How-To Geek

How to Find The Best Wi-Fi Channel For Your Router on Any Operating System

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Choosing the best Wi-Fi channel on your router helps to reduce interference and improve your WI-Fi signal. These tools will help you identify the least congested Wi-Fi channel in your area.

Wi-Fi channels overlap with nearby channels. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the most frequently used for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi. These three channels are the only ones that don’t overlap with each other.

Android – Wifi Analyzer

The easiest-to-use application we’ve found for this is Wifi Analyzer on Android. Just install the free app from Google Play and launch it. You’ll see an overview of the wireless networks in your area and which channels they’re using.

Tap the View menu and select Channel rating. The app will display a list of Wi-Fi channels and a star rating — the one with the most stars in the best. The app will actually tell you which Wi-Fi channels are better for your Wi-Fi network, so you can go straight to your router’s web interface and choose the ideal one.

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iOS – Jailbreakers Only

This isn’t possible on iPhones and iPads. Apple restricts apps from accessing this Wi-Fi data directly from the hardware, so you can’t get an app like Android’s Wifi Analyzer on Apple’s App Store.

If you jailbreak, you can install an app like WiFi Explorer or WiFiFoFum from Cydia to get this functionality on your iPhone or iPad. These tools moved to Cydia after Apple booted them from the official App Store.

You probably wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of jailbreaking just for this, so use one of the other tools here instead.

Windows – NirSoft WifiInfoView

We previously recommended inSSIDer for this on Windows, but it’s become paid software. You probably don’t want to pay $20 just to figure out which Wi-Fi channel is ideal, so use a free tool instead.

Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector is very powerful, but it’s a bit overkill for this. We liked NIrSoft’s WifiInfoView instead — its simple interface does the job and it doesn’t need any installation. Launch the tool, locate the Channel header, and click it to sort by Wi-Fi channel. Here, we can see that channel 6 looks a bit cluttered — we might want to switch to channel 1 instead.

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Linux – The iwlist Command

You could use a graphical app like Wifi Radar for this on Linux, but you’d have to install it first. Instead, you might as well just use the terminal. The command here is installed by default on Ubuntu and other popular Linux distributions, so it’s the fastest method. Don’t fear the terminal!

Open a Terminal and run the following command:

sudo iwlist wlan0 scan | grep \(Channel

Read the output of the command to see which channels are the most congested and make your decision. In the screenshot below, channel 1 looks the least congested.

find-most-congested-nearby-wifi-channel-on-linux

Mac OS X – Wireless Diagnostics

Mac OS X actually has this feature integrated. To access it, hold the Option key and click the Wi-Fi icon on the menu bar at the top of your screen. Select “Open Wireless Diagnostics.”

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Ignore the wizard that appears. Instead, click the Window menu and select Utilities.

Select the Wi-Fi Scan tab and click Scan Now. The “Best 2.4 GHz Channels” and “Best 5 GHz” Channels” fields will recommend the ideal Wi-Fi channels you should be using on your router.

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How to Change Your Router’s Wi-Fi Channel

Actually changing your router’s Wi-Fi channel should be simple. First, log into your router’s web interface in your web browser. Click over to the Wi-Fi settings page, locate the “Wi-Fi Channel” option, and choose your new Wi-Fi channel. This option may be on some sort of “Advanced Settings” page, too.

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If there are too many other nearby networks interfering with your signal, try getting a router that supports 5 GHz — you’ll need devices that support 5 GHz, too. However, you can get “dual band” routers that have both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios for maximum compatibility. 5 GHz Wi-Fi channels are farther apart and won’t interfere with each other as much.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/4/14

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