Keeping Tabs on Your Wi-Fi

If you find yourself using Wi-Fi more and more frequently, you’re not alone. As the numbers here show, business use of hotspots is growing very rapidly, and home Wi-Fi networks are key tools for many web workers. Do you monitor the Wi-Fi performance you’re getting, though?

If you tend to “set it and forget it,” it’s worth checking in on your actual Wi-Fi performance whether you’re in public or using your own network. Here are a couple of free tools that make this easy.

Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor does the footwork that many of the “look for network availability” tools do, and then some. It will display a list of available networks and also deliver lots of information about default encryption on networks you can connect to, what type of networks they are, and more.

On top of this, though, Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor delivers lots of detailed information about the signal you’re getting, and the signals available on other nearby networks. For the user of public Wi-Fi hotspots, it’s a great tool. It’s downloadable as a Windows Vista gadget, a Mac OS X widget, an XP widget, or a desklet for Linux.

When you’re using your Wi-Fi network at home, take a few minutes out to run through the battery of tests found in Qcheck. This tool will tell you what kinds of streaming throughput and signals you’re getting. You can also use it iteratively to test the kind of performance you might get if you move your router and access points around. (Wi-Fi is radio technology, and radio is weird, so this can make a big difference.)

Both of these tools are free, and if you’re increasingly using Wi-Fi, they’re both good to get.

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