Today we’ll discuss using inSSIDer4 software from MetaGeek for wireless network troubleshooting, and compare it with the Wifi Explorer product we reviewed here in an earlier post. Below is a screen shot showing the inSSIDer4 interface, with the focus on the “NewSig-Internal” network. Just like Wifi Explorer, inSSIDer4 will show you the name of the network (here called the ESSID), the MAC address of the wireless access point, and the network type (“b,g,n” in the screen shot) as well as the numbers of the channels being used.
Wireless networks can use a range of channels. Most wireless access points will detect which channels are already in use by other nearby devices and try to choose an unused one. However, sometimes you can find two wireless access points using the same channel which might lead to issues for the one with the weaker signal in a particular location. InSSIDer4 will show you if there is more than one access point using a channel. For example, in the diagram below you can see that “Newsig-Internal” and “Newsig-Guest” are overlapping, so we might move one of them to a free channel such as channel 3.
The filters you can apply to the list of displayed networks are a handy feature of inSSIDer4. In my screen shot below I have filtered so that I only see networks with “Newsig” in the name. You can also filter on MAC address, channel number and signal strength. The software has the advantage that it will work with either a built-in wireless adapter or a USB-connected wireless adapter, so you can use it on any desktop or laptop with a USB port. One handy feature in Wifi Explorer that is missing in inSSIDer4 is the ability to determine the level of background noise in a given location.