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Use WiFi Heatmap for network improvements

Visual analysis makes things so much easier! Your WiFi coverage is displayed in heat waves so you can see exactly where the hot, cold and "good enough" spots are.
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  • NetSpot
  • Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting
  • 4.8
  • 969 User reviews
There is no need to guess where you may need a better WiFi coverage, with NetSpot WiFi heatmapper tool you'll see exactly where you need to improve it.

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Map your WiFi coverage
Best Practices for Creating WiFi Heatmaps
Let NetSpot build a WiFi heatmap for you
  1. Start a New Survey
  2. Load or Create a Map of Your Space
  3. Start the Heat Mapping Process
  4. Analyze the Results
  5. Save Your Heat Map
Visualizations
Implementing the WiFi Heatmap knowledge
FAQ

Map your WiFi coverage

Let's say you installed a small wireless network at home or at your office, but are not sure if the access points perform their best and cover the area properly. In order to see whether you need to work on your coverage you may go the difficult way of making endless readings off the WiFi strength meter, but there is no way you would want to do it as there is no easy way to access and analyze that data.

A WiFi heat map on the other hand is not just a collection of signal strength readouts, it is a detailed heat map laid out in colors that immediately show you the spots with stronger and weaker WiFi signal strength.

WiFi Heatmap

Once you see areas of weaker WiFi signal strength visualized on a map, it becomes easy to figure out what’s interfering with the signal. The most common sources of WiFi interference include physical obstacles like walls and furniture, electrical appliances, and other WiFi networks.

Thanks to modern WiFi heatmapper tools, anyone can create a detailed WiFi heat map without any special knowledge or expensive equipment.

NetSpot is a comprehensive heatmapper tool for laying out the perfectly explicit WiFi heatmap. But before we explain how you can use it, let’s take a look at the best practices for creating WiFi heatmap.

Best Practices for Creating WiFi Heatmaps

WiFi heatmappers like NetSpot make it possible for anyone to create a WiFi heat map that accurately shows where the network has strong coverage and where it has weak coverage. To obtain the best results possible, we recommend you adhere to the following best practices for creating WiFi heatmaps:

WiFi channels waves
  • Use an accurate floor map: Always use the most accurate floor map you have at your disposal when creating WiFi heatmaps. You don’t want to spend time walking from one room to the next, trying to obtain WiFi signal strength data, only to end up with a WiFi heatmap that doesn’t reflect reality.
Netspot floorplan
  • Know when to measure: Your measurements should reflect real-life conditions as closely as possible. If you want to, for example, cover a large office with a strong WiFi signal, it makes little sense to measure after work, when everyone’s at home and there’s far less radio frequency interference. Instead, measure during regular work hours so that you can see what the worst-case situation looks like.
  • Mark all AP locations: It may seem trivial, but experience tells us that people often forget to mark the exact locations of all access points when creating a WiFi heatmap, only to later struggle when interpreting the results. This is especially important when measuring the coverage of a mesh network, which may consist of dozens or even hundreds of wireless mesh nodes talking to one another.
  • Create multiple WiFi heatmaps: Since WiFi heatmapper tools like NetSpot can create a comprehensive WiFi heatmap in just a couple of minutes, depending on the size of the surveyed area, you shouldn’t hesitate to create multiple WiFi heatmaps so that you have plenty of information upon which to base your decisions. At the very least, create one WiFi heatmap before deploying a new access point or changing the configuration/location and one after.

Let NetSpot build a WiFi heatmap for you

To start with WiFi heatmap creation you'll need:

  • Any MacBook or Windows laptop;
  • NetSpot Home, PRO or Enterprise;
  • A plan of your home/office (optional).

Step 1: Start a New Survey

Open NetSpot, switch to Survey mode and click "Start a new survey". Name your survey project, zone and choose its area type. With this setting you can regulate the precision radius of each measurement. Select the correct setting for your area to limit the number of samples you need to take, and increase the accuracy of your results.

Start a new survey

Step 2: Load or Create a Map of Your Space

If you have a map of your space (which is recommended, even if not required), click the “Load from file” button. If there is no map, you can sketch it with NetSpot — use "Draw it" button or start with the "Sample map".

NetSpot draw

Step 3: Start the Heat Mapping Process

Once ready to start heat mapping process, carry your laptop to any spot on the empty map and mark your approximate location (a small dot will appear). Starting from a corner move in a zigzag path through the measured space. After walking several feet, mark your new location on the map. Repeat your paths throughout the space to cover the area.

Green circles can overlap a little at the edges. In case the overlapping is too big or the circles don't overlap at all, click Undo and repeat the measurements with a better positioning.

NetSpot heatmapper will show a trail similar to this one:

NetSpot heatmapper show a trail

Step 4: Analyze the Results

Whenever you need to stop the mapping process, click the "Stop scan" button. You'll be able to pick up from where you left off later. Your heatmap looks like this when ready:

Heatmap of your home/office
NetSpot Home offers three main visualizations and NetSpot PRO and Enterprise have 16 visualizations

Check out the helpful tips and hints on how to run a survey for the most precise results. When you are all done with the mapping, you can click on any Access Point on the map to display the signal heat map for that Access Point. Red is the strongest signal, while blue is the weakest.

The panel on the left side will display all Access Points your laptop could detect. Even if there are APs from neighboring network, it is not a concern as you can switch them off whenever needed.

Step 5: Save Your Heat Map

Before saving the WiFi heatmap, look at all available visualizations to analyze the parameters of your WiFi network. NetSpot Home offers three main visualizations and NetSpot PRO and Enterprise have 16 visualizations for users with profound knowledge of WiFi networking.

To save your WiFi heatmap, select Survey and then Save from the top menu bar. Keep in mind that the free version of NetSpot doesn’t give you the ability to print or export surveys. To unlock all export options, you need to purchase either NetSpot PRO or Enterprise.

Visualizations

For the most precise analysis there are numerous visualizations that assist in comparing Wi-Fi signals by their various network connection parameters. Visual analysis has always been the best approach to analyze specific signal values. Certain visualizations are available for Mac OS only, be sure to check the User Manual.
Passive scanning
Signal-to-noise ratio macOS
It compares the level of WiFi signal to the background noise level, the latter being the amount of outside interference determined at each measuring point.
Signal level
It displays the strength of your WiFi signal, which is important in combination with other values showing how signal level corresponds to interference level for example.
Signal-to-interference ratio
In signal-to-interference ratio the latter is specific to co-channel interference from other radio transmitters.
Quantity of access points
NetSpot always shows you the number of currently detectable access points on your network.
Noise level macOS
Shows the amount of outside interference measured at each point.
Frequency band coverage
It allows quick visual analysis on different frequencies.
PHY mode coverage
It builds visualization by WiFi protocols/modes and shows where 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac mode is used.
Active scanning
Upload speed
This speed reflects the rate of data transfer from the user's computer to the Internet.
Download speed
This speed reflects the rate of data transfer from the Internet to the user's computer.
Wireless Transmit rate
Shows the speed of data transfer from an AP to a wireless device.
Iperf3 upload, download, and jitter visualizations macOS
As well as throughput testing with Iperf 3 or custom speed test servers, they help test the bandwidth performance.
Troubleshooting
Issues with SNR macOS
For troubleshooting purposes use the Issues with SNR visualization, which will help you determine the spots with the low SNR level that can affect your network connectivity.
High level of noise macOS
High noise levels can affect the signal strength of your network and create areas of poor connectivity or no connectivity at all — “dead zones”.
Low signal level
Seeing visually where the low signal level is helps you fix issues with poor to no connection with certain access points.
Overlapping channels (SIR)
NetSpot will show you where there are overlapping channels, and the signal level is low, as well as low download and upload rates.

Implementing the WiFi Heatmap knowledge

Studying the heat map thoroughly helps you see the weaknesses of your WiFi coverage

Now that you have a WiFi heatmap of your home or office you can take every benefit out of it. Studying the heat map thoroughly helps you see the weaknesses of your WiFi coverage and gives an idea where to start to fix the issue. So what you can possibly do:

Move the Access Point: The first thing to try, and the easiest, is moving the access point around. For example, when the signal is weak off the particular side of the AP, examine the structure of the building in that direction. Is there a concrete wall or a large metal cabinet or a fridge that is blocking the signal from access point? Something like this can be fixed by simply moving the access point further along to the other corner. Also moving the AP up from the floor and positioning antennas vertically (in case of moveable antennas) can change the situation to the better.

Switch Channels: When according to the WiFi heatmap you are getting a decent coverage, but the transmission speed and the connectivity in general fail, let NetSpot check the statistics on your Access Point and the Access Points that are leaking into the measured space. If you discover that your AP uses channel 6 just like some other APs leaking into your space, try switching to a less crowded channel 12. More useful information on selecting a WiFi channel can be found here.

Add in Access Points: If your space is wired for Ethernet, you can always add another Access Point at any cable termination spot to strengthen the signal.

Add in a Repeater: Most of the time WiFi routers and APs can be set up as WiFi repeaters. Repeating a WiFi signal can efficiently boost the range of an existing wireless 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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FAQ

What is a WiFi heat map?

A WiFi heatmap is a perfect way to visually assess your wireless network coverage. It is detailed with a color spectrum that clearly indicates strong and weak areas of your WiFi.

NetSpot creates beautiful detailed heatmaps helping you analyze and improve your WiFi network.

How to build a WiFi heatmap?

Things you'll need to start working on your WiFi heatmap:

  • Any MacBook or Windows laptop;
  • NetSpot Home, PRO or Enterprise;
  • A plan of your home/office (optional).

First, install and open NetSpot app, switch to Survey mode and choose the "Start a new survey" option. Give your project a name and select its type. Choosing the right type of your area helps you limit the number of samples you need to take, and increase the accuracy of the results.

If you already have a plan for your area, use the "Load from file" option. Alternatively, you can sketch a new plan right in NetSpot — use the "Draw it" button or start with the "Sample map".

Find a good starting point, like a corner, mark it on the plan, and start taking samples, while moving in a zigzag pattern. Remember to mark your every new point on the plan, and proceed until you have covered the area. No worries, if you need to pause the process, NetSpot allows you to do that easily.

When the heatmap is finished, it'll be super easy to read — red is the strongest signal, while blue is the weakest.

How helpful is a WiFi heatmap?

WiFi heatmaps are very visual and help you better understand the quality of your current wireless coverage and get ideas how to improve it. Some things you might do, when you see the weaker spots in your WiFi, are: you can move one of the access points; you can switch channel your network is currently on (an app like NetSpot can help you choose the most suitable channel); add new Access Points; use a WiFi repeater or an extender.

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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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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.