Add the right app to your Mac and get a list of all the nearby wireless networks, details on each, including their strength. Why? The right tracking app can improve your own network. Here’s the tale of three wireless network scanner apps. One free, one not so much, one much different.
Scan Me Baby, One More Time
First on my list is AirRadar. This is a powerful, visually attractive network scanner. It starts a scan as soon as it opens and tracks each network in the area.
Use AirRadar to scan and retrieve a network’s encryption status and type, as well as MAC Address, noise level, signal strength, channel and much more.
The app can record network history, and you can change the scan interval, and have it alert you with a new network, or even speak it aloud.
AirRadar features Growl support for notifications, and can attempt to join either open or closed networks (and, disconnect from a network without turning off AirPort).
The first thing you’ll notice about AirRadar is the long list of available networks, the simple toolbar (what’s with the floppy disk icon to Save Networks; no floppies on Macs for many years).
AirRadar has plenty to like, and a price tag to match the feature list.
If you’re on a tiny budget, take a look at iStumbler, a free wireless network discovery app. It’s not as feature laden, but very useful.
One of my favorite wireless tools is NetSpot, which is more like a wireless site survey, Wi-Fi analysis, and troubleshooting app for the Mac.
NetSpot also scans nearby networks and monitors Wi-Fi signals but also maps the terrain so you can see weak spots in network coverage.
The visual Wi-Fi map lets you see dead zones with limited or no coverage.
This is a good tool to use to create a wireless network. View each network’s channel independently. View signal to noise ratio for each network and channel.
NetSpot is also free, but there’s a professional version for businesses.