Map Your Wi-Fi Coverage with NetSpot

| Monday's Mac Gadget

Product Link : NetSpot (Freeware)

Wi-Fi networking is great, unless you’re getting a weak or intermittent signal, in which case it can be frustrating. Your Mac can show you some detailed information about the quality of your connection, such as the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) if you hold down the Option key and click on the Wi-Fi menu in your menu bar. You can also see statistics of all connected devices if you click on Wireless Clients in the AirPort Utility. Using these tools can be tedious if you want the big picture regarding your Wi-Fi coverage, or the best place to place your access point. Enter NetSpot.

NetSpot allows you to do a site survey for your home or building. A site survey is a diagram that shows various Wi-Fi parameters for a floor or section of your house or building. The first step is to create a map, first by giving the maximum dimensions (in feet or meters) and then using the basic drawing tools to provide some detail for walls and other features of the location. You can also apply text labels.

NetSpot Site Survey

Once you’ve drawn your map, it’s time to start the survey! Just take your portable Mac, go to a point on the map, click the button, and NetSpot will sample various values for all nearby Wi-Fi access points. Note that the free version will only see open access points, so if you’ve configured yours to be closed (not broadcast its SSID) change this value before the survey. Once you’ve taken a sample, an area of the map will be colored in. Make sure to take enough samples so that the entire map is colored. Once you’re complete, you can see the map, which can display color-coded values for Signal to Noise Ratio, Signal Level, Quantity of Access Points, Noise Level or Signal to Interference Ratio.

So find out where you can get the best signal, or where to place your access point to provide the best coverage, and check out NetSpot today! Have any other gadgets that can help you with your network?  Send an email to John and he’ll give it a try.

 

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6 Comments Leave Your Own

Ross Edwards

Not everyone has a Mac notebook—plenty of us have Mac desktops, PC desktops or notebooks, or no computer at all.  I would hope this software would work with an iOS device, which is likely to be much more common.

prl53

@Ross, Interesting comment for a Mac-related news site. I believe Mac laptops are selling much better than desktops and I really don’t care about creating an application for Windows or Linux. This is a Mac application and one that looks very useful for testing WiFi signal strength in buildings.

geoduck

I like the idea but I too would like to see an iOS Version. Yes I have a MacBook but carrying a iPad or iPod Touch would be much easier.

At my last job I had to do a wifi check every week by carrying a laptop around the resort. It was a pain in the neck (and shoulders and knees and spine and…).

John F. Braun

The use of a laptop is more a suggestion than a requirement.  I was able to run NetSpot on my Mac mini, but I can’t see using any sort of desktop Mac to do a site survey, unless you have a very long extension cord, or a UPS that you’d like to lug around while performing the survey.

My understanding is that iOS API calls to access Wi-Fi data are private, so any iOS app that performs a site survey wouldn’t get approved.  There may be some goodies floating around in the jailbreak arena that could do this for you.

MackyMoto

I wonder how valid the map really is. The reason I ask is I know from experience that while sitting in the same spot in my home, and not moving my laptop, the Wi-Fi signal strength indicator in the Menu Bar can fluctuate greatly. Whether that is due to sun spots, or some motor running in the fridge or furnace, or some other factor I don’t know. But the point is I think you’d need to aggregate many samples taken over a period of time to truly get an accurate map of the strength of coverage in your home. Not sure if the application allows for that.

Paul Johnsonn

Hello!  I am Paul Johnson from NetSpot Software.

I wonder how valid the map really is. The reason I ask is I know from experience that while sitting in the same spot in my home, and not moving my laptop, the Wi-Fi signal strength indicator in the Menu Bar can fluctuate greatly. Whether that is due to sun spots, or some motor running in the fridge or furnace, or some other factor I don?t know. But the point is I think you?d need to aggregate many samples taken over a period of time to truly get an accurate map of the strength of coverage in your home. Not sure if the application allows for that.

Not a single sample would actually be accurate in any other time than it was taken. Anything can influence the wireless signal: air temperature, microwave ovens, mobile phones, other Wi-Fi networks,etc. NetSpot 2 will let you run several surveys and compare them afterwards to find the changing spots. Meanwhile, the accuracy is at
“most accurate what you can get” level.

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