A solid Wi-Fi connection is vital for keeping all of your devices connected, and enjoying good download and upload speeds while browsing the Internet.
Slow or spotty wireless internet can hurt your business operations, annoy your customers or result in irritating outages at home. Moreover, for those working in the cloud, bad wireless coverage can lead to lost work and productivity.
That’s where a good Wi-Fi analyzer helps you level up your wireless internet performance. In this article, we’ll explore what a WiFi analyzer is, how it can help improve your wireless network coverage, and ultimately why NetSpot is the best analyzer for both in the office and at home.
What does a WiFi analyzer do and what does it show?
WiFi analyzers like NetSpot aim to visualize WiFi signals and channels around you, allowing you to identify possible signal interference or when devices are out of range.
With a WiFi analyzer – also known as a WiFi channel analyzer – you can see all the important parameters and information about wireless signal strength and quality. They work by examining the radio spectrum and identifying broadcasted wireless signals.
A key advantage of these tools is their ability to visualize the signal strength of dual-band WiFi routers. Dual-band routers transmit wireless signals using two frequency bands: the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band. Understanding the ranges of both wireless channels is key to getting the right balance between speed and coverage.
How do I use a WiFi analyzer?
With NetSpot, it’s easy to analyze your wireless networks and map your network signal strength.
Firstly, you’ll need to install the NetSpot program. NetSpot is available on both Windows and Mac, allowing you to reach optimal WiFi coverage on any site. It doesn’t cost you anything to use NetSpot in Discover mode, but to use the app to carry out wireless signal surveys, you’ll need to purchase a license. Premium licenses for NetSpot start from as little as $49 – and it is a one-time purchase. Once you’ve bought the app, it’s yours forever.
The app is also now available on Android mobile devices for surveying wireless signal strength on the go; however, you’ll need a license to see visualizations and create reports.
Next, let’s go ahead and open the app. The first screen you’ll see is the Discover mode.
In Discover mode, you’ll be given an overview of the WiFi signals that your computer or mobile device can pick up.
For each wireless signal, you can view the following information:
- SSID (Service Set Identifier): This is the name of your WiFi network. If you can see multiple instances of the same SSID, you’re likely dealing with a multi-band router.
- Band: This identifies which frequency band this network is transmitting on. A 2.4GHz network usually has a greater wireless range, however as the vast majority of devices connect on this band, it’s usually a lot more congested than the 5GHz band.
- Channel: Bands are split into smaller 20 MHz segments called channels. For the 2.4GHz, there are 11 channels to choose from, whereas in 5GHz networks can use up to 45 channels.
- Security: Here you can see which security protocol your wireless network makes use of. Open networks are free for anyone to join, whereas most home wireless networks use WPA2 Personal. Enterprise networks may use other security methods, for example, to sync with an SSO (single-sign-on).
- Vendor: This will usually be the internet service provider (ISP) for first-party routers, or the manufacturer of your wireless access point.
- Mode: This refers to the wireless standard this network uses. This often is synonymous with the generation of WiFi technology used. For example, the latest generation WiFi 6 uses the 801.11ax WiFi mode.
And, arguably, the most important parameter here is signal strength:
- Level: (macOS only) This is measured in SNR or signal-to-noise ratio. This metric compares the level of a desired signal to the background noise level. The higher the signal strength, the greater the difference between the desired signal and the background noise level.
- Strength: WiFi signal strength is measured in dBm. This metric usually ranges from -30 dBm to -110 dBm. The closer this number is to 0, the stronger the signal is – with -85dBm indicating a passable wireless signal.
NetSpot’s most ground-breaking feature is its ability to conduct wireless network surveys. In Survey Mode, you can visualize the networks around you and optimize your wireless access point placement with this information.
To get started, click the Survey toggle button in the ribbon toolbar to open the Survey page. Then, we’ll go ahead and click Start a New Survey to begin.
The easiest way to get started with your first WiFi survey is to upload a floor plan. This can be your house or office. If you don’t have one, you can draw one from scratch in the app.
To calibrate this map, pick two points on it and enter the actual distance between them.
Then, on the next screen, we can select which networks to scan. By default, the app will automatically include any open networks, but you can add some saved networks on your device to this scan.
If you’d like to measure upload and download speeds, you can perform an active scan. This will increase the scan time but can be useful information for optimizing your wireless coverage.
Press Continue to create your new survey. To get started, walk to a corner of your space and click the area on your floorplan that corresponds to your current position. Move around your space until you’ve covered the entire area you’d like to survey.
Then, once you’re done, you’ll be able to analyze the heatmap of your SNR across your entire space (MacOS only). You can use this information to identify wireless blackspots, optimize your wireless access point placement, and better plan your wireless network map.
A WiFi analyzer is a vital tool to get the best out of your wireless network – and NetSpot is the most versatile and easy to use tool on the market for this purpose.
With an affordable one-time purchase fee, you can see all your wireless signals at a glance, assess your network strength and create smart surveys of your spaces with the click of a button. If you’re not ready to part with your money just yet, you can try out NetSpot’s most popular features for free with NetSpot Free Edition.
This helps you optimize your network coverage to increase efficiency, avoid blackspots and slowdowns, and ensure every device is connected at full speed, no matter where in your space (whether that’s your house or office) they are. To get started, head over to NetSpot today and get started for free.
Marziano is a seasoned tech expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and multiple certifications, including CompTIA A+, Network+, and Cisco’s CCNA, he has a well-rounded and robust understanding of various aspects of technology.