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How to Find the Best WiFi Channel

Finding the best WiFi channel is essential for unlocking the full potential of your internet connection, and a solution like the NetSpot WiFi channel scanner can make this task much easier to accomplish.
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The good news is that learning how to find the best WiFi channel is easy and takes just a few minutes. As long as you equip yourself with a capable WiFi channel scanner, you should be able to find the best channel for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi in no time.

What Are WiFi Channels?

As you may know, most WiFi devices in use today broadcast information on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Each of these two bands occupies a certain frequency range. This range is then subdivided into multiple channels that are spaced apart evenly to allow multiple routers located in the same area to claim their own part of the radio frequency spectrum. As such, a WiFi channel is basically a small section of a frequency band.

WiFi channels waves
WiFi channels waves

To understand the difference between, you can imagine the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands as highways with multiple lines (channels). The advantage of having multiple lines to choose from is that as long as there’s at least one empty line, you can safely pass everyone else and reach your destination on time.

Now that you have a basic understand of what WiFi channels are, we can take a closer look at the two most commonly used WiFi bands:

2.4 GHz band: In North America, the 2.4 GHz band is divided into 11 channels. Because of its lower frequency, signals in the 2.4 GHz band have a fairly good ability to penetrate solid objects, such as walls and furniture, allowing them to cover a larger range with a strong WiFi signal. In addition to WiFi devices, this band is used by cordless phones, baby monitors, Bluetooth gadgets, and many other electronic devices, all of which can cause interference and slowdowns.

5 GHz band: In recent years, many manufacturers of WiFi routers have released models with support for the 5 GHz band to combat issues with interference on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Because of its higher frequency, signals in the 5 GHz band don’t penetrate solid objects as well as signals in the 5 GHz band, and they also benefit from a much larger number of available channels. In fact, you can imagine the 5 GHz band as several highways stacked on top of one another, each reserved for different vehicles and divided into multiple lines.

What Makes Channels 1, 6, and 11 Special?

While the 5 GHz band has 24 non-overlapping channels, the 2.4 GHz band has only three non-overlapping channels: 1, 6, and 11.

Non-Overlapping Channels
Non-Overlapping Channels

To make matters worse, not all WiFi routers and their users know that they should be using only non-overlapping WiFi channels because the use of any other WiFi channel is guaranteed to result in adjacent-channel interference.

Why does the use of other WiFi channels results in adjacent-channel interference? Because channels in the 2.4 GHz band have a WiFi channel width of 20 MHz, which would be fine if they were not spaced only 5 MHz apart. As a result, channel 3, for example, overlaps with both channels 1 and 6, and the same is true for channels 2, 4, and 5. Likewise, channels 7, 8, 9, and 10 overlap with channels 6 and 11.

Wi-Fi channels
Wi-Fi channels

Users sometimes believe that the best WiFi channel is the one that’s used the least, which is why they end up picking an overlapping channel and cause more harm than good. To really find the best channel for WiFi, you need a WiFi channel analyzer or scanner and a little bit of know-how.

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel?

use a scanner or WiFi channel analyzer

In public spaces, apartment buildings, offices, and other densely populated areas, it’s very common for multiple WiFi routers to broadcast simultaneously on a single non-overlapping channel. In such situations, your best option is to use a WiFi channel scanner or analyzer and find the least crowded non-overlapping channel.

Step 1:Understanding RSSI and Noise Values

To determine which non-overlapping WiFi channel is the best, you need to consider RSSI and noise values. The former stands for “Received Signal Strength Indicator,” and indicates how well a WiFi-enabled device can receive signals from a WiFi router. Noise indicates how much interference caused by other signals affects the particular connection.

RSSI is indicated in negative numbers, and the closer it is to zero the better because zero means that no signal strength has been lost during transmission. For example, an RSSI of -50 is better than an RSSI of -60. With noise, you want to get as far away from zero as possible, so -90 is better than -80.

Step 2:Calculate Signal-to-Noise Ratio

It’s also very useful to combine the two values and calculate something that’s called Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR), a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of the desired signal to the level of background noise.

To calculate the SNR of a WiFi connection, all you need to do is subtract the value of noise from the RSSI:

RSSI — noise = SNR → (-50) - (-90) = 40

The result is a positive number, and the higher the number is, the better WiFi speeds you can expect.

Step 3:Compare SNR Before and After Changing Your Channel

Now that you know how to calculate the SNR of your WiFi connection, it’s time to switch between channels 1, 6, and 11 and select the one that allows you to achieve the highest SNR.

find the best WiFi channel with NetSpot

If this sounds like a lot of work, you need a WiFi channel analyzer like NetSpot, which can calculate everything for you and instantly give you all the information you need to decide which WiFi channel is the best.

Find the Best Channel for WiFi on macOS, Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux

Now that you understand the theory behind finding the best WiFi channel, it’s time to take a closer look at how to do it in practice on every major platform.

If you decide that the steps described below are a lot of work, you can skip to the next section, where we describe how to use a WiFi channel analyzer like NetSpot, which can calculate everything for you and instantly give you all the information you need to decide which WiFi channel is the best. Best of all, NetSpot runs on most major platforms, and it delivers reliable results with minimal effort.

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel on macOS

As a macOS user, you have two main options on how to find the best WiFi channel: the Wireless Diagnostics feature and NetSpot.

Wireless Diagnostics

Wireless Diagnostics is a feature of macOS that lets you see all networks in your area, along with basic information about them:

  1. Click the WiFi icon in the menu bar.
  2. Select the Open Wireless Diagnostics option.
  3. I gnoring the window that appears, select Window from the menu bar and click Utilities.
  4. Go to the Wi-Fi Scan tab and look at the “Best 2.4 GHz Channels” and “Best 5 GHz” Channels” fields.

NetSpot for macOS

NetSpot is a third-party WiFi channel scanner with lots of useful, easy-to-use features that make one of the best WiFi channel scanner apps for macOS. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download, install, and launch NetSpot for macOS.
  2. Make sure Discover mode is selected.
  3. You can sort the discovered networks by their channel.
  4. Determine which channels are used the least.

How to Find the Best Channel for WiFi on Windows

Finding the best channel for WiFi on Windows without a third-party app can be a bit daunting because the tool provided by Microsoft doesn’t have a graphical user interface. Fortunately, third party WiFi channel scanners like NetSpot do.

Command Line

If you’re not afraid of the command line, then you can discover how often are different WiFi channels used by issuing the following command:

netsh wlan show all

NetSpot for Windows

Alternatively, you can use the Windows version of NetSpot, one of the best WiFi channel scanner apps for Windows.

  1. Download, install, and launch NetSpot for Windows.
  2. Make sure Discover mode is selected.
  3. You can sort the discovered networks by their channel.
  4. Determine which channels are used the least.

How to Find the Best Wireless Channel on Linux

Gathering information about WiFi channel utilization on most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu and Linux Mint, is a matter of entering the following command in your favorite terminal emulator:

sudo iwlist wlan0 scan | grep \(Channel

Instead of displaying all kinds of unnecessary information about each network, the command displays only a list of channels.

How to Find the Best Channel on Android

The Android operating system doesn’t provide a native feature that would let you find the best WiFi channel scanner for Android. Fortunately, you can download NetSpot for Android directly from the Google Play Store and use it to find the best WiFi channel with a few taps:

  1. Launch NetSpot for Android.
  2. Tap Discover.
  3. Analyze the scan results to determine which channels are used the least.

How to Find the Best Channel for WiFi on iOS

Apple provides its own utility, called AirPort Utility, and you can use it to discover the best WiFi channel available in your area. Alternatively, you can download a third-party WiFi Channel Scanner for iOS like NetSpot to enjoy advanced features and more comprehensive scan results.

AirPort Utility

  1. Go to the App Store and download the AirPort Utility.
  2. Tap the Settings app and go to the AirPort Utility Settings screen.
  3. Turn on Wi-Fi Scanner at the bottom.
  4. Launch AirPort Utility and tab the Wi-Fi Scan button.
  5. Set the desired scan duration and tap Scan.

NetSpot for iOS

  1. Connect the WiPry 2500x dual-band spectrum analyzer to your iPhone.
  2. Go to the App Store and download NetSpot for iOS.
  3. Launch the NetSpot for iOS app.
  4. Analyze the scan results to determine which channels are used the least.

How to Use NetSpot as a WiFi Channel Analyzer?

NetSpot is a powerful WiFi channel analyzer for Windows 10, 8, and 7, and for macOS 10.10 and higher. It can quickly gather all information about WiFi channels and surrounding WiFi networks, including their RSSI and noise values.

Discover Mode
Discover Mode

After taking a snapshot of surrounding WiFi networks, NetSpot is able to locate the busiest and least occupied channels, helping you decide which channel you should configure your WiFi router to use. To do that:

  1. Enter your router’s admin IP address into your web browser.
  2. Log in with the admin username and password.

Log in your web browser
  1. Go to settings and locate wireless settings.

Go to settings
  1. There should be an option to change the router’s WiFi channel.

Switch to a Different WiFi Channel
  1. Change the WiFi channel based on the information provided by NetSpot.

When using NetSpot to find the best WiFi channel, you need to keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to avoid co-channel interference, which occurs when two or more WiFi routers operate on the same channel or neighboring channels.

Here are some basic WiFi channel planning best practices to help you achieve this goal:

  • Analyze WiFi channels at different times of the day: Some WiFi networks, such as those created by printers and wireless security cameras are active only during certain times of the day, so it pays off to analyze WiFi channels more than once.
  • Consider the strength of each found network: The number of networks using a WiFi channel isn’t the only factor that matters. It’s sometimes better to use a channel that’s utilized by three other networks that are very far away than one network that’s very close.
  • Use a dual-channel WiFi router: Modern routers are capable of broadcasting simultaneously on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. If you’re still using an old single-band router, then spending around $100 on a solid dual-band router is a purchase you won’t regret.

By following these three simply WiFi channel planning best practices, you should be able to achieve the best download and upload speeds possible and avoid issues with latency, signal interference, and coverage.

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Use NetSpot to verify that the router is broadcasting on the new channel. It’s useful to try more than one WiFi channel and compare the SNR of your WiFi connection.

In addition to helping you find the best WiFi channel, NetSpot can also perform a WiFi site survey, create a detailed WiFi coverage map, help you discover areas of signal weakness, highlight all sources of WiFi interference, and much more.

FAQ

How do I know which WiFi channel is best?

In most situations, the best WiFi channel is the one with the lowest number of users, assuming all users broadcast a roughly equally strong WiFi signal.

Which WiFi channel is best for 2.4 GHz frequency?

Generally, you want to focus your attention on channels 1, 6, and 11 because these are the only non-overlapping channels in the 2.4 GHz band. Using a WiFi channel scanner, discover how many users each of these three channels has and pick the one that’s used the least.

What WiFi channel should I use for 5 GHz frequency?

You should use the channel with the lowest number of users. If you discover multiple suitable channels, then we recommend you use the lowest one because lower-frequency channels penetrate solid obstacles, such as well, better than higher-frequency channels.

How do I find the best WiFi channel for Windows 10?

You can easily find the best WiFi channel for Windows 10 using a third-party WiFi channel scanner like NetSpot. Thanks to its graphical user interface, finding the best WiFi channel is something even complete beginners can do with no effort at all.

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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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