Wi-Fi seems to be everywhere, and it doesn’t take much effort to find a signal nearby. Check the Wi-Fi icon in your Mac’s Menubar and you’ll see what I mean. Wi-Fi networks are growing faster than discontent with politicians (which might be a saturation thing anyway). Here are four good ways to find Wi-Fi networks on your Mac.
The Free, The Good, And How Much?
At the top of my list of Wi-Fi tools to find nearby networks is your Mac itself. Click the Menubar Wi-Fi icon and you’ll be treated to a list of nearby networks, whether they’re locked or not, and a relative indicator of signal strength. Mac users can choose from a number of Wi-Fi scanner tools, some comprehensive, some not so much. Here are a few of my favorites.
First up is WiFi Scanner which gets mostly four and five star reviews on the Mac App Store. It comes with a built-in speed test option (think Ookla SpeedTest.net, but built-in).
It can find most nearby Wi-Fi networks; 802.11 a/b/g/n/ and even ac. There’s an option to join an available network with a click. The built-in IP scanner can find devices connected to your local network. WiFi Scanner has long been a favorite is gets used often on my Mac. I’m glad I bought when it was 99-cents. It’s 10 times that price now.
Second on my list is WiFi Explorer, priced the same as WiFi Scanner and with similar features, though not the built-in speed test or pretty graphics. WiFi Explorer is easier to use, though, and controls can be filtered to display only those networks or devices you want to view.
I appreciate the timescale which displays network performance over a period of time, and the option to adjust and edit column of information so you can view only what you want.
Both WiFi Scanner and WiFi Explorer are good choices, and both provide most of the details you’re likely to need when scanning or troubleshooting your network or nearby networks.
What if you need more?
Enter the grandaddy of Wi-Fi scanner utilities for the Mac. iStumbler. This competent utility has been around forever and a week, and though it’s not loaded with eye candy charts and graphs, it doubles down on the details.
If you’re only interested in the best, most feature-laden Wi-Fi utility that runs only on the latest Mac hardware, and you’re willing to pay the piper, iStumbler is the iCats iMeow.
It lists all the nearby networks, comes with a timescale slider, and inspector, and graphics on network type and encryption status.
Wait. There’s more.
iStumbler also displays nearby Bluetooth networks with options to setup Bluetooth devices, pair, browse or send files. It also lists and details Bonjour network devices (like Printers, other devices connected to a specific network). Where are those local networks? iStumbler’s Location mode displays location coordinates. Even better, all those captured details are logged. If there’s a Wi-Fi utility for the Mac that does more, I haven’t used it yet. It does more so it costs more.
What about #4 on the list?
All Macs come with Wi-Fi built-in, and that means the Wi-Fi connection icon in the Menubar can display nearby Wi-Fi network information, too. One click. No, it is not as comprehensive as the commercial apps, but it’s priced right. Sometimes you get what you pay for.