There is a growing number of tools for macOS that allow you to see what wireless networks are around. I have used several of them and even paid for some of them, but why use something with such limited functionality? In this post I will be showing off why WiFi Explorer Pro is one of my favorite tools for wireless engineers on macOS and how it supersedes those scanners of yesteryear.
In WiFi Explorer Pro of course you can view a list of networks, RSSI values, and supported data rates. Then, there are some features you would not typically find in other products at this price including a simple user interface, a breakdown of the information elements, and spectrum analysis.
The simple and easy to use interface makes finding information about the networks you care about quick and painless. With a few clicks you can add filters to narrow down your search, identify channel overlaps, minimum data rates, security information, and much more. This is the bread and butter for me. It is very common in our industry for user interface, simplicity, and experience to be overlooked in troubleshooting tools.
This screenshot was taken while in the keynote area at Aruba Atmosphere 2018 and we were quickly able to identify ‘Barco’ broadcasting on channel 9 in 2.4GHz with a consumer grade access point. If this had been a typical enterprise environment we could work with our neighbor to use non-overlapping channels, or in some cases, track down the offending employee that brought in their personal AP.
Additionally, if you expand the left pane and click the Issues tab you can see suggestions for the wireless network currently selected. In this case we see there are too many networks on the channel and a recommendation to move to somewhere less crowded.
Also within WiFi Explorer Pro is the Advanced Details tab that shows the information elements sent by management frames. Within this tab we can easily see security types, supported data rates, number of spacial streams, WMM support, ect. Say you are working with a client that is not able to connect to your network. With the information provided you may be able to determine that the data rates supported by the network do not match on the client, or the security capabilities of the client device are incompatible with those required by the network. While this portion may not explicitly spell out to you what the issue is with your client, it does help narrow down your search.
Lastly, my favorite use for WiFi Explorer Pro – Spectrum Analysis. By using a supported adapter, in my case MetaGeek Wi-Spy DBx, you have insight into the unseen spectrum. Adding another layer of information onto your research to quickly identify high data utilization or other spectral interference that could be adversely affecting your clients. Remember, WiFi is using shared medium and we do not have control over who can use it. If a company adjacent to your office wants to use wireless security cameras that DoS the entire 2.4GHz spectrum, you don’t really have much footing to stand on to prevent it. At least with this tool you will be able to see there is a problem and work on avoiding the use of the affected channels. The only feature missing from the spectrum analysis view is interference identities to quickly identify if it is a pesky security camera or a bluetooth headset causing your grievance.
It is my personal opinion that WiFi Explorer Pro truly is an essential investment for wireless engineers running on macOS. Adrian is constantly updating the product with enhancements and new features. He takes a lot of feedback directly from the community and implements it into upcoming releases. He is also a very big part of the wireless community on Twitter and even presenting at Wireless LAN Professionals Conference. I highly recommend you check out his other products, such as AirTool to easily perform packet captures using your macs internal WiFi adapter. Visit Adrian’s website and show him some support at www.adriangranados.com.