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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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  • NetSpot
  • 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:

  • Android
  • 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

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 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.

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.

SO, WE RECOMMEND
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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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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.