How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods. Photo KnowInsiders

What’s a good Wi-Fi signal strength?

Signal strength is expressed as a percentage or, more commonly, an RSSI value in dBm. RSSI simply stands for received signal strength indicator, and this is what the apps below will show you.

The closer the value is to 0, the stronger the signal is. This is because the values are negative. So, a ‘higher’ number means a worse signal, a ‘lower’ number a stronger one.

The other crucial thing to know is that dBm is not a linear scale. A drop of 3dBm (say from -50 to -53dBm) means the signal is half as strong. Conversely, an increase of 3dBm means the signal is twice as strong.

Here’s a general guide to the sort of Wi-Fi signal strength you need:

-50dBm: Excellent signal strength. You’ll rarely see better than this unless your device is directly next to the source of the Wi-Fi network.

-55 to -60dBm: High quality signal. Devices should work well, video should stream with no issues.

-70dBm: Low quality: Not really good enough for video, but ok for emails and web browsing

-80dBm: Minimum signal strength needed for basic connection. Essentially unusable.

Why Wi-Fi signal strength matters

A stronger Wi-Fi signal means a more reliable connection. This is what enables you to take full advantage of the internet speeds available to you.

Wi-Fi signal strength depends on a variety of factors, such as how far you are from the router, whether it’s 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 broadcast further, they might have interference issues. Thicker walls made of denser materials (like 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.

READ MORE: Internet & Wi-fi First Invention: Inventor, Date & Time, History and Facts

Easiest way to check Wi-Fi signal strength

Any device you use (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, etc.) will have a Wi-Fi connection indicator. Generally, this indicator is the universal Wi-Fi symbol, which has four to five curved bars. The more that are filled solid, the stronger your connection is.

It’s a good idea to check multiple devices. For example, checking your phone, tablet and laptop if you have them.

After you identify where the Wi-Fi indicator is on your devices, walk throughout your space holding each device. Pay attention to the indicator and where the bars increase or decrease. Note how far you are from your router. This will give you a good idea about where the signal is weak or drops in your space, and how far you can be from your router with your devices. If you have a short range, you can look into Wi-Fi extenders to extend your router’s Wi-Fi signal to every corner of your home.

Performing this (free) Wi-Fi signal strength test is easy to do and will give you a baseline idea of where your signal strength is without specific numbers.

However, just like when you use free tools to check your Wi-Fi speeds, you do get results but they are not as detailed or precise as more advanced, paid tools.

How to check Wi-Fi signal strength on an iPhone

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
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Install the AirPort Utility from the App Store. It’s made by Apple, and it’s free.

Once installed, open the Settings app and scroll down until you see Airport Utility. Tap on it, then tap Wi-Fi Scanner to enable the feature.

Now launch the AirPort Utility itself and you should see a blue Wi-Fi scan option at the top-right. Tap Scan and you’ll see all the Wi-Fi networks in range of your iPhone.

As continuous scan is the default, the values will change over time. You can adjust the Scan Duration slider so the results update for only the period you set.

Look at the RSSI value of your own network (which may not be top of the list) and check the value.

If you’re close to the router, the Wi-Fi signal should be nice and strong.

Move to the position where you want the signal to be good and see if the value is -65dBm or better. This is what you need if you’re installing, say, a Wi-Fi video doorbell or security camera.

What is my Wi-Fi password?

To find your Wi-Fi password in Windows 10, navigate to the Network and Sharing Center, select Connections, and your network. In Wireless Network Properties, go to Security, select Show characters, and view the Wi-Fi password. On a Mac, access the Keychain Access app and select System > Passwords; double-click the network > Show password.

How to check Wi-Fi signal strength on Android

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
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On Android, download the Wi-Fi Speed Test app. It’s a favourite of ours because it’s also a handy way to test the connection speed between your phone and your router, rather than your broadband speed.

Unlike Airport Utility on an iPhone it won’t show you a list of all Wi-Fi networks in range, only the one your phone is connected to. Since you’re probably interested in only your own home Wi-Fi network, this can be considered a benefit.

So, the first step is to make sure your phone is connected to the right Wi-Fi network. Then, open the app. You will see the signal strength is displayed at the top, which will change as you move around with your phone.

There are two tabs – something that’s not obvious. By swiping right from the main screen you will see Wireless Network Details. The information there doesn’t change, but you can tap Refresh at the bottom when you move to a different location.

On that screen you can tell whether you’re connected via 5GHz or 2.4GHz: many routers and mesh Wi-Fi systems broadcast the same network name for both bands, making it hard to know which one your phone is using.

The reported link speed may be useful to you, as it will give an idea of the maximum speed in that location. But this will vary over time.

How to check Wi-Fi signal strength on computer

Using a Built-in Operating System Utility

Microsoft Windows and other operating systems contain a built-in utility to monitor wireless network connections. This is the quickest and easiest way to measure Wi-Fi strength.

In newer versions of Windows, select the network icon on the taskbar to see the wireless network you're connected to. Five bars indicate the signal strength of the connection—one bar is the poorest connection, and five is the best.

To find the network connection in modern versions of Windows, open Control Panel and go to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center, and select the blue Wi-Fi link to see the Wi-Fi strength.

Network and Sharing Center Control Panel in Windows 10 showing the Wi-Fi strength indicator

On a Mac, the Wi-Fi indicator is located in the upper-right corner of the screen in the menu bar. One bar is the poorest connection, and three is the best.

On Linux systems, use the following command to display the signal level in the terminal window:

The output in terminal is displayed as a dB value. The more negative the value, the worse the signal strength. Anything from -50 dBm to -70 dBm is considered great to decent signal strength.

How to check Wi-Fi signal strength on Windows 10

Using taskbar

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
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To determine the signal strength of a Wi-Fi connection on Windows 10, use these steps:

Click the network icon in the notification area of the taskbar.

See the wireless icon next to the network. (The higher the number of solid bars means the stronger the signal.)

Wi-Fi signal strength view from network flyout

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

When looking at the wireless icon, one solid bar indicates that the signal is weak, two bars mean the signal is acceptable, and three and four bars represent the best signal you can get.

Using Control Panel

To find out the signal quality of a wireless connection using Control Panel, use these steps:

Open Control Panel.

Click on Network and Internet.

Control Panel Network and Inernet option

Click on Network and Sharing Center.

Control Panel Network Sharing Center option

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
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Under the "View your active networks" section, the wireless icon next to "Connections" will indicate the signal quality.

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
Control Panel wireless signal strength. Photo Windowscentral

(Optional) Click the connection name to check the signal quality as well as speed, SSID, and other information.

Wireless adapter signal quality view

After you complete the steps, you'll know if you have a strong or weak Wi-Fi connection.

Using Command Prompt

How To Check Wi-Fi Signal Strength: Simple Ways to Precise Methods
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To check the signal strength of a Wi-Fi connection using Command Prompt, use these steps:

Open Start.

Search for Command Prompt and click the top result to open the app.

Type the following command to view the Wi-Fi signal strength and press Enter:netsh wlan show interfaces

See the Signal field to determine the signal quality. (If the output number is equal or higher than 80, then the strength of the signal is good.)

Command Prompt see wireless signal quality

Once you complete the steps, you'll quickly find out the quality of the Wi-Fi signal.

How do I boost my Wi-Fi signal strength?

To boost a Wi-Fi signal, try repositioning your router to avoid interference. You can also change the Wi-Fi channel numbers, update your router firmware, upgrade the antennas on your router, add a signal amplifier, use a wireless access point, or try a Wi-Fi extender.

If you’re not sure you need a mesh router, you might want to consider creating a Wi-Fi heatmap of your home. Heatmaps are a great way to determine where your wireless is strongest and weakest with an easy-to-understand visual. You create a sketch of the layout of your home, and then you walk around while the program measures the Wi-Fi strength. It then colors in your map to give you a general idea of Wi-Fi signal strength throughout. If you’re at the center of your home and the heatmap shows weak signals everywhere, it might be time for a mesh router.

Wi-Fi Locators Are Another Option

A Wi-Fi locator device scans radio frequencies in the local area and detects the signal strength of nearby wireless access points. Wi-Fi locators exist in the form of small hardware gadgets that fit on a keychain.

Most Wi-Fi locators use a set of between four and six LEDs to indicate signal strength in units of bars similar to the Windows utility. Unlike the above methods, however, Wi-Fi locator devices do not measure the strength of a connection but instead, only predict the strength of a connection.

Advanced ways to check Wifi signal strength

You can measure your Wi-Fi signal in a few ways. Measurements to look for include:

• Milliwatts (mW)

• Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI)

• Decibels per milliwatt (dBm)

The most common is decibels per milliwatt (dBm). Most internet service providers (ISP) use this measurement. If an ISP uses RSSI, they usually convert it to dBm anyways.

Measurements of dBm display as negative numbers on a scale from -30 to -90. Check out this article about understanding the dBm scale and what a good Wi-Fi signal should be.

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