How to Measure Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength

Multiple Wi-Fi signal strength meter tools

What to Know

  • In Windows, go to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center. Select the blue Wi-Fi link to see the signal strength.
  • On Mac, 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: iwconfig wlan0 | grep -i --color signal.

This guide explains how to check Wi-Fi signal strength on a variety of platforms. These instructions apply to currently supported versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

How to Measure Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength

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 reception 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.

Three types of Wi-Fi signal, none, some, and good

Lifewire / Bailey Mariner

Network bandwidth isn't the same as signal strength. Network bandwidth is the speed you get from your internet service provider (ISP). Signal strength determines the functionality of the hardware connected to the network and the range a Wi-Fi network typically 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. Five bars indicate the signal strength of the connection—one bar is the poorest connection, and five is the best.

Windows network list

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:

iwconfig wlan0 | grep -i --color signal

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.

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 and 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.

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 with Android 10, select Network & internet, select the Wi-Fi you're using, and then select the gear icon next to the network you're connected to. There you can see the signal strength.

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.

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 percent 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 percent. 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.

  • 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.

  • How do I reset the Wi-Fi?

    Reset your Wi-Fi by restarting your router and modem. Unplug the router and modem and wait about 30 seconds. Then, plug in the modem and power it on. Wait 60 seconds, plug in the router, and power it on. Wait about two minutes before testing or using the devices.

  • 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.

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