Testing your WiFi Local Area Network (LAN)

Sometimes you may encounter a problem with your wireless LAN and need to do some testing. The symptoms could be intermittent connections or needing to constantly re-authenticate to your network.

The usual Mac computer wireless network chooser in the menubar lists the local wireless networks, whether they have encryption activated, and provides a graphic “fan” whose number of bars gives some indication of the signal strength.

Some useful (free) Mac OSX tools for getting an inventory of your wireless access points and their signal strengths are KisMac, iStumbler, and APGrapher. These tools provide actual signal strength, noise, signal to noise ratio (SNR), what channel is being used, theoretical bandwidth, communication link quality, graphing, etc. Don’t bother looking for IOS (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch) wifi signal strength tools as apparently this type of app is prohibited in the Apple app store.

Wifi planet has recommendations for wifi signal to noise ratio which suggests that anything above 15dB SNR should provide a reliable connection. In my case the problem was not signal strength but that somehow two adjacent access points were on the same channel so they were interfering with each other. The solution was to connect to the admin interface of one access point and change the channel to eliminate the interference. Other potential sources of interference could be microwave ovens and cordless phones.

One thought on “Testing your WiFi Local Area Network (LAN)”

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