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How to Measure WiFi Signal Strength

How to Measure WiFi Signal Strength, WiFi Signal Strength, Measure WiFi Signal Strength, How to Boost Signal Strength, Boost WiFi Signal Strength

How to Measure WiFi Signal Strength

What is WiFi?

WiFi is a wireless network which connects devices to the Internet and each other using radio signal rather than wires. It can be detected by any wireless-enabled device, including phones, computers, and tablets, within a distance in any direction.

What is WiFi Signal Strength?

WiFi signal strength is a way to measure the speed and reliability of a WiFi connection. The easiest way to measure it is in dBm, or decibels relative to a milliwatt. This unit ranges from -30 to -100, with -30 being a higher signal because both numbers are negative and -30 is closer to 0. An important thing to keep in mind is that dBm is a logarithmic scale, not a linear one. This means that a 3 dB gain doubles signal strength while a 10 dB gain results in a 10 times increase.

What do Signal Strength Values Mean?

The ideal signal strength will depend on what tasks are required. With values from -100 to -90, the network will be completely unusable, and any connection is unlikely. A signal strength of around -80 will allow connection to the network, although connection strength will be very poor and make it difficult to navigate anything on the Internet. -70 dBm is an average connection that will allow for light Internet use and activities such as web browsing or mail. A signal strength of -67 is a very good connection that will allow for video conferences or streaming. Anything above -67 dBm is considered a great WiFi connection.

How to Measure Signal Strength

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There are a variety of ways to measure WiFi signal strength.

The simplest method is to check the WiFi indicator on your device. This is usually a circle with a series of curved lines above it. The more bars filled in, the stronger signal there is.

If you have a Mac computer, another more advanced way to measure signal strength is holding the option key and clicking the WiFi indicator in the bar at the top of the screen. The number next to RSSI is the signal strength.

A similar function is available for Windows computers. Simply open the Control Panel, navigate to Network and Internet, select Network Connections, and right-click on a wireless connection. Choosing connect/disconnect after this will display WiFi strength.

While all of these are good options for checking signal strength in individual locations, it can be very beneficial to evaluate signal strength around an entire area or building. The best tool for doing this is NetSpot. This service gives you access to a Survey tool that will scan and map the WiFi Signal Strength for large areas. This information will show where weak spots in your network are in order to identify locations where the signal needs to be boosted. In addition to the Survey tool, Discover mode will identify all networks in your area and provide detailed information about them, including signal strength.

How to Read Signal Strength Heatmaps

After measuring WiFi signal strength, NetSpot will provide you with three WiFi heatmap options after surveying an area. The Signal Level map will display the strongest and weakest areas of WLAN, or wireless LAN, signal strength. The areas indicated with blue and purple on this map are the areas with the weakest network signal.

The Signal-to-Noise Ration heatmap will display areas of high environmental noise. This noise can be caused by a variety of factors, including common household appliances such as microwaves, fluorescent lights, and home phones. It can make the wireless signal less usable, even if the signal is very strong.

The Signal-to-Interference Ratio map will display interference from other wireless networks. Like the Signal Level map, blue and purple areas are those with the lowest signal strength.

Using all three of these heatmap options is critical in understanding where the weak points in your wireless network are. Once these areas are identified, there are a variety of methods possible to increase signal in order to optimize your WiFi performance.

How to Boost Signal Strength

Once you have used one of the methods of measuring WiFi signal strength, there are a variety of steps you can take to increase signal in weak points or throughout the entire network.

One of the easiest and most effective methods to improve signal strength is to find the optimal router location in whatever building you are analyzing. While it’s tempting to hide routers away in a corner or inside a cabinet, they should be in the open and as close to the center of the building as possible. Any antennas on the router should be oriented upwards, and placing the router in an elevated position can further maximize the coverage of the WiFi signal. This is one area where using the Survey tool from NetSpot is very helpful, as it can help analyze the strong and weak spots of your WiFi network to pinpoint the optimal location for your router.

Another simple change to improve your signal strength is to update your router software. Some newer routers may automatically download updates, only requiring a button to be pushed in order to install the software update. Older routers may need to have updates manually downloaded from the manufacturer’s website and moved onto the device with a cable.

While moving your router and updating its software will help boost the WiFi signal, there is only so much improvement possible without upgrading hardware. If you have a router from several years ago, it may still use an outdated WiFi technology, which will be significantly slower than newer routers.

If your new router is still not performing well and all other methods have been exhausted, it’s possible the building the router is in is simply too big for a single router to send a reliable signal everywhere. One solution in this scenario is to purchase a wireless range extender. This is a device that repeats the signal from the WiFi router and repeats it, resulting in an extended range and increased signal strength. A heat map will help to find the optimal location of a range extender, just as it helped to find the best router location.


More on this topic:

Difference between WiFi Boosters, Repeaters, and Extenders

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