Windows 10-based Wi-Fi analyzers: No frills, low cost

By Eric Geier (Our Owner & Lead Wi-Fi Consultant)

Originally published on NetworkWorld

We’ve reviewed Wi-Fi stumbler and surveying apps that run on AndroidWindows, and Mac OS X devices. These apps allow you to analyze the wireless access points and channels on the 2.4 and 5GHz bands in your network. Now we’re reviewing apps, published as Universal Windows Platform apps on the Microsoft Store, which can run on Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones.

Keep in mind, the Wi-Fi features that developers can utilize in the Universal Windows Platform are still pretty limited. For example, these apps are not able to detect exactly what access point you’re connected to if there are other access points with the same SSID. Channel-width details are also not provided, so you won’t see accurate channel usage graphs and interference analysis, if there are access points utilizing channel widths greater than the legacy 20MHz. Though most of the apps will recognize “hidden” SSIDs, they cannot reveal the actual SSIDs, like some other traditional Windows applications.

If you’re looking for a free app, consider WiFi Analyzer, WiFi Monitor, and WiFi Scout.

WiFi Scout lacks some advanced features, but it does offer two features that could be useful in certain situations: it creates separate network lists for the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands and it keeps out-of-range access points on the list.

WiFi Analyzer and WiFi Monitor are solid choices offering similar features. WiFi Analyzer offers good filtering options, great for sifting through lots of networks, although sorting could be improved. If you don’t want to sit through occasional video ads, then you’ll want to pay the $1.99. WiFi Monitor has integrated speed testing for the paid app, but lacks sorting and filtering of the network list and ability to change the wireless adapter.

Both WiFi Commander and WiFi Tool are paid apps but offer free trials and provide great features and functionality. They offer 3D graphs and numerous sorting and filtering options. However, WiFi Commander doesn’t show details on your current Wi-Fi connection, give traffic usage history or provide channel ratings like WiFi Tool does. On the other hand, WiFi Tool doesn’t detect access point vendors, show out-of-range access points, or allow scan pausing like WiFi Commander does.

WiFi Analyzer

WiFi Analyzer is published by Matt Hafner and had a 4.5 rating out of 5 from 203 reviews. We evaluated Version 1.7.0. A free full-featured ad-supported edition of WiFi Analyzer is provided. However, you can remove the occasional video ads by an in-app purchase of $1.99.

When you first open WiFi Analyzer, you can choose your location. The app has three different tabs on the top: Connected, Analyze, and Networks.

On the Connected page, you see the details of any current Wi-Fi connection. On top you find a graphical overview for the link speed, signal level in negative dBm, and also icons to indicate bad link-speed, bad connection, bad channel, no Internet access, and unsecured connection. Though these icons are useful, you may be confused about what they mean until you find the explanations by clicking the question mark on the bottom menu.

The other button on the bottom menu is to toggle between the State and Link Speed indicator that’s on the top of the page. When on Link Speed, it shows the current and max link speeds of the current Wi-Fi connection. When on State mode, it shows the percentage of improvement. Basically if it says 100%, the app thinks the current connection is all good, but if it's below, there is room for improvement.

On the Analyze page, you can access the graphs and channel ratings. You can switch between a channel usage and sign-over-time graph and also toggle between the frequency bands. You can also adjust color appearance and SSID/MAC labels for the graphs. Additionally, you can filter those SSIDs shown in the graphs (and also on the Networks page) by SSID, minimal signal bars, frequency band, secure or open network, out of range networks, overlapping only, Wi-Fi Direct only, or Ad-Hoc only. Near the bottom of the page, you can click/tap the up arrow to bring up the channel ratings.

On the Networks page, you find the list of detected SSIDs. On the bottom menu, you can toggle sorting between name or signal and show/hide the network details. Like from the Analyze page, you can adjust the filtering, which applies to both pages. Lastly, from the Networks page you can connect to a network.

On all the pages of the app is the main menu in the bottom-right corner. In addition to other shortcuts, you can access the main settings of the app. Some things you can do there include enabling a secondary Wi-Fi adapter, preventing screen turn off, and enabling vendor detection of access points.

Although the app is ad-supported, we only saw an ad pop-up three times during our many times opening it for various lengths of time. The app grayed out, making us click/tap the Watch ad button, where we had to watch a relatively short video ad.

WiFi Commander

WiFi Commander is published by Forged Bytes and had a 4.6 rating out of 5 from 125 reviews. We evaluated Version 1.5.1.0. After the full-featured 30-day trial, you can purchase the app for $2.99.

When you open WiFi Commander, you see tabs on the left side for four main pages: Networks, Monitor, Analyze 3D, and Settings.

On the Networks page, you see the list of SSIDs and their details. You can click/tap on a SSID for a pop-up with further details, such as the BSSID (MAC address), beacon interval, and time discovered. On the pop-up, you can also connect/disconnect to that SSID.

After noticing the signal levels weren’t fluctuating on the Networks page, we found out that you must manually hit the Scan button. Though this might be useful in situations where you want to see a static list of the network, it’s not in situations when you want to constantly monitor the list. However, on the Monitor and Analyze 3D pages, auto scanning is enabled and the graphs are updated continuously.

On the top of the Networks page, you see the time of the last scan, total number of access points, and menus to customize details shown, adjust the sorting and grouping, and to perform filtering.

On the monitor page, you see a line graph of the signals. You have menus and shortcuts on top to customize details shown, perform filtering, and to switch between the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands.

On the Analyze 3D page, you see 3D type of channel usage graphs for both 2.4 and 5GHz all on one page. Similar to the previous page, you have menus and shortcuts on top to customize details show and perform filtering. You can also switch between a modern and classic view of the graphs as well.

On the Settings page, you only find options to switch the visual theme for the GUI and choose the Wi-Fi adapter.

WiFi Monitor

WiFi Monitor is published by Mark Rizzo, which also developed the VoiceWake and GrooveGrid apps. WiFi Monitor had a 4.6 rating out of 5 from 81 reviews. We evaluated Version 1.2.3.0. Although they offer what’s classified on the Store Microsoft as a trial, it’s more like a free edition since the trial doesn’t end. However, functionalities are excluded: connecting to Wi-Fi networks within the app, seeing the access point vendors, and performing download and upload speed tests. These are only available on the paid app for $1.99.

After opening WiFi Monitor, you see the main tabs on the top: Dashboard, Graph, List, and Ratings. And if you have the paid app, you’ll see the Speed Test tab too.

By default, you’re taken to the Graph page, where you see a line graph of the signals. On the bottom you can switch between the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands and adjust signal bar threshold to fade out low signals on the graph. You can also flip to the channel usage graph.

On the Dashboard page, you see a gauge type of signal indicator showing the strength of your current connection and then the connection details on the right of the page, including your IP address.

On the List page, you see a simple list of the networks, which you can’t filter or sort. In the paid app, you can click on a network to view the detected access point vendor and also connect to them within the app.

On the Ratings page, you see ratings for each channel on the frequency band that you’re currently connected through along with the recommended channel.

If you have the paid app, there’s also the Speed Test page. You can test the ping time and download and upload speeds. The speed is shown on a gauge during the tests and then the results are displayed in Mbps.

WiFi Scout

WiFi Scout by Devin Wong had a 4.1 rating out of 5 from 10 reviews. We are unsure which version we evaluated since it’s not indicated within the app and we could not find contact information for the developer. Currently this is a free app with no ads, but certainly is the simplest app we reviewed.

When you open WiFi Scout, you’re met with only two tabs: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. They’re pretty much identical pages. Both have a channel usage graph, showing the signal strength of each SSID. Below the graph is the network list for that particular frequency band.

Although the SSID, channel, signal, and state (active/inactive) are the only details shown by default, you can add the following: band, MAC address, encryption, authentication, physical kind (wireless standard), beacon interval, Wi-Fi direct support, and uptime. You can enable these by clicking/tapping the menu shortcut in the lower right corner and selecting View. The only other option from that menu is Clear, which clears the network list, useful if you have many inactive SSIDs.

Keep in mind, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands both have their own separate network list. Depending upon your particular network, this could be frustrating or useful.

WiFi Tool

WiFi Tool is published by Helge Magnus Keck, who also developed the Network Data and HD-POS apps. The WiFi Tool app had highest rating of those we reviewed: 4.7 out of 5 from 117 reviews. We reviewed version 1.3.16.0. After the free trial, you can purchase the app for $1.99.

After opening WiFi Tool, you’ll find a menu on the left side for four main tabs: WLAN, Analyze, Traffic, and Settings.

On the WLAN page you see a list of the SSIDs and their details. If connected to a network, that SSID is displayed on the top of the list. On the top of the page, there are shortcuts to apply filtering and sorting to the list, and also a disconnect button.

If you select a SSID from the available networks, a pane on the right appears showing more details, including a graph showing signal over time, data usage stats, and MAC and IP addresses. Right-clicking a SSID from the available networks, allows you to connect to it via the app.

On the Analyze page, you can access the graphs, which you can flip between 2.4 and 5GHz. First shown is the channel usage graph, but you can also switch to a line graph showing signal over time. Shortcuts on the bottom of the page also allow you to adjust display and filtering options. Furthermore, each graph can be optionally shown in a 3D presentation. There’s also a type of channel rating graph called channel interferometry, which helps you choose the best available channel for your router or access point.

On the top of the Analyze page, there’s a shortcut to enable split view, conveniently allowing you to view two different types of graphs at once or the same graph for both bands at once. There’s also a shortcut to show a basic list of networks from a pane that appears on the right-side, so you don’t have to switch between this and the WLAN page. Furthermore, you can combine the split view and network list to simultaneously view two graphs and the network list.

On the Traffic page, you’ll find data usage graphs showing the amount of uploads and downloads over various period of time. For the main bar graph, you can choose the time period to show. Additionally, you can select any other network you’ve connected to in the past.

On the Settings page, you can switch between multiple wireless adapters, change the theme, language, and region. There you can also set the preferences for the live tile shown if you have pinned the app to the Start menu. You can select two fields or stats to be displayed and the icon shown on the live tile. You can also specify if the app should alert you via Windows notifications when connecting to and/or disconnecting from Wi-Fi.

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