Wi-Fi: How to check the signal strength?

If your internet connection seems slow or web pages are not loaded, the problem could be your Wi-Fi connection. Perhaps you are too far from the source, or thick walls are blocking the signal. Here we show you how to verify the precise intensity of the Wi-Fi signal.

Why is the Wi-Fi signal strength important?

A stronger Wi-Fi signal means a more reliable connection. This is what allows you to take full advantage of the available internet speeds. The Wi-Fi signal strength depends on a variety of factors, such as the distance of the router, whether it is a 2.4 or 5GHz connection, and even the materials of the walls around you.

The closer you are to the router, the better. While 2.4GHz connections are transmitted even more, they may have interference problems. Thicker walls made of denser materials such as concrete will block a Wi-Fi signal. A weaker signal, on the other hand, leads to slower speeds, dropouts and in some cases, total disconnection.

Not all connection problems are the result of a weak signal strength. If the internet on your tablet or mobile seems slow, start by restarting your router if you have access to it. If the problem persists, the next step is to verify if the problem is Wi-Fi.

Try using the internet with a device connected through Ethernet. If you still have problems, the network is the problem. If the ethernet connection is fine and the router reset did not help, then it is time to check the signal strength.

Checking the signal strength easily

To verify the power of your Wi-Fi, the first thing you should do is see the device that has problems. Whether you use iOS, Android, Mac or Windows, you must have a Wi-Fi connection indicator. Usually, four or five curved lines form the Wi-Fi symbol, and the more they fill up, the stronger the connection will be.

Each smartphone, tablet and laptop is different and can indicate a different Wi-Fi intensity. But it is worth consulting a second, or even a third device. If you have already checked a mobile, consider trying a tablet too.

Compare internet performance on both devices and check what they show for Wi-Fi power. If you have similar results with both, you have an excellent baseline to use.

If you have determined that your Wi-Fi connection is weak in a particular place, the next thing you should do is pay attention to Wi-Fi bars on your smart phone or tablet. You should keep a record of how far you are from the router and how many walls there are between you and the router.

Pay attention to when your Wi-Fi bars increase or decrease. It is a somewhat rudimentary step, but for most cases, it will be enough.

The most advanced and accurate method to verify Wi-Fi power

Seeing the bars in a symbol will not tell you much. If you want to deepen the power of your Wi-Fi, you must use an application or program. Like the AirPort Utility or Wi-Fi Analyzer application. These are used to measure decibels in relation to one milliwatt (dBm).

You can measure a Wi-Fi signal in multiple ways. The most accurate measurement is in milliwatts (mW), but it is also the most difficult to read due to the number of decimal places (0.0001 mW). The received signal strength indicator (RSSI) is another option, but Wi-Fi providers handle it inconsistently and with varying scales.

Decibels in relation to the milliwatt (dBm) avoid these problems, and many manufacturers convert RSSI to dBm anyway, so this measurement is what you should take into account.

The first thing you should know is that dBm measurements will be displayed in negative numbers. The scale ranges from -30 to -90. If you see -30, you have a "perfect connection" and you are likely to be standing next to the router.

However, if you detect a Wi-Fi signal at -90, the service is so weak that you probably cannot connect to that network. An excellent connection is -50 dBm, while -60 dBm is good enough to transmit, handle voice calls and anything else.

To measure the Wi-Fi signal strength on your mobile or tablet, you can use the Airport Utility app for iPhone and iPad, or Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android. Both are easy to use and show results for any wireless network in your area.

Configure this application on your iPhone

For iPhone users, the Airport Utility application requires you to access your device settings and turn on the Wi-Fi scanner. Simply go to your iPhone or iPad settings; no to the application settings, touch Airport Utility in the settings list and then activate the Wi-Fi scanner.

Now, go back to the Airport Utility application and start a scan. You will see the dBm measurements expressed as RSSI. For Android users, Wi-Fi Analyzer is easier. Open the application and look for the networks found. Each entry will be forcefully listed as dBm.

Windows 10 does not have an integrated way to view the precise signal strength, although the "netsh wlan show interface" command gives you the signal strength as a percentage.

We also recommend the NirSoft WifiInfoView program to inspect Wi-Fi channels and also to check the power. The program is free, easy to use and requires no installation. Simply unzip it and double click on the EXE file. Like iOS and Mac, you will find the dBm measurements in the RSSI entry.

On Mac, you don't need to download any program or application if you want to measure the connected network. Press and hold the option key and click on the Wi-Fi symbol. You will see the dBm measurements in the RSSI entry.

How to improve Wi-Fi signal strength

Once you know how strong your network is, you will have a better idea of ​​what to do to improve it. For example, if you can reach the edges of your home and still see a signal of 60 dBm or most of the bars, then any problem you have is not related to Wi-Fi intensity.

Check for interference, consider changing channels or upgrade to a router that supports 5 GHz if the current one does not.

If you move away from one or two rooms of the router and discover that you are rapidly losing the signal, it is time to consider the age of the router and the location. Either your walls are very thick and dense, or your router is old and cannot transmit very far. If you have plaster walls, consider moving the router as close as possible to the center of the house.

If your device is older, it might be time to update it. When doing so, look for one that supports 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi signals. The 5 GHz signal does not extend up to 2.4 GHz, but it has more options to avoid interference problems.

If you have a large house, you may want to consider setting up a mesh router. They are an easy way to increase Wi-Fi signal throughout your home and include other excellent features, such as automatic firmware updates and guest networks.

The mesh router can be a half solution

However, most people probably don't need a mesh network, and you can find cheaper routers that also offer firmware updates and guest networks.

If you're not sure you need a mesh router, you can consider creating a Wi-Fi heat map of your home. Heat maps are an excellent way to determine where your wireless connection is strongest and weakest with an easy to understand display.

Create a sketch of your home design and then walk while the program measures the power of the Wi-Fi connection. Then, color your map to give you a general idea of ​​the Wi-Fi signal strength at all times. If you are in the center of your home and the heat map shows weak signals everywhere, it might be time to purchase a mesh router.

Unfortunately, there is no single solution to increase the Wi-Fi signal in every home. However, if you try each of these methods, you can get the most accurate information to make an informed decision about what to do about it.