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How to Perform WiFi Site Survey on Mac

Your Mac is a capable machine, but many of its capabilities are limited by the quality of your internet connection. To improve it, you need to learn how to perform WiFi site surveys on Mac, and here we explain the process using NetSpot WiFi Site Survey for Mac.
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  • Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting
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The goal of a WiFi site survey is to optimize WiFi coverage by helping you find the best place possible for your WiFi router.

Performing a WiFi Site Survey on Mac

WiFi issues are one of the most common problems Mac users experience, and their computers are seldom to blame. The real culprit is almost always poor WiFi coverage caused by the fact that most people place their router near the closest unused electrical outlet, sometimes hiding it away from view behind a piece of furniture.

Unless the router is so powerful that it can provide sufficient coverage despite poor placement (something not many home routers can do), its less-than-optimal place of installation results in the so-called dead zones, which are areas of signal weakness that can cause slowdowns and connection drops.

Three main types of WiFi site surveys exist:

  • Active surveys: To perform an active survey, you need to be connected to the surveyed network in order to record information about the characteristics and performance of the connection. Active surveys are particularly useful when troubleshooting connectivity issues.
  • Passive surveys: This type of WiFi site survey doesn’t require an active connection to any specific WiFi network. Instead, the wireless site survey tool passively listens to all available networks in the area, gathering useful information about them.
  • Predictive surveys: As its name suggests, this survey predicts how WiFi signals will likely travel in the surveyed area based on a set of input parameters, such as the location of the WiFi router. Predictive surveys are performed remotely using specialized software applications prior to the actual deployment. Read more about what is a predictive survey.

Combined, the three main types of WiFi site surveys can tell you everything from signal strength, signal-to-noise ratios, and interference to throughput, round-trip time, and packet loss, among other useful information.

Best of all, performing them isn’t nearly as difficult as it may seem at first. You just need to choose the right WiFi site survey tool for Mac and let it do the hard work for you.

WiFi Site Survey Software for Mac

As a Mac user, you can choose from a multitude of WiFi site survey software tools with support for active, passive, and predictive surveys, but you should know that the differences between them can be quite pronounced.

Here are some things you should look for when selecting the best WiFi site survey software for Mac:

  • Compatibility: Your WiFi site survey Mac tool of choice should be compatible not just with your Mac computer but also with any 802.11 network.
  • Usability: The best WiFi site survey tools remove all the complexity from surveying, allowing you to gather heaps of useful information without any expert knowledge and previous experience.
  • Features: You want to choose a tool that has all the features you need to optimize your WiFi coverage and troubleshoot common WiFi issues.
  • Accuracy: The last thing you want is to make decisions based on inaccurate information provided by a WiFi site survey app that’s, at best, suitable for rough measurements.
  • Price: Your quest for trouble-free WiFi shouldn’t leave your bank account free of money. That’s why we recommend you start with free WiFi site survey tools for Mac and upgrade only when necessary.
WiFi Site Survey Software for Mac

One WiFi site survey tool for Mac computers that meets all the above-described criteria is NetSpot. Besides being the best tool currently available, NetSpot was actually the first WiFi site survey tool to release on Mac. The latest version is also available on:

  • iOS

NetSpot offers compatibility with all Macs running Mac OS X 10.10+, support for all 802.11 networks, remarkable ease of use thanks to its polished user interface, excellent accuracy, and plenty of great features to meet the needs of home users and professionals alike.

Unlike many other WiFi site survey software solutions for Mac, NetSpot receives updates on a regular basis, so its users can enjoy a bug-free user experience and access to new features, such as the upcoming support for predictive site surveys.

How to Perform a WiFi Site Survey with NetSpot

The current version of NetSpot has two main modes of operation (called Discover and Survey), allowing you to perform both active and passive WiFi site surveys. A soon-to-be-released version of NetSpot will introduce support for predictive surveys, making this WiFi site survey app the most complete WiFi analysis solution for Mac.

When you use NetSpot in Discover mode, you can collect every detail about surrounding WiFi networks and presents the gathered information, including channel info, transmit rate, vendor, security type, band, etc., as an interactive table.

NetSpot’s Discover mode

By switching to Survey mode, you transform NetSpot into a powerful active WiFi site survey tool capable of creating interactive heatmap visualizations with detailed information on all surveyed wireless networks.

WiFi Heatmap

Learning how to perform a WiFi site survey with the Mac version of NetSpot couldn’t be easier:

  1. Download and install the Mac version of NetSpot (make sure to download it only from its official website).
  2. Launch NetSpot and switch to Survey mode.
NetSpot — Start a New survey
  1. Start a new survey (available for Home, Pro, and Enterprise versions).
Start a new survey
  1. Give the new survey a name and import a map of the area you want to survey (you can also draw one using NetSpot’s built-in map creation tool).
NetSpot — New survey
  1. Calibrate the map by inputting the actual distance between two points on it.
  2. Gather data by moving from one place to another until the entire map is covered.
  3. Click the Stop Scan button when you’re done.
NetSpot Stop Scan
  1. Analyze the gathered results.
WiFi heatmap

NetSpot can turn the gathered data into a number of useful WiFi heatmap visualizations, showing everything from the signal level to frequency band coverage to wireless transmit rate.

Visualizations

Visual analysis is one of the most preferred ways to adjust multiple factors affecting the wireless connection. NetSpot offers a variety of visualizations to assist in comparing, analyzing and troubleshooting your Wi-Fi setup. Some visualizations are available only for macOS though, so be sure to check the User Manual.
Passive scanning
Signal-to-noise ratio macOS
Visualizes how the level of the wireless signal relates to the background noise level.
Signal level
This visualization demonstrates how strong your WiFi signal is at different points of measurement. This is an important value when combined with others like noise or interference.
Signal-to-interference ratio
Allows to analyze the effect of co-channel interference from other radio transmitters on your WiFi signal.
Quantity of access points
Allows to find out how many access points are detectable at each measuring spot.
Noise level macOS
Helps you see the interference level at each measuring point and how it affects the signal strength.
Frequency band coverage
Helps analyze the coverage by frequencies: either 2.4GHz, or 5GHz, or mixed.
PHY mode coverage
This visualization shows how WiFi protocols are used throughout your wireless network. Different colors allow to clearly see whether 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax or ax protocol is used.
Active scanning
Upload speed
This visualization reflects the rate of data transfer from your computer to a server on the internet.
Download speed
This visualization reflects the rate of data transfer from a server on the Internet to your computer.
Wireless Transmit rate
Demonstrates the rate at which data is transferred from an access point to a wireless device.
Iperf3 upload, download, and jitter visualizations macOS
Whether you need to conduct speed tests via TCP or via UDP protocol, these visualizations will allow you to clearly see and analyze the bandwidth performance.
Troubleshooting
Issues with SNR macOS
This type of visualization can help you determine the areas with the low SNR level affecting your network connectivity.
High level of noise macOS
This type of visualization is designed to find the areas with high noise levels that consequently may lead to "dead zones" with zero connectivity.
Low signal level
This visualization is very helpful in finding the zones with low signal level at once. You can then fix the issues of poor to no connection for the access points affected.
Overlapping channels (SIR)
Shows which channels access points broadcast on helping you figure out the most optimal channel usage in order to avoid excessive overlapping.
Low download and upload rates
This visualization allows you to see where the upload and download rates are unsatisfactory and need tweaking to achieve proper connectivity to various services and/or streaming quality.

Once you’re done analyzing the results of your WiFi site survey, you can click the Export button in the top-right corner and export your survey in several different ways. For example, you can export only the current visualization, save your heatmap as an image file, or export all raw data as a CSV file.

As you can see, NetSpot is a remarkably capable and easy-to-use WiFi site survey tool for Mac, which explains why it keeps receiving so many raving reviews from professional reviewers and real users alike.

If you’re currently experiencing issues with your WiFi coverage or performance, don’t hesitate and download its free version right now. In no time and without any expert skills, you’ll be able to solve your WiFi issues and provide your Mac and other devices with the fest and reliable access to the internet they need to perform flawlessly.

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Planning & Prediction

Ready to start planning a perfect WiFi network with just your laptop in tow? NetSpot 3 with WiFi network planning is almost here! Read more details on this new anticipated release and don't forget to subscribe to get notified the moment it is out.
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Planning & Prediction
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Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10/11) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless network adapter.
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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 7/8/10/11) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless network adapter.