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10 Handy WiFi Troubleshooting Tools

  • Wireless networks are valued by end users for their convenience and ease-of-use. But behind every seamlessly operating wireless network out there in the enterprise, there is likely more than one networking guru who has pulled their hair out ensuring the WLAN simply works.

    If you're looking for ways to streamline your WiFi operations, we've got 10 tools that help track down channel conflicts, find rogue WLANs, perform network diagnostics, and more. These WiFi troubleshooting tools and utilities are designed to help make the process of WLAN management easier for the IT staff charged with keeping wireless users happy and productive.

    Most IT pros are familiar with the classic free NetStumbler utility, which can be used to detect 802.11 a/b/g WLANs and can help in the verification of configuration and identifying weak signals within a wireless network. While other tools have refined the discovery process, NetStumbler still remains a valid option for network administrators. But there are a lot of other WiFi troubleshooting tools out there worth checking out, and some -- like NetStumbler -- are even free.

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  • inSSIDer

    Using this tool, administrators can easily scan the network to pick up signal overlap, channel conflicts and configuration problems that could degrade performance. inSSIDer offers the means to ensure APs are on the right channels and that signal strength remains consistently strong over time, and also a way to visualize conflicts that need to be resolved.

  • Wireshark

    Collect and analyze wireless traffic information at the packet level using this sniffing utility. Known best for its Ethernet analysis capabilities, Wireshark also offers support for 802.11 and offers the means to not only troubleshoot wireless problems, but also to better lock down security configurations.

  • Tamosoft Throughput Test

    Get quick and dirty performance data for both wireless and wired networks using this free utility. The tool sends continuous TCP and UDP data across the network to measure upstream and downstream throughput, plus packet loss information and round-trip time.

  • Ekahau HeatMapper

    For small offices and remote locations, Ekahau offers a free planning and site survey tool that offers at-a-glance information about WiFi coverage conveniently placed on maps and floor plans. For wider use, Ekahau also provides more comprehensive enterprise-class capabilities through its Ekahau Site Survey (ESS) tool, designed for both pre-deployment use and design tweaks along the way.

  • Kismet

    An open source wireless network discovery and packet sniffing tool, Kismet can offer IT professionals a good way to find hidden wireless networks that could be disrupting their legitimate network. Unlike NetStumbler, Kismet finds networks by listening to beacon transmissions from APs instead of broadcasting for SSID, making it possible to find rogue networks that are hiding their SSIDs.

  • WiFi Survey

    Perform WiFi site surveys of both indoor and outdoor networks direct from an iOS device using this handy dandy tool. Diagnostics from WiFi Survey examine 802.11 a/b/g/n speeds and give the user the ability to place speed test markers on a digital floor plan, projected from the device camera, an image library or Dropbox.

  • RF Explorer

    An affordable (starting at $119) hand-held device, RF Explorer allows network administrators to run simple RF spectrum analysis from the device or hook into a PC to conduct more sophisticated diagnostic analysis. The tool makes it possible to detect sources of RF interference or pick up rogue transmitters and perform a number of WiFi troubleshooting tasks.

  • WifiEagle

    WifiEagle is a PC-based dongle and software combination that offers WiFi diagnostics using Indirect Measurement of Microwave Interference (IMMI) to pick up data on how RF interference may be affecting throughput of 802.11 channels. In addition to channel analysis, WifiEagle also sports an 802.11 discovery tool.

  • AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer

    The multi-tool of WiFi troubleshooting, Fluke Network's AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer offers enterprise-class functionality for administrators who would rather not cobble together a collection of free tools. It provides testing and diagnostics for throughput and connectivity problems, device conflicts and signal multipath troubles. In addition, it offers a full slate of security checking features and reporting capabilities to help IT pros better track compliance information.