This article is intended for people who have never used a WiFi channel scanner before. It explains what WiFi channel apps do and lists top 5 best WiFi channel scanner apps that you can download right now.
Wireless networks operate on five distinct frequency ranges: 2.4 GHz, 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5 GHz, and 5.9 GHz. Each frequency range is divided into several channels to minimize interference and network congestion. In this regard, WiFi channels are like road lanes. Just like multilane roadways can carry greater volumes of traffic than two-lane roads, so do WiFi channels allow more users to enjoy maximum download and upload speeds at the same time.
In most countries, the 2.4 GHz frequency range, which is the most commonly used short-distance frequency range, is divided into 13 channels with 5 MHz of channel separation. In North America, the 2.4 GHz frequency range is divided only into 11 channels, but the WiFi channel width is the same as in the rest of the world.
Because each channel on the 2.4 GHz spectrum is 20 MHz wide and the channel separation is only 5 MHz, only three channels don’t overlap with any other channels: 1, 6, and 11. This is important because WiFi channel overlap is a common cause of interference and performance degradation.
Most WiFi channel analyzer and SSID scanner apps can detect which channel a WiFi network operates on and plot all nearby networks on a graph to make it obvious which channels are used the least. Some WiFi channel analyzer and WiFi channel scanner apps, however, are far more reliable than others, and some also come with unique features that make WiFi network optimization much easier.
When you received your home router from your ISP, the chances are that you weren’t paying much attention to all configuration options available. One available option lets you choose which WiFi channel the router should operate on. It’s paramount that you pick a channel that isn’t already occupied by several other nearby wireless networks.
Why? Because WiFi channels are sort of like the lines on the highway. When too many cars travel in the same line, the speed of traffic can slow down to a crawl and make traveling anything but enjoyable. That’s why busy highways tend to have multiple lines going both ways.
WiFi networks (those that use the 2.4 GHz band) can also take advantage of multiple lines, or channels as they are called, when broadcasting data. In North America, there are 11 channels available. While that may sound like a lot, only 3 of these channels are non-overlapping (1, 6, and 11), meaning they’re not affected by co-channel interference caused by adjacent channels.
That’s why WiFi channel planning is so important, and why it should always precede every deployment of a WiFi network. But without a wireless channel scanner, proper WiFi channel planning is impossible because you have no way of knowing which channels are busy and which are free from traffic.
A wireless channel scanner such as NetSpot can instantly scan all wireless networks in your area, detect which WiFi channels they run on, and provide you with other useful information that you can use to find the best WiFi channel possible.
Some wireless channel scanners can also help you optimize the strength of your wireless network by generating a WiFi strength heatmap of your local area and highlighting areas with insufficient coverage.
NetSpot is both an excellent WiFi channel scanner app and a WiFi survey tool. NetSpot features two distinct modes of operation: Discover and Survey. The Discover mode is what you need when you want to discover WiFi channel overlap.
When you activate it, NetSpot immediately analyzes all nearby wireless networks, gathers all available information about them, and presents its findings sorted as an intuitive list. You can then zoom in on individual wireless networks to learn more about them, or you can switch to the Survey mode and conduct a wireless signal strength site survey to discover dead zones.
NetSpot is also one of the easiest WiFi analyzer apps to use, even though it’s used daily by countless network professionals around the world.
Integrated into macOS is a handy WiFi analyzer tool that has much of the same functionality as many other free WiFi analyzer apps available from the web and App Store.
The name of this tool is Wireless Diagnostics, and this is how you can access it:
Now that you know how to run network diagnostics on Mac using the Wireless Diagnostics tool, you should also know that the tool automatically generates a WiFi diagnostics file and saves it in the folder /var/tmp. You can use this file to learn even more information about your wireless network and other networks available in your local area, or you can send it to your network administrator and ask them to take a look at it.
Other wireless diagnostics Mac utilities included with the Wireless Diagnostics tool can be opened from the Window menu in the Wireless Diagnostics menu bar. They include a packet sniffer and a real-time performance monitoring tool, just to give two examples of some of the tools that make this humble wireless channel scanner for Mac so useful.
WiFi Scanner can scan for surrounding networks and supply vital WiFi information needed for troubleshooting purposes. The app allows users to narrow down the results using customizable filter options, it can plot 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channel graphs to display WiFi channel overlap, and it even includes a handy speed test feature so you can test the performance of your network in various areas.
The information you gather using WiFi scanner can be exported into CSV files, making it easy to share it with others.
Apart from WiFi networks, IStumbler can also find Bluetooth devices and Bonjour services. The app supports both the 2.4 GHz frequency range as well as the increasingly more popular 5 GHz frequency range.
Unlike many other WiFi analyzer apps, iStumbler isn’t free. The app costs $9.99 for all the computers that you own, and you can purchase your license in the store or right in the app. iStumbler works on all Mac computers running macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or later.
KisMAC is a free and open source wireless analysis and security auditing tool for macOS. It’s built upon the original KisMac, which was developed by Michael Rossberg and Geoffrey Kruse.
Unfortunately, the original KisMac hasn’t been updated since 2011, so Vitalii Parovishnyk, the lead developer of the current iteration of KisMAC took over and continued from where Michael Rossberg and Geoffrey Kruse had stopped. KisMAC works on all versions of macOS from 10.9, and it features an updated user interface that makes the software easier to use than ever before.
Learning how to change the WiFi channel on your router can help you avoid internet slowdowns and other potential WiFi problems, and it won’t take you more than 10 minutes of your time. Here’s what you need to do:
Determine the Most Suitable WiFi Channel
Before you change your router settings, you need to find the best WiFi channel using a Mac channel scanner like NetSpot (click here for the best WiFi channel scanner for Android and the best WiFi channel scanner for iOS).
NetSpot makes finding the most suitable WiFi channel a breeze thanks to its Discover mode.
In this mode, NetSpot collects every detail about surrounding WiFi networks, including their channels. You can use this information to determine which channel is used the least, and that’s the channel you should configure your router to use.
Log in to your router’s admin interface
Once you know what the most suitable WiFi channel in your local area is, it’s time to tell your router to use it. To do that, you need to log in to its admin interface. In most cases, the interface will be accessible by entering one of the following IP addresses in your web browser:
If none of these addresses work, then we recommend you consult your router’s manual or ask the manufacturer directly.
It’s very likely that you’ll be asked to enter the admin login information to access the interface. If you haven’t changed it, then using the word “admin” for the login name as well as the password should work fine. Other common router passwords include 12345, root, and default.
Change the WiFi Channel and Restart Your Router
Assuming that you’ve been able to log in to your router’s admin interface, you can now navigate to the wireless settings section and change your WiFi channel. Sometimes, the option to change the WiFi channel is hidden under Advanced Settings, so make sure to look there as well if you can’t find it.
After saving the new settings, your router will most likely need to be rebooted. Don’t worry: you won’t have to connect your devices again. You would have to do that only if you also changed the name of your WiFi network or the password used to protect it.
There are many applications that let you scan WiFi channels on Mac, but NetSpot stands out as the best one (we also consider it to be one of the best WiFi channel scanners for Windows). With its help, you can quickly and effortlessly find the best WiFi channel for your network and troubleshoot various other issues that are negatively affecting your experience.
With a reliable WiFi channel analyzer one can figure out which channels are used by the surrounding networks — there should be a possibility to put all nearby networks on a graph where the channel overlap will be obvious.
With a reliable wireless channel scanner such as NetSpot you can easily see which channels the wireless networks in your area run on, and decide which WiFi channel will be the best for your network. This can help you avoid channel overlap and get a more consistent coverage.
We can recommend the following apps as the best WiFi channel scanners for Mac:
You can use the Wireless Diagnostics tool that is integrated into macOS and has much of the same functionality as some other free WiFi analyzers that you can download from the App Store.
While holding the Option key on the keyboard, click the WiFi icon in the menu bar.
Click the Open Wireless Diagnostics option.
Type your administrator password if asked.
The wireless diagnostics will let you know whether everything is running properly and will offer you the option of saving the report to a file.
You can discover the best WiFi channel using a WiFi channel scanner app like NetSpot. Its discover mode automatically gathers information about surrounding networks, making it simple to see which channels are used the least.
You can scan for WiFi channels using the built-in WiFi analyzer tool, called Wireless Diagnostics, or you can download a third-party WiFi channel scanner. We recommend the latter option because third-party WiFi channel scanners are packed with useful features and are, at least in some cases, easier to use.
To change the WiFi channel on your Mac, you need to open your web browser of choice, such as Safari, log in to your router’s admin interface, and pack a new channel from the Wireless Settings section of the admin interface.