NetSurveyor Review – Wireless Network Strength and Detection Utility

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netsurveyor I recently stumbled upon NetSurveyor while trying to find the more well known NetStumbler utility. NetSurveyor seemed to also do what I was looking for, so I decided to give it a try.

NetSurveyor 802.11 Discovery Tool Features

As with NetStumbler, the standard usage of NetSurveyor is to scan the airwaves and find all of the 802.11, or wireless networking, signals in the area.  It then plots each signal’s strength and from that data, you can select the best channel for your home wireless network that will have the least interference.

In my case, I have recently moved my home office to the basement.  I get a wireless network signal in my new office and both the Windows XP and Windows Vista computers connect to the wireless network.  However, the signal strength is relatively low and just by using the tray icon, I noticed that higher isn’t necessarily better for signal strength.  Fortunately, there are no other wireless signals in the area, so interference is not my concern.

However, signal strength is an important consideration for me.  The Linksys Wireless Router, WRT52G2, is on the main floor of the house and moving it isn’t a possibility because it is attached to a Comcast cable modem which also happens to supply our home phone connection.  (I got the bundle deal because it saves me some money.)  So, moving the wireless router also means moving the telephone, which wouldn’t be a huge deal except, there really isn’t a better place available at the moment.

My PCs wireless connection is provided by a USB wireless adapter attached to a USB cable / stand, so I have some flexibility in where I locate it.  I want to put it where it will get the best signal. 

NetSurveyor detects my wireless signal and then displays its strength.  By putting it in “Channel Timecourse” mode, it graphs the signal strength every few seconds.  Moving the adapter placement around the small home office allows me to determine where the best placement is for the wireless adapter to get the strongest signal.

In wireless networking, intuition and common sense are not very helpful in setting up anything other than the most basic wireless network.  That is because when it comes to multi-floor, multi-room wireless networks, one never knows exactly what interference and signal blocking occurs.  For example, a large steel beam hidden between floors might make what logically seems like a great wireless adapter location into a terrible spot.

In my case, the bookshelves apparently cause a lot more signal degradation than I thought they would, so locating the adapter in one of the shelf areas is bad.  A location that I figured would be lousy, actually turned out to be pretty decent.

It also turns out that there is a slight difference between channels which was a surprise.

NetSurveyor is a free utility that can help you both locate any other wireless signals and select the best channel, and one that gives you solid strength measurements so that you can properly locate your equipment.

I wouldn’t say it is better or worse than NetStumbler for what I do, but rather its equal, which is pretty high praise.

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