From gaming and online shopping to movie streaming and social media. There are a lot of reasons why you need stable Wi-Fi around your home, and getting stuck with a sluggish or unreliable connection, can become a major problem.
We’re sadly not equipped to see the radio waves floating around our homes carrying that precious wireless internet access, but you can easily check how strong the signal from your router is at various locations. This can be helpful when making sure you’re getting the wireless speeds you’re paying for, but also to set up your devices in optimum locations and identify problems, like a badly positioned fish tank. You can check your wireless strength from any device, and we’ve picked the simplest options in each case.
Note that Wi-Fi strength is not the same as speed, and it refers instead to how strong the radio signal is between your device and your router. A strong Wi-Fi means better download and upload speeds, but also determines factors like the stability of the signal.
When reading stats, connection strength corresponds to RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) which is measured in decibel milliwatts or dBm. There will be a minus sign before the dBm figure, but don’t worry: Anything from -50 dBm or higher represents an excellent Wi-Fi signal, but if you’re down below -80 dBm, you should be experiencing problems.
How to measure your Wi-Fi strength on Android devices
On an Android device, the little Wi-Fi icon on the right of the status bar is the first indicator of how strong your Wi-Fi signal is, though the icon is so small it doesn’t really tell you much. If you open up Settings and tap Network and Internet, go to Internet, and then tap the name of your Wi-Fi network, you’ll see a signal strength reading as the first option.
This reading is still quite vague though, as you’ll only see labels like “fair” or “excellent”. To get even more details, you can use a third-party app such Wifi Speed Test. On the Access Points tab, you’ll see all the Wi-Fi networks available to you, along with information such as their signal strength. They’re also color-coded with the traffic lights system so you’ll know at a glance which ones are the best.
The Time Graph tab is also useful in terms of testing signal strength because it charts the signal response over time, so you can move around with your Android device and see how the reading changes. This is particularly useful if you want to identify the best location for your home Wi-Fi or spot those dead zones that have ruined so many conference calls in the past.
How to measure your Wi-Fi strength on iOS devices
If you’re on an iPhone, the Wi-Fi indicator to the right of the status bar will give you some idea of how strong your connection is at the moment. There are only three bars though, so it’s not all that precise. Unfortunately, that’s also all the information you’ll get in terms of native iOS options because even if you delve into the Wi-Fi menu in Settings, you’ll still only find those three bars to represent Wi-Fi signal strength.
Apple makes a free app called AirPort Utility that you can use to measure signal strength. The company hasn’t updated it in a while and it’s hardly crammed with features, but it will show you the current signal strength in dBm for all the Wi-Fi networks your device can detect. Tap on a network to see signal strength split by Wi-Fi channel.
Unfortunately, third-party apps are no longer able to access this data through iOS. But if you want to get other information on your network, there are plenty of apps that can help. The iWifi app, for example, can measure Wi-Fi speed and ping to measure how quickly the network responds. All of the app’s key features are available for free, but you can pay $4 a month to remove the ads and get more accurate readings.
How to measure your Wi-Fi strength on Windows computers
If you’re on a Windows computer and want to check Wi-Fi signal strength, you’ll see a small strength indicator down on the far right-hand side of the taskbar. It has four bars to represent four different levels of connectivity for the network your device is currently attached to. You can see strength readings for more networks by going to Settings, choosing Network & internet, and then WiFi.
You can also get a more detailed reading of signal strength by searching for and launching the PowerShell utility from the Start menu. Type netsh wlan show interfaces and hit Enter to see a variety of stats about the Wi-Fi network you’re currently connected to—signal strength is a percentage you’ll find near the bottom.
When it comes to third-party apps, the free inSSIDer is one of the best in the business, and it’s also free to use. The Networks tab that appears when you first open up the application shows you all the Wi-Fi networks in range, together with a signal reading in dBm. The signal strength is color coded as well for easy reading.
How to measure your Wi-Fi strength on macOS
When it comes to checking Wi-Fi signal strength on macOS, again there’s that familiar Wi-Fi status indicator that you might recognize from iOS—it’s up on the right-hand side of the menu bar, and it offers up three bars to represent signal strength. You can click on the icon and then choose Wi-Fi settings to find other networks and compare signal strengths.
You might think that just as with iOS there would not be more information available natively. But on macOS there’s actually a hidden way to see the signal strength of the Wi-Fi network you’re currently connected to: Hold down the Option key then click the Wi-Fi indicator on the menu bar, and you’ll see a host of statistics that include signal strength. The reading will be updated in real-time too.
When it comes to third-party apps, you can get the aforementioned iWifi app for macOS as well as iOS, but another option for desktop devices is Wifiry. It will set you back a one-off fee of $3, but it gives you comprehensive readings for all the Wi-Fi networks around your Mac (not just the one you’re connected to), plus additional features like a five-dot signal strength indicator you can place in the menu bar.