want your app to display:
User interface — The manner in which the network data is presented can impact your ability to use it efficiently. You should be able to quickly find the information you are interested in viewing.
Portability — In order to use a WiFi analyzer effectively you need to take multiple readings of your network from various locations within the coverage area. You need to consider the available platforms you have available from which to run the app. Selecting a WiFi analyzer that runs on a laptop or mobile device will lead to the most productive use of the tool.
Reporting — You may find that you want to keep records of your WiFi scans and network statistics. Some apps give you the ability to export data to files for later analysis.
Here are seven WiFi analyzer apps that can help you tune your network for peak performance.
The Discover Mode is great for taking quick snapshots of nearby wireless networks. When in this mode, NetSpot instantly detects all wireless networks near you, including your own wireless network, and allows you to check their security settings, signal strength, the channel and band they broadcast on, and much more.
When in the Survey Mode, NetSpot allows you to outline your real-life wireless network data on a map, clearly showing where your signal is the weakest and where it is the strongest. NetSpot’s heatmapping functionality supports multi-level projects with different areas, floors, and so on, and it even makes it possible to create any number of snapshots within each zone to quickly compare various wireless configurations with one another.
Users wishing to run their analyzer on an iOS device will love the features of this tool which include diagnostic tools and an Internet speed test. With Network Analyzer by Techet, you can diagnose various WiFi problems with ease and with nothing but your iPhone.
It takes just a few taps to detect all devices connected to your network and see their IP addresses. When troubleshooting a large network, you can narrow down the number of scanned devices by specifying an exact IP range. Scan results can be further filtered by multiple parameters.
Network Analyzer can scan most common ports or user-specified port ranges to help you discover potential points of intrusion and close them before malicious hackers can take advantage of them. Being a modern WiFi analyzer app, Network Analyzer supports both IPv4 and IPv6, and it makes selecting between the two versions of the Internet Protocol a matter of a simple configuration option.
This web-based tool is designed to be used by enterprise network administrators and is powered by cutting-edge technology and advanced monitoring features.
Network Performance Monitor is designed to function as an automatic network analyzer, providing administrators with the information they need to maintain internal wireless network performance and spot potential issues before they affect employee productivity.
All important performance metrics are displayed on a customizable dashboard, including device downtime, average response time, and interface availability. Administrators can gain additional visibility into their networks thanks to a library of custom WiFi heatmaps within the Network Performance Monitor dashboard.Even though Network Performance is an expensive enterprise-grade WiFi analyzer, anyone can test its features for up to 30 days for free.
Here is a free WiFi analyzer for Windows which can be used on your laptop to monitor signal strength, find open channels, and test your network’s speed. You can download WiFi Analyzer directly from the Microsoft Store and instantly turn your PC or laptop into a network analyzer.
With the free version of WiFi Analyzer, you can discover nearby WiFi networks and learn all essential information about them, such as their names and channels. The free version doesn’t contain any ads, and you can use it without any limitations.
If you would like to unlock additional features, you can upgrade to the PRO version of WiFi Analyzer via an in-app purchase. The PRO version offers live-tile support, beeper for signal strength, the ability to connect to WiFi networks straight from the app, filters, and more.
Both Mac and Windows users will benefit from the advanced features of this tool, including the ability to graphically display the network’s signal strength.
This multiplatform WiFi analyzer app works with all 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac access points and provides full support for both 2.4 and 5 GHz networks and all channel bandwidths. Its most noteworthy features include the ability to connect to any detected network, wireless connection statistics in the form of graphs and tables, summary reports in HTML format, automatic speed tests, and fast IP scanning that detects unknown devices connected to your WiFi network.
WiFi Scanner is a paid app that costs $14.99 for the Windows version and $19.99 for the Mac version. A free trial is available for those who would like to test its features before buying.
First released in 1998, Wireshark is an extremely capable network protocol analyzer used to analyze what’s happening on wireless networks. It runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and many other operating systems and can be downloaded and used for free without any limitations thanks to its open source license.
Wireshark can capture data packets both from wireless networks and Ethernet, and the captured data can be browsed via its graphical user interface or the terminal. The graphical user interface makes deep packet analysis easier by color-coding network packets based on their type. However, this alone doesn’t make Wireshark accessible to inexperienced users.
Fortunately, there are many online resources, including beginner-friendly videos, that explain how to use Wireshark for network protocol analysis, and they do a great job of supplementing the official documentation.
Vistumbler is one of the best open source WiFi analyzer apps. It’s used mainly for large-scale access point visualization based on collected wireless and GPS data. The most recent version is optimized for Windows 10, but it also works with older versions of the operating system.
All data collected by Vistumbler can be exported into a number of file format, and that includes the GPS locations of discovered access points, which can be exported into a Google Earth KLM file or GPX (GPS eXchange format).
Don’t let the outdated user interface of Vistumbler discourage you from giving it a try. While it’s certainly true that Vistumbler developers prefer function over form, the user interface is fairly easy to get used to.
One of these WiFi apps should be able to help you improve your network’s performance. Download one to the platform of your choice and scan your network. It might point out a simple way to fix to issues that negatively impact your network and its users.
WiFi analysis may sound very technical and daunting, but it’s anything but that — as long as you use a simple yet capable WiFi analyzer app like NetSpot. In addition to NetSpot, you’ll also need a laptop with a WiFi card so you can detect nearby WiFi networks.
With NetSpot, you can choose between two distinct WiFi analysis methods. The first method, called Discover Mode, is all about quick and easy WiFi network discovery, instantly listing all WiFi networks available in your area, along with all important information about them, including network name, band and channel, security settings, WiFi standard, signal strength, and noise level.
The second WiFi analysis mode is called Survey Mode, and it allows you to perform a WiFi site survey and create a WiFi heatmap so you can see exactly where your WiFi signal is strong and where it could use some improvement.
By combining these two WiFi analysis methods, you can get a very accurate idea about the performance of your WiFi network and understand exactly what you need to do to improve it. For example, it takes just one click to see which WiFi channels nearby WiFi networks broadcast on, which makes it straightforward to solve channel interference issues.
NetSpot’s Discover Mode is so easy to use that it doesn’t need any explanation. Simply activate it using the toggle located in the top bar and watch as NetSpot creates a snapshot of all WiFi activity around you. NetSpot will then continue to analyze surrounding areas in real-time.
If you would like to pause the real-time analysis, you can do so using the Pause button in the bottom-left corner. Close to the Pause button is the Scan interval drop-down menu, which lets you adjust the interval between each scan.
The Discover Mode gives you all the information you need to avoid problems with interference and channel overload. But if you would also like to optimize the placement of your home router, you should switch to the Survey Mode and create a signal heatmap of your area.
Start NetSpot and click on the Survey button. Click on “Start new survey” and give your survey a name. NetSpot gives you a choice between loading an existing map from your computer or drawing a new map from scratch. Select which network, or networks, you would like to scan and then follow the instructions to take your first measurement.
Continue scanning until you have covered the entire area and click the Stop Scan button when you are done.
If there’s something that’s not completely clear to you, we encourage you to visit NetSpot’s help page, where you can learn more about using this professional wireless analyzer to perform WiFi analysis. The help page also lists all the features that are available to PRO users. If you perform WiFi analysis on a regular basis, NetSpot PRO can save you a lot of time, energy, and even money.
As you can see, WiFi analysis isn’t nearly as daunting as it would be if it wasn’t for modern WiFi analyzer apps such as NetSpot. With them, WiFi analysis is a piece of cake and something that every owner of a wireless router should do to avoid slowdowns and connection drops.