WiFi signal strength test: your guide to a better WiFi experience
If your WiFi has been an added source of frustration lately with longer load times or dropped Zoom calls, your WiFi signal strength is likely the issue. A weak WiFi signal— when left unfixed— can lead to the dropouts, slower speeds, and unreliable connection that we could all use a bit less of nowadays, especially if you’re working from home. To get a better idea as to where your WiFi is underperforming and how you can fix it, follow the steps below on how to both check and test your WiFi signal strength.
How to check your WiFi signal strength
You’ll want to look for the universal WiFi symbol in the upper right-hand corner of your device to gauge your current signal strength. Generally, this indicator appears as four to five curved bars stacked on top of each other- the more bars that are filled in, the stronger your connection.
Don’t just check your phone, either. You’ll want to see how other devices, like your laptop or tablet, are receiving signal as well:
- On a Mac, the WiFi indicator is still located in the upper-right corner of the screen in the menu bar, but you’ll need to hold down the option key to see the dBm measure in the RSSI entry field.
- In Windows, go to Network and Internet, and then Network and Sharing Center. Select the blue WiFi link to see the signal strength.
- On an Android phone or tablet. Look under Settings, WiFi, or Network, and search for a gear or WiFi icon next to the network you're connected to.
How to test WiFi Signal strength
Now that you’ve found a baseline for where your signal strength lands, you can test your WiFi in one of two ways: manually, or with an app.
If you’re a do-it-yourself type of person— and don’t mind that your results will not be as precise— you can simply walk through your home holding each device to see where the signal increases or decreases (based on the number of bars that appear). This will give you a good idea about where in your space your WiFi signal is the strongest, and approximately how far you can travel away from your router before your connection takes a dive.
For a more comprehensive, specific look at your WiFi signal strength, you’ll want to use an online WiFi analyzer tool or leverage a mobile app like the Minim® app, which tracks your WiFi signal strength and gives you indicators per device:
Minim app users can then click into a certain device to track its WiFi signal strength performance in the past hour, day, and week:
Now, while tools like this will do most of the work for you, it may still be beneficial to understand a few of the basic WiFi signal measurements.
How is WiFi signal strength measured?
Signal strength can be measured in a variety of ways, the most common of which are decibel milliwatts (dBm) and Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI). Since many manufacturers convert RSSI to dBm anyway, we’ll focus our attention there.
The most important thing to understand about dBm is that it is displayed in negative values, so there will always be a minus sign in front. The scale runs from -30 (a perfect connection) to -90 (unable to connect at all).
What is a good WiFi signal strength?
The average home should be looking to fall within the -60 dBm to -50 dBm range. The minimum strength that you will want to maintain is -67 dBm, which will still allow you to enjoy most online activities with a reliable connection.
If your signal falls outside of the -67 dBm to -30dBm range, however, you’ll want to start exploring options for boosting your WiFi signal strength.
How to improve WiFi signal strength
Testing the strength of your WiFi signal is the first step towards a faster, more reliable connection. There are many things that you can do to improve your WiFi signal once you've measured it, including:
- Re-locating your router to a more central location in your home
- Updating your router firmware to the latest version
- Switching between the two WiFi frequency bands (2.4 GHz is ideal for coverage; 5 GHz is ideal for speed)
- Choosing a better WiFi channel (Here's a guide on how to find the best WiFi channel)
If you’ve discovered that you can only travel a short distance from your router without losing signal strength, it may also be worth looking into a WiFi system for a mesh network setup to easily patch that range gap. Now that you understand how to test your WiFi signal strength, the opportunities for improvement are endless.
More WiFi 101 topics you may like:
- WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders: What's the difference?
- WiFi extenders vs mesh networks [pros and cons]
- How do I interpret my WiFi speed test results?
- WiFi channels explained: What is WiFi channel width?
- 3 steps to find the best WiFi channel for your router
- Internet speed explained
- How do I test my WiFi speed at home?
- What is a good download and upload speed for home internet?