Windows: There are a million little apps that feature some combination of the words "Wi-Fi" and "analysis", or something really close to either. Some apps are paid; some are free. And they all allow you see different combinations of information about your wireless setup (and the wireless setups of those around you).
Photo: Bernard Hermant (Unsplash)
I stumbled across WiFi Analyser (free) while browsing the Windows Store the other day, and I think it's a great, simple utility to see just how bad your wireless situation is in your home or apartment.
It would be ideal if we could all live in a somewhat-isolated, multi-acre area that contains only our Wi-Fi "bubble", but the reality is that everyone around you probably has a million different routers that are all blasting signals across a bunch of wireless channels. You want the best connection for your devices, and it helps to be using a channel that doesn't have a lot of powerful, competing wireless networks on it.
I like WiFi Analyser because it offers a simple little real-time graph that shows the signal strength of any wireless networks your Windows laptop can find (or desktop, if you don't like using an Ethernet connection for whatever reason). It will even suggest which channels you should use for your own wireless networks (even though the conventional wisdom is to stick with 1, 6 or 11 for 2.4GHz and whichever seems least congested for 5GHz).
Thankfully, my router seems to be winning the "who is blasting out the strongest signal" race. Screenshot: David Murphy
The app will also give you a bit more information about the wireless network you're currently connected to - presumably your own - which includes what channel its using, it bandwidth and its protocol (if you need to confirm that the router your ISP gave you is a crappy old wireless-n router).
While WiFi Analyser won't give you a better connection on your laptop, it will at least light the path and possibly help you free your own wireless network from the Wi-Fi congestion. And if you live in an apartment complex, you can at least smile at how packed the airwaves are with everyone else's signals - welcome to wireless Hell. (My advice? Just stick to 5GHz if your device support it and it gives you enough range.)