How to Measure a Wireless Signal

Written by andre zollars
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WLAN signals can be frustrating because it is difficult to determine what is affecting signal strength. Everyday users cannot always determine what obstructions in their home or office are interfering with their signal strength. That is why the best strategy for ensuring good Wi-Fi connectivity is understanding how to measure your Wi-Fi signal. There are several methods for measuring the signal strength of your Wi-Fi connection.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Your Computer or
  • Wi-Fi Locator Device or
  • Wi-Fi Locator Software

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  1. 1

    Operating System Utility

    Network operating systems (Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Live, Mac OS X Cheetah, OS X Snow Leopard) already are capable of monitoring wireless network connection status and signal strength for you.

    To check your signal strength: Click on "Control Panel," then "Network and Internet," then "Network and Sharing Center," and finally "Connect to a Network" (Windows Vista).

    A window will appear displaying all available Wi-Fi networks, along with a status bar illuminated in green depending on the level of signal strength. The bigger the bars and the more that are illuminated, the stronger the signal strength.

    You can also go to the lower right-hand corner of your desktop screen and right-click on the Internet Connectivity icon (looks like two computer monitors). Then click on

    "Connect to a Network" to get the same status.

  2. 2

    Portable Wi-Fi Locators

    If you are in a public place, such as an airport, train station or park, you may not feel like taking out your laptop to determine the signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks. Thankfully, there are small, portable detectors which attach to your keychain and are easy to use. Operated on battery power, these usually have a button you push with a status bar that lights up depending on the signal strength of available networks.

    Mobile Edges Wi-Fi Signal Locator is a good example of one of these devices. Keep in mind, however, that these do not show the signal strength of your own computer.

  3. 3

    Wi-Fi Signal Detection Software Applications

    There are also many software applications available for your smart phone or laptop to detect Wi-Fi signal strength. Apple’s I-Pod offers the Ji-Wire gobal Wi-Fi Finder Application which detects 289,877 free and pay Wi-Fi locations in 139 countries. Sky Hook is another example of similar software.

    Wireless Mapping Software such as Ekahau HeatMapper (compatible with Windows XP and Windows Vista) saves you time by providing a detailed map of the Wi-Fi signal strength in your home or business. It’s easy to download, install and run–best of all, it’s free. It gives you real-time information about signal strength and is very useful for troubleshooting strength problems or improving coverage.

    This is by no means a comprehensive list of software applications available for measuring signal strength; there are many more out there.

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