Accessing the best Wi-Fi channel in your home or office (or home office!) can make all the difference in the world. Most routers have multiple Wi-Fi channels, but not all of them have the same signal strength or range.
Selecting the correct Wi-Fi channel is not always as easy as it seems. Signal strength is just one metric to measure performance. Depending on the size and layout of your building, the strongest signal is most likely not even right for you.
Somehow, a fast Wi-Fi signal has become the ultimate tech vanity metric. Here, we’ll show you how to check wifi channels, analyze your signal strength and reliability, and tell you about a wifi analyzer app we really like.
What channel is the best for WiFi?
Deciding which Wi-Fi channel is the best option is very subjective. There are a large number of factors that can influence which signal is best for you.
There are two main Wi-Fi bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band is technically slower, but it has the distinct advantage of being able to reach farther than the 5 GHz band.
And the 5GHz band is much faster than 2.4GHz, but you have to be pretty close to the router, and the 5GHz wifi band has problems with objects like walls or doors. If you’re in the same room as your router and your machine has a direct line of sight, 5GHz is usually your best option.
Because the 2.4GHz band reaches farther, there’s a chance you’ll see interference, although this is often a problem for older routers.
How to search for WiFi channels
Your first option is to identify what Wi-Fi signals are available to you. Here’s how to check available networks on your Mac:
- In the menu bar, click the Apple logo > System Preferences.
- Select to red’
- Check all Wi-Fi networks available to you by clicking on their Network Name
Make sure ‘show wi-fi status in menu bar’ is selected so you can check these networks directly from the menu bar, just select the dropdown under the wifi icon.
This is how to see all the wifi networks available to you. As you can see in the screenshot above, a normal environment will have tons of Wi-Fi signals available to your Mac. Most are probably blocked as they’re private, but this is a good illustration of just how crowded the airwaves are. for Wi-Fi signals.
Your Mac’s built-in Wi-Fi analyzer is great for identifying which channels are available to you, but going any further requires a lot of tweaking that most of us won’t be comfortable with. Instead, we have two options you’ll want to check out: NetSpot and Wifi Explorer.
NetSpot is a robust wifi channel scanner that returns a ton of data. On your main screen, you will see all the networks available in your area. This is useful, but NetSpot goes a step further by offering granular details about your signals.
In addition to the bands, the channels are essential. In the screenshot below, we will focus on two areas: channel and level (SNR).
Channels are like a fine tuner for wifi bands. For example, if your entire neighborhood was on a 2.4GHz band and everyone was on channel 6, there would be a lot of interference. Everyone is in the same band, on the same channel and it gets noisy.
Bands also have unique channels available and each channel has a unique resonance. In NetSpot, navigating to ‘Discover > Show details of selected networks’ from the menu bar opens a new window.
Navigating to the specific channel tabs gives you details about the frequency of the band channel:
Here we can see that the 2.4GHz band is available on channels 2-14 and stronger on channels 5-14.
Let’s go one step further. If we isolate NetSpot to a wifi band, we can see its channel and signal strength displayed on both menu and graph. We are on channel 10 and our signal strength is -41. (For signal strength, the numbers are negative, and zero is the best you can get.)
Wifi Explorer displays a lot of information, just like NetSpot. It’s a really powerful wifi channel analyzer and wireless channel scanner, and we enjoyed its minimal interface.
But it also returns a lot of information. As a wifi tester, it’s a really powerful app; you will see a lot of data about your networks. There is an option to toggle additional views at the top right of the Wifi Explorer window, which shows some useful views.
You can filter the results based on network name, mode, channels, security, access points, and the provider on the left. The right side of the screen can show you any known network issues.
The bottom popup is where a lot of value is anticipated. This shows you your signal strength and what bands and channels are available. Each ‘tower’ in the band segment is a router; each tower in the portion of channels is a network.
What is the best WiFi channel?
The best Wi-Fi channel is the one with the strongest signal and limited noise. Your router should automatically display the strongest band/channel combination for you. If you need to know how to change the Wi-Fi channel on your Mac, it’s not easy.
If you want to change networks, it’s simple. On your Mac’s menu bar, select the Wi-Fi icon and simply click the Wi-Fi network you want to join.
Generally speaking, the 2.4GHz band operates on channels 8-13, while the 5GHz band uses channels 35-165.
If you are looking for a wifi channel scanner online, there is no service that we have found that should be recommended. Because Wi-Fi is a network connection, it is difficult to identify from a remote location and should actually be done locally.