If you’ve never heard the term “WiFi heatmap” before, then keep on reading because you’re about to learn what WiFi heatmaps are, how they are used, and how you create them yourself without any special skills or expert knowledge using readily available software tools.
A WiFi heatmap is a map of wireless signal coverage and strength. Typically, a WiFi heatmap shows a real map of a room, floor, or even a city overlaid by a graphical representation of a wireless signal.
Professional network administrators and regular home users alike use WiFi heatmaps to find dead zones and make adjustments to achieve the desired coverage. Without a heatmap, wireless network optimization involves a lot of guesswork, which is why most people who are not aware of the existence of WiFi heatmap software never manage to achieve the WiFi coverage they would like to have.
WiFi heatmap software fully automates the process of mapping WiFi coverage on a map, allowing anyone to create a WiFi heatmap in a matter of minutes just by walking from one place to the next until the entire area is mapped.
We’ve explained that a WiFi heatmap is a map of a wireless signal, but how does WiFi heat mapping software create it? While there are many different WiFi heatmappers to choose from, the process is usually fairly similar.
A user equipped with a laptop or smartphone with a WiFi heat map software application enters the premises and either loads up an existing map of the area or creates one from scratch. He or she then begins the heat mapping processing, carrying the laptop or smartphone from one location to the next, recording where WiFi is working well and where the signal is too weak for web pages to load quickly.
After analyzing the gathered data, the WiFi heat map software application creates a map overlaid with traffic light-style color spectrum, showing areas of the greatest signal strength as well as the greatest signal weakness. The color green usually indicates a good signal strength, while the color red indicates poor signal strength.
Besides WiFi strength heatmaps, most WiFi heatmappers can also create other visualizations and capture all kinds of information, ranging from signal-to-noise ratio to noise level to frequency band coverage.
You might now be thinking, “WiFi heatmapping sounds like a lot of work. Is it really worth the effort?” Well, WiFi heatmapping is actually a straightforward process that you can easily accomplish with just a few clicks using one of the best WiFi heatmap software tools described below. Whether it’s worth the effort depends on how important fast and reliable WiFi is to you.
If you have a home or office WiFi network, you probably depend on it every day so optimizing it for best performance and eliminating signal weak spots is definitely worth the little effort it takes to run a modern free WiFi heat mapping software application.
The purpose of creating a WiFi heatmap is to obtain accurate information about the quality of coverage of a WiFi network. As you may know, WiFi coverage is affected by many different factors, including:
Great WiFi heatmap software tools are actually not that easy to find. To help you out, we have selected 5 best heatmap tools currently available so you can get most from your WiFi network as soon as possible.
Available for macOS and Windows, NetSpot is the only heatmap software tool designed to satisfy the needs of professional and home users alike. NetSpot runs on any laptop or computer with macOS 10.10+ or Windows 7/8/10.
To create a WiFi heatmap using NetSpot, all you need to do is enter the Survey Mode and follow the simple instructions. NetSpot will ask you to upload a map of the area you would like to survey, but you can also create one using the built-in mapping tool.
Then just walk from one place to the next to collect wireless site survey data and wait for NetSpot to automatically build a WiFi heatmap for you. The heatmap will tell you exactly where your wireless signal is the strongest and where it could be improved.
Besides its wireless heatmap capabilities, NetSpot is also a great WiFi analyzer. Switch to the Discover Mode and let NetSpot collect detailed information about nearby wireless networks, including those that do not broadcast their SSID, showing you what kind of security settings the networks use, which channel they broadcast on, and how strong their signal is, among other things.
Despite having so many useful features, NetSpot never lets its users wonder which button they should click on to accomplish what they want to do. Because of its ease of use, professional features, attractive price, and stellar customer support, NetSpot has established itself as a leading heatmapper and WiFi analyzer, earning the top spot on this list.
Ekahau HeatMapper is no-frills WiFi heatmap software with support for 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi networks and a simple user interface. This heatmapping tool can automatically discover all nearby access points and detect their security settings to help you better understand how you should optimize your own wireless network for maximum performance.
Ekahau HeatMapper can be downloaded for free, and it works on any Windows laptop or desktop computer with a WiFi adapter and at least 1 GHz processor and 1 GB of memory. Compared to NetSpot, Ekahau HeatMapper has a lot fewer features even though the two heatmappers are equally easy to use.
With Acrylic Wi-Fi Heatmaps you can turn your personal computer or laptop into an advanced wireless network analysis tool to get a detailed overview of the wireless landscape around you. Acrylic Wi-Fi Heatmaps can analyze both the 2.4 and 5 GHz RF spectrum and generate detailed heatmaps and reports in a variety of common file formats.
The heatmaps generated by this WiFi heatmap software tool can be based both on online maps as well as on user-imported maps. Acrylic Wi-Fi Heatmaps makes it possible to edit the generated maps, which is something that professionals across many different industries can appreciate. You can try Acrylic Wi-Fi Heatmaps for free by downloading the trial version for the official website of the software.
Intended for large-scale and local WiFi surveys alike, VisiWave Site Survey provides three effective methods for capturing data. You can either capture data one point at a time, continuously walk through the survey area, or use GPS positioning for outdoor surveys. Several customizable templates can be used to easily create custom WiFi signal strength and coverage reports, and the gathered data can also be viewed in Google Earth.
VisiWave Site Survey supports most wireless adapters, and it doesn’t require any special hardware components to function. VisiWave has been maintaining and upgrading this comprehensive software product for over 13 years, so you can count on their support even in the future.
AirMagnet Survey PRO can automatically create easy-to-read heatmaps for signal/noise, WLAN throughput, PHY data rates, retry rates, and packet losses. This heatmapper supports all WiFi network standards and surprises with its large number of supported features. Unfortunately, AirMagnet Survey PRO has a slightly outdated user interface, which can be unintuitive at times.
If you frequently need to create WiFi heatmaps, you will most likely get over the clunky user interface relatively soon. But if you’ve never created a WiFi heatmap before and don’t know if you will ever need to create one again, a more user-friendly WiFi heatmapper, such as NetSpot, is a better choice for you.
With so many excellent WiFi heatmap software tools to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? By considering the following criteria:
Creating a WiFi heatmap with NetSpot is simple, and you don’t need any technical knowledge whatsoever because NetSpot makes the entire process extremely simple:
A WiFi heatmap is a visual color-coded map that shows the wireless signal coverage and strength. Thanks to this colored representation one can easily spot weak wireless areas and try fixing the problem.
We have selected 5 best heatmapping solutions for you. Here are their brief descriptions:
After opening NetSpot, go to its Survey Mode and follow the simple instructions. You'll need to either upload a map of a surveyed area or create one directly in NetSpot. Once you have the map in front of you, start walking from spot to spot while NetSpot is building a heatmap. With the resulting visual heatmap, you'll be able to see which areas have the strongest signal, and where the coverage needs to be enhanced.
Use NetSpot to gather information about the surrounding networks. In the app's Discover Mode you can see what kind of security settings the discovered networks use, what channels they broadcast on, their signal strength, and more. You can get information about the networks that don't broadcast their SSID as well.
To make a WiFi heat map, you don’t need to purchase any special equipment. All you need is a laptop and a WiFi heatmapper application like NetSpot. Once you have your WiFi heatmapper application of choice installed on the laptop, you can go ahead and use it to create your first WiFi heat map by methodically walking from one part of the surveyed area to the next. From start to finish, heatmapping a regular-sized apartment shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes or so.
Wireless heat maps are easy to read because they are largely left explanatory.
For example, a WiFi heat map showing the strength of a wireless signal is typically color-coded in green, orange, and red. Green parts represent areas of great signal strength, orange parts represent areas of average signal strength, and red parts represent areas of poor signal strength. Ideally, you want the entire surveyed area to be green, which can be achieved through various signal-optimization techniques and strategies.
The exact steps will depend on your WiFi mapper of choice, but the general process is always the same:
With the right WiFi mapper, you should be able to create a map highlighting various aspect of your wireless coverage in just a few minutes and without any special knowledge.
Just like electromagnetic waves, a WiFi signal will get stronger and stronger the closer you get to its source (a WiFi router or repeater). Knowing this, you can use a WiFi mapping tool to create a heatmap of your area to see where the signal has the greatest strength.
Just know that the strength of a WiFi signal can also be affected by solid obstacles and other devices that use electromagnetic radiation for transferring information, so finding the exact origin of the signal may not always be possible.