How to Measure Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength

Multiple Wi-Fi signal strength meter tools

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction
Illustration of three types of Wi-Fi signal, none, some, and good

Lifewire / Bailey Mariner

The performance of a Wi-Fi wireless network connection depends on the radio signal strength. On the path between the wireless access point and a connected device, the signal strength in each direction determines the data rate available on that link.

Use the following methods to determine the signal strength of your Wi-Fi connection and find ways to improve the Wi-Fi range of your connected devices. Different tools may show different results. These variations are caused by differences in how the utilities collect samples and the timing used to report an overall rating.

Network bandwidth isn't the same as signal strength. Network bandwidth is the speed you get from your ISP. Signal strength determines the functionality of the hardware connected to the Wi-Fi and the range that an access point has throughout an area.

Use 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. There are five bars that indicate the signal strength of the connection, where one is the poorest connection and five is the best.

Screenshot of the Wi-Fi indicator in Windows 10

To find the network connection in Windows, open Control Panel and go to Network and Internet > Network Connections. Right-click the wireless connection and choose Connect/Disconnect to see the Wi-Fi strength.

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

On Macintosh, the Wi-Fi indicator is located in the upper-right corner of the screen in the menu bar.

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

iwconfig wlan0 | grep -i --color signal.

Use a Smartphone or Tablet

Any mobile device that is internet capable has a section in the settings that shows the strength of the Wi-Fi networks in range. For example, on an iPhone, open the Settings app, then go to Wi-Fi to see the Wi-Fi strength of the network you're on and the signal strength of any network that's in range.

Screenshots of iOS and Android Wi-Fi strength settings

A similar method can be used on an Android phone or tablet. Look under a Settings, Wi-Fi, or Network menu. For example, in the settings on a Google Pixel, select Network & internet, then select the Wi-Fi you're using, then select the gear icon next to the network you're connected to. There you can see the signal strength. This process is similar on Samsung phones.

Another option is to download a free app such as Wifi Analyzer for Android, which shows the Wi-Fi strength visually in dBm compared to other nearby networks. Similar options are available for other platforms like iOS.

Open Your Wireless Adapter's Utility Program

Some manufacturers of wireless network hardware or notebook computers provide software applications that monitor wireless signal strength. These applications report signal strength and quality based on a percentage from zero to 100% and additional detail tailored specifically to the hardware.

The operating system utility and the vendor hardware utility may display the same information in different formats. For example, a connection with an excellent 5-bar rating in Windows may show in the vendor software as excellent with a percentage rating anywhere between 80% and 100%. Vendor utilities can often tap into extra hardware instrumentation to precisely calculate radio signal levels as measured in decibels (dB).

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.