What are the Best WiFi Explorer and Analyzer for Mac

Utility   •  Sept. 9, 2021

WiFi has made our lives a lot more comfortable and more manageable. You don’t have to use an Ethernet cable to connect your devices to the internet, and WiFi allows for better portability and range. However, we still don’t give it any thought until something goes wrong and it becomes slow or stops working entirely.

Now, you can surely go and turn off your router and turn it back on again, but it rarely has been the perfect solution, and if you want to have the best network and browsing experience, then you need information and knowledge on what the problem actually is. This is where the following WiFi analyzers will come in and help you make the best of your WiFi network. So, let’s dive straight into it and get you the best tool to help you throughout your network issues.

What is a WiFi analyzer?

A WiFi analyzer is an app or a tool that helps you diagnose your WiFi connection and check if there really is an issue affecting your Mac or your router. While the “turn it off and on” solution often works for many devices, it’s not always the best possible solution to your problems. However, with a good WiFi analyzer, you can help your Mac stay online with the most vital possible signals and fast speeds. Here are some common problems that can be fixed by using a WiFi analyzer tool:

Slow performance – There are a lot of reasons for a slow WiFi connection and why some websites may load slowly. However, finding the exact cause might be difficult, and hence, WiFi analyzer tools come in handy to check and analyze all the problems related to your WiFi.

Dropped connections – Are you facing connectivity issues, or is your router not delivering on the promised range of the wireless connection. Well, a WiFi analyzer can help you out and check to see if you have the correct band enabled and how can you better position your router for the best possible connection range.

Public WiFi – Finally, the last thing that a good WiFi analyzer tool can help you with is searching for safe and secure public WiFi connections. Public WiFi can have problems and snoopers that can steal your data, and hence scanning for a WiFi service and checking to see if it’s safe to use is the ideal solution for using any Public WiFi network.

Let’s start with built-in Wireless Diagnostics

Apple clubs in a built-in diagnostics tool for all your network-related problems, and the Wireless Diagnostics tool deals with all WiFi related issues that you might have with your Mac. Here’s how you can get started scanning through your Mac WiFi problems:

Firstly, close any apps that may interfere with your WiFi connection and then connect with your network. You can also use the Activity Monitor to force kill any apps causing issues with your WiFi.

Secondly, Press and hold down the “Option” or “Alt” key and open up the Wireless Diagnostics tool from the WiFi status menu.

Now you would have to enter the password when prompted and hit the “Return” key. The Wireless Diagnostics tool will now begin the analyzing process of your wireless network.

Now you can either choose to “Monitor your Wireless connection” for an in-depth analysis or select the “Continue to Summary” option. First, continue by clicking on the “Monitor” button and let it scan through any problems.

Next, when you’re ready, and the scan is complete, select the “Continue to Summary”  option, enter the information for your router, and check your problem above, as shown in the screenshot.

Finally, you can click on the blue “i” button for further information and click the “Done” button to complete the scanning process.

Note: The tool may present you with some solutions, but it is not guaranteed to solve all your WiFi related issues.

Pros and Cons of using Mac Wireless Diagnostics Tool

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • User friendly
  • It has a simple UI with automatic scanning and troubleshooting
  • It is entirely free to use

Cons

  • Is not that powerful
  • Cannot map out WiFi networks

Try a better WiFi analyzer: NetSpot

Now that you have tried out the official Apple tool and are still facing problems with your WiFi connection, we have the perfect solution. NetSpot is an all-in-one WiFi analyzer tool that can help you scan for difficulties, guide you to set up your router in the best place for extended coverage, check if you have any bugs or updates and troubleshoot all your connection issues with ease. It also comes with some notable features, which are:

  • Visualizing WiFi connectivity
  • Extended control over all connected devices
  • Wireless Network Planning
  • Troubleshooting Public Wireless Networks
  • Real-time charts for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
  • Displays SSID, MAC address of the router, Alias (Pro) and the security encryption

You can start using NetSpot by following the step by step instructions below:

Firstly, download NetSpot from the link above and install it on your Mac. Now, run it and wait for the home screen of the app to load up. It should look something similar to the screenshot above. You will now be able to see a list of WiFi networks around your area, and you have to click on the “Survey” button fount on the top side of the app. It will show you all the nearby WiFi.

After you click on the “Survey” button, you will see something like the screenshot above, and all you need to do is click on the “Start a New Survey” button on the top left section of your screen. It will start scanning for all the WiFi networks in your area and then map out a coverage graph.

Finally, check your network and see the signal strength. You can also see if any noise or interference is creating problems with your WiFi connection, and the app would guide you for better placement for improved speed and coverage.

Pros and Cons of using NetSpot

Pros

  • Has robust monitoring and scanning features
  • Can work with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
  • Can show noise, coverage and connectivity speeds around you

Cons

  • It can’t help fix all WiFi problems
  • It needs a bit of getting used to if you’re a beginner
  • It only works with macOS 10.10+ devices

Pricing

Also great: WiFi Explorer Pro

WiFi Explorer Pro is another excellent alternative to the default Apple app, and it has some exciting features to boot. The UI is slick and easy to learn. It has all the sections present on a single screen, can scan through all the networks around you, and more. If you need an easy-to-use network manager and analyzer, WiFi Explorer Pro is the way to go. It has a  tonne of professional features and uses charts and graphs to easily display signal strength, spectrum, range, and a whole lot more. Here are its top features that can help you with your WiFi network:

  • Fast and quick scanning for WiFi networks all around you
  • 4 and 5GHz bands support
  • Reliable and minimal UI
  • Graph and Visual representation of all the networks and their coverage
  • Quick devices and WiFi router management
  • Shows MAC address, SSID, Channel, Vendor, and a whole lot more

It also comes with a great network analyzer that can help you get the following views and traces of your WiFi network:

  • Density View – It shows the percentage of a given signal level measured for a specific frequency where the blue color is used for lower values, green and yellow for mid-level values, and red for higher values of your WiFi connection.
  • Spectrogram View – It displays the historical energy levels across the frequency band of your network. The horizontal axis represents frequency, and the vertical axis represents the time of the network.
  • Live Trace – It displays the current RF energy levels across the frequency band of your network.
  • Average Trace – It shows the average RF energy levels across the frequency band and is measured across dBm.
  • Maximum Trace – It shows the maximum RF energy levels across your selected WiFi network.
  • Utilization Trace – It shows the average percentage of time the ambient RF signal around a WiFi channel is higher than the signal threshold.

You can start using WiFi Explorer Pro by following the step by step guide below:

Firstly, you need to download, install and run the WiFi Explorer Pro app from the link above, and then you will be greeted with a screen similar to the screenshot above. You can select your network and then check the status by clicking on the “Network Details” button.

Once you’re in the “Network Status” panel, you will see a detailed take on the network strength, speeds, and a lot more. You can also check for noise and adjust your router accordingly.

Finally, you can also have a led graph of the entire coverage area and how strong the signals are with your Mac and hence, adjust your router accordingly. WiFi Explorer Pro can also help with router placements and mapping the range by following the in-app guides.

Pros and Cons of using WiFi Explorer Pro

Pros

  • Easy to work with
  • Clean and minimal UI
  • Fast network analyzing capabilities
  • Signal strength and spectrum mapping

Cons

  • Requires macOS 10.13 or later

Pricing

Others worth mentioning

However, if none of the apps above is what you are looking for, we have some other free and paid recommendations that deliver a decent experience managing your WiFi network.

AirRadar – This is a popular WiFi diagnostics app that is useful and straightforward. It costs you around $79 for the pro package, which is a little expensive, but the app’s overall features make up for the price. If none of the choices above suits your needs, then we recommend you give this a shot. It can scan all the networks around you and give you tips on solving your WiFi problems with relative ease.

WiFi Scanner – If you’re someone who prioritized simplicity and an easy to use experience, then this is the app for you. It comes with a simple UI that has all the elements sorted and placed at understandable locations. However, it lacks in the features department. It doesn’t include fancy features such as 3D mapping or signal tracing, but it has all the basics done well. You can get WiFi Scanner from the link, and it will cost you a hefty 100 dollars for a new license.

iStumbler – iStumbler is another WiFi explorer/analyzer app that claims to be the “Leading wireless discovery tool for macOS”.  We’re not sure about the claims here, but it does come with some excellent features that make it a decent alternative to the apps above. It can 3D map areas with better connectivity around your home and has a detailed WiFi scan feature that displays all the connections around you. All and all, it is a good app that does what the user requires it to do. You can get the app from the link, and the Pro version will cost you around 15 dollars.

iStat Menus – Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of information and a well-designed affordable app, and if that’s you, then iStat Menus is for you. It is a well-designed app with clean and beautiful designed interfaces with widgets and menu functionality built-in. Hence, it is a one of a kind app and would provide you with the best basic information that you will mostly need.

Free alternatives

KisMAC – If you need a free and open-source WiFi analyzer application for your Mac, then KisMAC is your best bet. It can map all the wireless networks around you and display the info based on their performance so that you can quickly troubleshoot any WiFi or network issues. With KisMAC, you can also see clients and SSIDs of all the networks, but the overall interface is no slouch, and it requires you to be a professional while using it. So, it is highly recommended for pro users, while beginners can check out the other listings.

Wireshark – Most free network analyzers are also open source, as Wireshark is. Being open-source makes the app a lot more secure and updated, bringing extra security and performance improvements. It is usually used as a packet tracker, but it can also display WiFi network analysis and help you better manage your networks and devices. However, it still has the same problems as KisMAC, and it is not at all beginner-friendly.

inSSIDer – As you may have guessed from the name, inSSIDer is a free, beginner-friendly and easy to use SSID or WiFi management tool that helps you analyze, manage, maintain and improve your network speeds range and connectivity. It takes help from graphs to maintain all records and is straightforward with data and suggestions making it one of the best beginner WiFi analyzer tools on the internet.

FAQs

How do I find the best WiFi channel on my Mac?

If you want to find the best WiFi channels for your macOS laptop or desktop, you will need to use a WiFi analyzer tool to help scan through all the available networks broadcasting around your area. This will help determine which channels are used the least, and then to achieve the best performance possible, use the non-overlapping channels around you, which generally are Channels – 1, 6 and 11.

How do I find out what network band My Mac is on?

You can find the network band of your WiFi network by holding down the “Option” key and clicking on the WiFi icon on your Mac’s navbar. This will show you a detailed report and analysis of your network and also tell you if your connection is on the 2.4 or 5GHz frequency band.

Is 2.4 or 5 GHz better?

There is no fitting conclusion to this question, but the 5GHz band is much faster than the 2.4GHz band due to two crucial factors. These are the bandwidth of the connection and the traffic around you. Hence, 5GHz is preferred if you want faster data transfer rates, and the 2.4GHz band is chosen when you need a better range and connectivity for a wireless network.

What is the best free WiFi analyzer?

There are a lot of WiFi analyzers in the market that promise to deliver a great seamless experience but put simply, and they can be expensive or not work as well as advertised. However, if you are looking for the best free WiFi analyzer, we recommend you use the default Mac Wireless Diagnostic Tool or NetSpot from the link above.

What are the best WiFi analyzer apps?

The best WiFi analyzer apps that we have tested to date are NetSpot and WiFi Explorer Pro. We have an in-depth analysis of the apps above, and the features were excellent and worked like a charm. You can read the guide above and start adjusting your WiFi connection according to the analysis done by the apps.

What is dBm in WiFi?

dBm or decibels in WiFi is the value for the signals produced by your WiFi router or the access point. It is measured from the values 0 to -100, where higher values closer to zero (-30 to -50) are excellent for connectivity, and transfer rates and values closer to -100 (-80 to -100) implies a bad connection, and you should fix the issue as soon as possible for a seamless experience.

How many dBm is a good WiFi signal?

The ideal amount of WiFi signal strength that you want should be between -55 dBm and -70 dBm. This depends on how close or far away you are from your WiFi access. In Short, if you can get around -30 dBm = Excellent. It is the max achievable signal strength, and you would need to keep your device at most a few feet from the router.

Final words

While managing your WiFi connection can get a little challenging and stressful, the overall benefits you get with a stable and fast connection is just something that you shouldn’t miss out on. We have covered all the apps that can help you analyze and improve your WiFi network and hope that we might have helped solve your issue.

With this, we end our guide on the best WiFi analyzer apps and hope you have a better, smoother and seamless experience with your WiFi connection.