Best Apps to Measure WiFi Signal Strength for Mac

f only were wireless networks more reliable than they are, we could get done so much more work, binge-watch TV shows from so many places, and procrastinate in so many different ways. Unfortunately, WiFi networks are far from perfect, and WiFi signal strength seems to be as unpredictable and fickle now as it was years ago.

In What Cases Do You Need to Measure WiFi Signal Strength?

The good news is that there are now tools for both Mac and Windows computers that can help you do something about it. This article is aimed at Mac users, and it explains why you should spend time measuring the strength of your wireless network using a WiFi strength meter. It also lists some of the most important influencers of WiFi strength and introduces NetSpot, along with a couple of alternatives, as the best WiFi signal strength app for Mac users.

There are three main reasons to measure WiFi signal strength:

  • You want to optimize the performance of your WiFi network.

  • You want to purchase a new WiFi router and want to confirm that it’s really time to replace your current router.

  • You’ve recently purchased a new WiFi router and want to check WiFi signal strength to see whether it was a good purchase.

In all three cases, you want to not only know how fast your maximum download and upload speed is but also see where the WiFi signal is the strongest and where it is the weakest. Instead of spending a lot of money on a high-end wireless router, you may find out that you just need to move your existing router elsewhere to fix all your connectivity issues. You may also find out that the expensive router you’ve purchased, expecting it to perform far better than your previous router, is actually not much better.

What Influences WiFi Strength?

Before you measure your WiFi signal strength using a WiFi signal strength app, you should understand what influences WiFi signal strength so you know how to interpret the data generated by the app.

  • Distance: The most obvious influencer of WiFi strength is distance. The farther away you are from a wireless router, the weaker the signal becomes. Wireless routers with an internal antenna tend to have a weak signal compared to routers with an external antenna. Some routers even support multiple antennas, which can sometimes be independently positioned for optimal coverage or removed and replaced with stronger antennas.

  • Physical obstacles: Physical obstacles such as walls and furniture are the enemies of a strong WiFi signal. The thicker and less penetrable the obstacle, the greater the impact on the strength of your signal. While some obstacles can be easily avoided with some planning and preparation, other obstacles are immovable.

  • Other wireless networks: Imagine that your wireless router is a teenager who loudly and perhaps slightly obnoxiously talks with another teenager, the WiFi module in your laptop or smartphone. When there’s just the two of them, they can hear each other loud and clear. But when you have a whole room full of loud teenagers, pandemonium breaks out. If you live in the city, the chances are that there are dozens and dozens of wireless networks in your vicinity, all broadcasting with all their might and negatively affecting everyone else’s download and upload speeds.

  • Network load: Even the best WiFi router won’t help you overcome the limits of your Internet connection. If your ISP offers poor speeds and horrible latency, you can optimize your wireless network as much as you want, but it will never be perfect. That said, a well-optimized wireless network can make even a subpar Internet connection more bearable, sometimes even satisfactory.

What Are the Best WiFi Signal Strength Meter Apps for Mac?

Mac users can choose from several excellent WiFi strength test and analysis apps, and we have selected our favorites.

Top 3 Best WiFi Signal Strength Meter Apps for Mac

1. NetSpot

NetSpot is a popular WiFi analysis, site survey, and visualization app for macOS and Windows. Unlike many other similar apps, NetSpot features a beautiful user interface that has seen a lot of polish. This makes NetSpot perfect for home users who are not well-versed in networking terminology but would still want to take the matter into their own hands and improve their home WiFi signal strength.

NetSpot features two distinct wireless network analysis modes, which together cover virtually all wireless network analysis use cases. The first mode is called Discover, and it provides a quick and convenient overview of all detectable wireless networks, including networks that have been purposefully hidden. The second mode is called Survey, and its purpose is to create visual wireless coverage maps to highlight the areas of weak signal.

2. iStumbler

iStumbler is designed to provide information about nearby WiFi networks, Bluetooth devices, and Bonjour services. It features a powerful Oscium’s WiPry 5x WiFi spectrum analyzer and comes with the ability to debug wireless networks with RF Tools on macOS.

Some of the more basic functions of iStumbler includes the instant discovery of visible wireless networks with complete information, Bonjour inspector that shows detailed information including network addresses and service keys, and the ability to display the location of discovered WiFi networks, among other things. If iStumbler sounds somewhat complicated, it’s because it is, but it’s also well worth learning.


3. KisMac2

This free and open source tool for macOS is a continuation of the original KisMac, which was a highly capable wireless network discovery tool for Mac with a wide range of features, most of which were appealing primarily to advanced users and professional networking experts.

KisMac2 features a new and polished user interface that makes it accessible to more types of users than ever before, yet it supports all the features that made the original KisMac so popular, such as the ability to reveal hidden SSIDs, area maps of network coverage, and the support for AppleScript. Of course, KisMac2 also has an accurate WiFi strength test functionality and many other features that home users and networking professionals alike can appreciate.


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