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Free handheld Wi-Fi analyzer

How do you choose the best Wi-Fi access point out of all the ones your phone tells you are available, create a detailed coverage map of your SOHO (small home/small office) network, or decide which channel is best for it? All you need is an Android mobile device and a Wi-Fi analyzer app.

Search Google Play for a list of Wi-Fi analyzer apps. wifi analyzerDeveloped by Kevin Yuan of farproc, tops the list with more than 10,000,000 downloads. Among its many features is the ability to display a visual graph of all active access points in your area, their SSID names, signal strength, channel numbers, MAC addresses, and the type of security encryption they use. The app is easy to operate even if you have no technical knowledge. The measurements may not be lab quality, but consistent relative readings are all we really need to troubleshoot.

If you’re looking to do this with your iPhone, you may be disappointed. Recent changes to the iOS operating system block access to private frameworks that app creators need to duplicate these features. If you have an older iPhone that hasn’t been updated beyond iOS 4, there are similar apps you can use. As a last resort, there are Mac desktop and laptop apps that will do the same job. You will only have to carry larger equipment. To keep things simple, I will give instructions based on by farproc wifi analyzer app The other apps should work much the same if you look in their menus for similar features.

Use the ‘Channel Graph’ view to find a good access point. This is the default screen that appears when you run the application. If it isn’t, press the menu softkey (looks like an eye) and select ‘Channel Graph’. You will now see a graphical display of all available networks. Of course, you want a strong one that stands out above the rest, but if you also want one that doesn’t require a password, look for a ‘*’ next to the SSID. This is an option, so you may need to turn it on in the ‘Settings’ menu. If there isn’t an obvious choice, such as the one operating at your place of business, look at the screen for a moment to see which ones give a consistent signal. The weaker ones could drop out completely after a few seconds. Hopefully, there will be a suitable network, on one of the three channels with the least amount of overlap (1, 6, and 11), on the 2.4 GHz band. You can also see what’s happening on the 5 GHz band by tapping the upper left corner. For some reason there is no icon there unless you tap on it.

Now that you have a good idea of ​​how to use wifi analyzer, try making a coverage map of your home or office wireless network. You may find it easier to switch to ‘Signal Meter’ mode. It measures only one signal at a time, so make sure it’s yours. If not, long press on the network name, choose ‘Select AP’ from the menu, and then select your network.

Have a printed layout of all your rooms, then go from one place to another and take readings in each one. Be sure to allow the meter to stabilize before recording a measurement. That could take 15 or more seconds. If it keeps going up and down, use the lowest reading for your map. Make sure all your readings come from the same phone so everything is relative to the same starting point. When you’re done, you’ll easily see where the problems are. Now you can take the necessary steps to fix them.

To see if you can improve the performance of your wireless network, go to the “Channel Rating” screen. Ranks all available channels on a scale of 1 to 10. The higher the rating, the less interference on that channel. Monitor the display as you rate all channels in real time, continually updating as conditions change. Once again, make sure it’s set to your network. Long press the network name to change it.

You don’t have to “call the guy” to do this type of Wi-Fi testing and setup. A simple app like wifi analyzer gives you the ability to do it yourself, saving time and money. And as a bonus, you can still take calls while you’re at it.

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