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How To Do A WiFi Survey On Windows

How To Do a WiFi Survey on Windows

Conducting a WiFi survey on a Windows computer can be an invaluable step in assessing wireless network coverage, signal strength, and identifying areas that may benefit from a network upgrade. In this how-to article, I’ll walk you through several methods I’ve used to perform a detailed WiFi survey, using built-in Windows tools and third-party software, ensuring that your survey captures all the necessary data for optimal network performance. We’ll also explore how to interpret the survey results and implement improvements.

1

Common Scenarios:

Navigating Dead Zones 📶

  • Experiencing poor WiFi connectivity in certain areas of your office or home can be frustrating. Dead zones are often caused by physical obstructions or interference from other devices.
  • Determining the exact location where signal drops or is weak is crucial for resolving these issues.
  • A WiFi survey is an effective approach to systematically map out the signal strength across different locations.

Network Planning and Expansion 🌐

  • When looking to expand your WiFi network, precise planning is key to avoid overlap and excessive expenditure.
  • Performing a WiFi survey allows you to identify the areas that require additional coverage.
  • A WiFi survey is critical for determining the optimal placement for new access points.

Improving Network Performance 🚀

  • Networks can suffer from interference due to the presence of other wireless networks nearby.
  • Channel overcrowding and interference can significantly hamper WiFi performance.
  • A WiFi survey helps identify the least congested channels and optimal settings for your network equipment.
2

Step-by-Step Guide. How To Do A WiFi Survey On Windows:

Method 1: Using Windows Command Prompt 🛠

  • Open the Command Prompt. You can do this by typing ‘cmd’ in the Windows search bar and clicking on the application.
  • Enter the command ‘netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid’ to display all available WiFi networks and their details including signal strength.
  • Analyze the output to identify the signal strength of your network (RSSI value) for different areas of your space.

Note: This method provides a quick snapshot but lacks graphical representation for easier interpretation.

Conclusion: Ideal for a quick check but for more detailed analysis, using dedicated software is recommended.

Method 2: Windows Built-in WiFi Report 📊

  • Run a WiFi report by pressing Win + X and selecting Command Prompt (Admin), then enter the command ‘netsh wlan show wlanreport’.
  • The report will be generated as an HTML file which you can open with your web browser. The file is usually located at ‘C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsWlanReportwlan-report-latest.html’.
  • Review the report to find sections detailing quality and connectivity issues.

Note: The WiFi report gives a broader overview, including connectivity history.

Conclusion: Useful for historical analysis but not as definitive for spot-checking current signal status.

Method 3: Using NetSpot WiFi Analyzer 📡

  • Download and install NetSpot, a WiFi analyzer tool, from its official website using this link.
  • Run a site survey which will allow you to map out the WiFi coverage and see areas of weak signal.
  • Analyze the visual maps produced for signal-to-noise ratio, channel bandwidth, and networks overlap.

Note: This method may require the purchase of a professional version for full features.

Conclusion: NetSpot provides in-depth analysis and visual mapping which aids in addressing WiFi coverage and performance issues.

Method 4: Using Wireshark for Packet Analysis 📶

  • Install Wireshark, a network protocol analyzer, from its official website here.
  • Capture WiFi traffic by selecting your wireless adapter and clicking on the ‘Start Capturing Packets’ button.
  • Analyze packet details to understand the performance and reliability of your WiFi network.

Note: Wireshark is complex and more suited to those with advanced networking knowledge.

Conclusion: Best for technical users needing detailed packet-level analysis for troubleshooting and performance assessment.

Method 5: Using Acrylic Wi-Fi Home 👨

  • Download Acrylic Wi-Fi Home, a free WiFi scanner for Windows, from the official site.
  • Start the application and perform a network scan to display WiFi networks, channels, and signal strengths.
  • Examine the data to identify possible interference or signal issues in your network’s coverage area.

Note: Acrylic Wi-Fi Home is a basic tool but provides essential information effectively.

Conclusion: This tool is convenient for quick assessments and is particularly user-friendly for non-technical individuals.

3

Precautions and Tips:

Mapping Your Survey 🗺

  • For accurate results, create a floor plan and mark the locations where you check for WiFi strength.
  • Use a heat mapping tool within WiFi survey software to visualize signal coverage and plan access point placement.
  • While performing your survey, be sure to test in various conditions, including different times of the day and locations where devices are commonly used.

Understand the Interference 📡

  • Other devices such as microwaves, cordless phones, or Bluetooth devices could affect your WiFi signal. Ensure you account for these during the survey.
  • Investigate potential channel interference from neighboring WiFi networks and consider changing your router’s channel to a less congested one.
  • Walls and large metal objects can be significant signal barriers; consider these when reviewing your WiFi survey data.

Ensuring Accurate Readings 📐

  • Take multiple readings at each location to ensure accuracy.
  • Be aware of WiFi ‘halo’ effect – the phenomenon where signal strength can be stronger a few feet away from the source than directly next to it.
  • Be familiar with interpreting signal strength metrics, like RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) and dBm values, to make informed decisions.
4

Enhancing Your Network

Once you’ve gathered enough data from your WiFi survey, it’s time to enhance your network. Start by adjusting the placement of your routers and access points. In many cases, moving these devices away from obstructions and to central locations can significantly increase coverage.

Consider upgrading hardware if necessary, especially if you’re using older technology. Modern routers with multi-band support can diminish interference significantly by providing additional frequency bands for devices to connect.

You may also want to delve into advanced settings like Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize traffic, or implementing MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) technology if your hardware supports it, to better manage multiple connections.

For further reading on network improvement, you can refer to the Wi-Fi Alliance for the latest standards and best practices.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, conducting a WiFi survey using the methods detailed above will provide you with valuable insights into your wireless network’s performance. By understanding your network’s strengths and weaknesses, you can make informed decisions that will lead to improved WiFi coverage and speed. Remember that a successful WiFi survey is not a one-time task but a continuous process that adapts to changing environments and technologies. For more information on WiFi technologies and surveys, you can visit the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications.

FAQ

Windows users can use native tools like NetSpot or third-party applications such as WiFi Analyzer to conduct a thorough WiFi survey. Check more at NetSpot.

Yes, with applications like WiFi Analyzer, you can view overlapping channels and WiFi signal strengths to optimize your network's performance.

Dedicated software like NetSpot allows you to measure the signal strength of your WiFi network at various points throughout your coverage area.

No, Windows does not have a built-in feature for mapping WiFi signal strength. You'll need to download third-party software like NetSpot to do this.

A WiFi survey helps identify areas with the strongest signal, allowing you to choose an optimal location for your access point to ensure maximum coverage.

Conducting a WiFi survey helps to identify dead zones, optimize channel use, and improve overall network performance and connection stability.

Yes, a WiFi survey can help to spot and mitigate interference issues by identifying the best channels and locations for your routers and access points.

Yes, applications such as NetSpot and Ekahau HeatMapper are compatible with Windows and can create detailed WiFi heat maps. Find more at Ekahau.

A WiFi survey can identify unauthorized access points and weak security spots, allowing you to strengthen your network against potential security breaches.

After finishing the WiFi survey, analyze the data to make informed decisions on network adjustments, placement of access points, and channel selection.