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Best Apps to Measure WiFi Signal Strength for Mac

If 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.
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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.

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

NetSpot — the best WiFi signal strength app for Mac users

The good news is that there are now tools for both Mac and Windows computers that can help you do something about it. Here are 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 5 Best WiFi Signal Strength Meter Apps for Mac


#1
NetSpot — is a popular WiFi analysis, site survey, and visualization app for macOS and Windows.
#2
IStumbler — is designed to provide information about nearby WiFi networks, Bluetooth devices, and Bonjour services.
#3
KisMac2 — this free and open source tool for macOS is a continuation of the original KisMac.
#4
Wifiner — is a relatively simple WiFi signal strength app that doesn’t attempt to do too much at the same time.
#5
WiFi Explorer — is a polished app whose purpose is to help professionals and regular home users alike test WiFi signal strength.

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NetSpot
Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.
  • 4.8
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  • Users
NetSpot is a popular WiFi analysis, site survey, and visualization app for macOS and Windows.
  • Discover mode

    Reflects the rate of data transfer from user to the Internet.
  • Survey mode

    Available on any MacBook with macOS and PC laptop on 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.

Home WiFi signal strength
NetSpot features two distinct wireless network analysis modes

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.

NetSpot Discover Mode

The second mode is called Survey, and its purpose is to create visual wireless coverage maps to highlight the areas of weak signal.

Pros and Cons

  • Modern user interface
  • Two scanning modes
  • Basic features are offered
    for free
  • Additional features can be unlocked with a one-time purchase

  • None

choice #2
Available for macOS
  • Not Enough Ratings

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.

IStumbler

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.

Pros and Cons

  • Bonjour inspector
  • Detailed location stats
  • Takes a while to learn
  • Doesn’t offer filtering of the network list


choice #3
Available for macOS
  • Not Enough Ratings

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

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.

Pros and Cons

  • Open-source
  • Supports several third-party PCMCIA cards
  • Redesigned user interface
  • Lives up to the original

  • Lacks more advanced features

choice #4
Available for macOS
  • Not Enough Ratings

Wifiner is a relatively simple WiFi signal strength app that doesn’t attempt to do too much at the same time. Instead, it focuses on helping users perform WiFi strength tests to reveal quality-affecting issues. Wifiner turns the data it collects into easy-to-understand visual heatmaps that clearly highlight all problematic areas.

Wifiner

In total, Wifiner offers 11 different heatmap visualizations, allowing you to understand your network in every way possible. Performing a WiFi signal strength text with Wifiner is straightforward since all you need to do is load a map of your area and collect data by walking around from room to room in a zigzag pattern. You can then export the map you’ve created as a PDF or CSV file.

Pros and Cons

  • Easy to use
  • Offers 11 different heatmap visualizations
  • Can export project data into PDF or CSV

  • Can survey only one network at a time

choice #5
Available for macOS 10.10 or later
  • Not Enough Ratings

WiFi Explorer is a polished app whose purpose is to help professionals and regular home users alike test WiFi signal strength. Measuring WiFi signal strength with WiFi explorer is easy because the app does all the heavy lifting and provides full insight into WiFi networks with its intuitive user interface.

Besides simple WiFi signal tests, WiFi explorer can also find best channels, determine a more suitable router placement, identify conflicts with overlapping networks, and more.

WiFi Explorer

Even though the basic version of WiFi explorer can do a lot, it offers nowhere near as many features as WiFi Explorer Pro. For example, the basic version doesn’t support passive scanning, and it also can’t organize networks by name or access point.

Pros and Cons

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Extensive filtering options
  • Ability to decode network information

  • Doesn’t support passive scanning

How to Increase WiFi Signal Strength

Now that you know how to check WiFi signal strength with the best WiFi signal strength apps, it’s time we explain how you can use the information provided by them to make your wireless network perform better.

  1. Optimize the placement of your router : You want to place your router away from sources of radio frequency interference, which include other wireless transmitters, toaster ovens, baby monitors, and even wireless doorbells. Try to find a place that provides an even coverage of your entire living or office space.
Optimize the placement of your router
  1. Switch to a more suitable channel : When driving your car, you naturally move to an empty lane when you approach a slow vehicle to prevent it from slowing you down. Likewise, you need to configure your router to use the least busy WiFi channel available otherwise other people’s traffic might slow you down.
Switch to a Different WiFi Channel
  1. Set up a WiFi range extender : You can achieve a lot by optimizing the placement of your router, but sometimes it’s easier to leave the router where it is and set up a WiFi range extender to eliminate an annoying signal dead zone. When setting it up, you want to check WiFi signal strength and place the extender well within the range of your router so it has a good signal to retransmit.
Set up a WiFi range extender
  1. Update your router or get a new one : You might be surprised just how much WiFi routers have evolved in the last few years alone. Sometimes, manufacturers introduce support for new wireless standards via updates, but there’s only so much a software update can do. If your budget allows it, don’t hesitate to buy a new router.
Update your router
  1. Create a mesh network : A mesh network consists of multiple WiFi routers working together to cover a large area with a single network. While somewhat expensive to set up, a mesh network offers not only a fantastic WiFi signal strength but also great capacity and connection stability, making it a great choice for businesses and demanding home users alike.
Create a mesh network
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Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.
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  • #1
  • Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting

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FAQ

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

We can think of three main reasons to measure WiFi signal strength right away:

  • This will allow you to optimize the WiFi network performance;
  • It can help you make a decision to upgrade your old router;
  • It will give you some insight on whether you chose a proper placement for your new router.

What Affect the WiFi Strength?

There are several factors that can affect the WiFi signal strength:

  • Distance from the router plays a role of course. The farther away you are from it, the weaker the signal is.
  • Physical obstacles like thick walls and furniture impact the strength of your signal.
  • Surrounding wireless networks might be using the same channel as your WiFi.
  • Network load can have a significant effect on your current WiFi strength and speed.

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

There are some excellent WiFi analysis solutions macOS users can choose from. Here are the popular choices:

  1. NetSpot — a popular WiFi analysis, site survey, and visualization tool for desktop and mobile platforms.
  2. iStumbler — collects and lists data about surrounding WiFi networks, Bluetooth devices, and Bonjour services.
  3. KisMac2 — a free and open source tool for macOS with a wide range of features. It is no longer maintained though.
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Read next in All about Wi-Fi

If you want to dive deeper into this Wi-Fi thing, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi security, the best apps for wireless networking, inflight WiFi, etc.
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