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How to Find the Best WiFi Channel for Your Router: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you live in an apartment building or densely populated area your WiFi network may conflict with your neighbors' networks. In this article, we discuss how to find the best WiFi channel.

Nowadays, pretty much everyone has a wireless network connection setup at home. Your router’s wireless access point is connected to a certain channel, which connects you to a WiFi network.

That said, if you live in an apartment building or densely populated area, you might experience frequent network timeouts, disconnection issues or an overall slow internet speed.

These issues are often caused by the large number of people attempting to connect to the internet, causing an overload of wireless signals using the same network channel.

In order to get the best possible WiFi connection in your area, you’ll have to switch to a channel that either has no other users (or significantly fewer users) than the current channel you’re using.

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to improve your WiFi connection by finding the best WiFi channel for your router, for both PC and cell phone. Then, I’ll instruct you on how to set up your WiFi router in order to tune into that channel.

Let’s get started.

How to Read WiFi Diagnostics

When you want to find the best WiFi channel, you’ll have to consider two important numbers.

WiFi Diagnostics Screenshot

Check for the “RSSI” and “Noise” values.  

RSSI stands for “Received Signal Strength Indicator.” It tells you how strong the connection between your device and a router is.

Noise, also “Noise Floor,” is the sum of all the noise sources and unwanted signals within the connection range. In this case, “Noise” stands for the number of other signals that might interfere with the signal being monitored.  

Both values are always in negative numbers.

For RSSI, you’ll have to check for the highest number (the higher, the better). But, because they’re negative, it’s important to remember that “higher” will mean as close to zero as possible. For example, an RSSI of -45 is better compared to an RSSI of -70.

On the other hand, for “Noise,” you’ll need to look for the lowest number. Again, because these numbers are negative, the lowest number would be the one that’s farthest from zero. For example, -95 is better than -88.

To complete the calculation, we want to measure the difference between these two values. This is called the “SNR,” which stands for “Signal-to-Noise Ratio.”

Simply subtract the value of “Noise” from the “RSSI” value to get the SNR value.

For example, channel 13 has an RSSI of -49 and the noise is -95.

So, to calculate the SNR: (-49) – (-95) = SNR of 46.

Ideally, you want to have a high SNR ratio. The higher this number is, the better the WiFi connection.

What’s the Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?

The major difference between a 2.4 GHz and a 5 GHz wireless connection is the range and bandwidth.

A 5 GHz wireless connection will provide a faster connection, which is most effective at covering shorter distances.

A 2.4 GHz wireless connection is more effective at covering farther distances but might do so at a slower speed.

Note: a 5 GHz connection isn’t nearly as good as a 2.4 GHz connection at penetrating objects and walls. Also, in a densely-populated WiFi area, it’s better to have a 2.4 GHz connection because “Noise” has more influence on a 5 GHz wireless connection.

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel on Mac

The first thing you have to do is scan your area to identify all the available WiFi networks. You can do that by running the “Network Diagnostics” on your Mac.

Follow the step-by-step explanation below:

Step #1 – Hold the “option” (alt) key and move your mouse to the top-right of your screen. Click the WiFi connection icon.

Wi-Fi Channel - screenshot 3

Step #2 – Find “Open Wireless Diagnostics” in the drop-down menu.

Mac OS Wi-Fi Channel

Step #3 – A new window called “Wireless Diagnostics” will open. Ignore this window. Instead, click on “Window” in your title bar and tap “Scan” in the drop-down menu.

Scan Wi-Fi Channel Mac

Step #4 – The next window you will see is an overview of all the Wireless Access Points in the range of your router.

Select Channel

Step #5 – In order to refresh the overview, tap “Scan Now.”

Scan Now

Step #6 – The diagnostics summary provides an overview of the analysis and which WiFi channel is the best in the area for your router. 

In the example, there are 9 networks in total. The summary box indicates that the best 2.4 GHz network available is channel 11.

Best Wi-Fi Channel

However, if we take a closer look at the data in the image below, we can draw a different conclusion. For some reason, after I clicked “Scan Now,” channel 11 was no longer available on the list, likely due to an error. Hopefully, this is not something you’ll need to worry about.

Therefore, you’ll need to calculate the best SNR level to determine the best available channel.

For the SNR calculation, you need two data points.

  • RSSI = -46
  • Noise = -99

Now, we calculate the sum of those two values: (-46) – (-99) = SNR of 53.

So, the SNR is 53, which makes channel 13 the best.

Select Channel

Note: you can also use a WiFi scanner tool instead of the Wireless Diagnostics Scan.

Wi-Fi Scanner is a good tool, but it’s priced at $19.99 in the App Store. NetSpot is a free tool to scan for wireless networks in your area, and it has a multifunctional discover mode with visual graphs.    

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel on Windows

There are various software tools available for your Windows machine in order to figure out which WiFi channel in your area is the best. You can find a few free software applications below:

  1. NetSpot, compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10.
  2. Acrylic WiFi, compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10.
  3. WiFi Analyzer, available in the Microsoft Store.
  4. WiFi Commander, exclusively for Windows 10.

All the WiFi scanners listed above are powerful tools to scan your network area.

For the sake of this example, I will go with WiFi Analyzer, because it’s easy to use and has a neat interface.

Step #1 Go to the online Microsoft Store.

Step #2 – When you’re in the Microsoft Store, tap “Get the App” to start the download.

Get WiFi Analyzer

Step #3 – Install the application on your Windows machine. When the installation is completed, open the application.

Step #4 – When you open WiFi Analyzer, you’ll see its dashboard. 

On the right side, you can select extra filters. I recommend not changing the default settings. The last 3 options are rather advanced options, which are not applicable right now.

The current channel of each connection is stated below the network’s name.

WiFi Analyzer Select Network

Step #5 – Click on “Analyze” in the dashboard. You will see a graph with visuals, indicating which networks are performing best and worst. 

Below the graph, WiFi Analyzer leaves a recommendation based on the scan results. If the graph is too confusing, look to the bottom left – you’ll see the word “Recommend.” The channel noted below will be the optimal WiFi channel to connect to. In this example, the tool recommends using channel 13.

However, we can also draw a different conclusion here. As we know, the closer RSSI is to 0, the better.

So, that makes CH1 (matthafner.com) the best channel, because -60 is closest to 0 of all the available WiFi networks in the list.

Analyze Now

Note: The term “dBm” stands for RSSI – signal strength. As mentioned before, the closer to 0, the better.

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel with Linux Command Line

Linux users have two options when it comes to detecting WiFi channels: you can either run a command line in Terminal, or you can choose to download a more visually-enhanced tool, like WiFi Radar.

Installing software tools on Linux always takes a bit more effort compared to Windows and Mac. So, I recommend using the Terminal utility to scan for the best WiFi network channel in your area.

Launch the Terminal and enter the following command line:

sudo iwlist wlan0 scan | grep Frequency | sort | uniq -c | sort -n

Example output would look like this:

Wi-Fi Channel Linux Output

The command line groups the results, so you can see how much each channel is used. The “sort -n” command will rank the channels in order of fastest to slowest: in this example, channel 3 is ranked first.

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel on Android

Earlier in this guide, I recommended Wifi Analyzer for Windows users. I also recommend this tool for Android users, because the tool is also compatible and available for mobile devices.

Wi-Fi Channel Android

Step #1 – Download and install Wifi Analyzer in the Play Store.

Step #2 – Launch the app to open the dashboard.

Get Wifi Analyzer

In the example, channel 11 appears to have the best statistics.

Step #3 – Check the dBm (signal strength) and the graph to visually compare all the available networks.

signal strength

Best Wi-Fi Channel

How to Find the Best WiFi Channel on iPhone

Apple designed the architecture of iPhones in such a way that applications can’t communicate with each other because strict security measures prevent that.

Therefore, it’s impossible to perform a performance analysis of your WiFi network with an iPhone.

It’s only possible if you jailbreak your iPhone, but to avoid that hassle, I highly recommend following one of the other options mentioned above to discover which channel is best for you.

That way, once you adjust your router (explained below), you can connect to the new channel – no fancy footwork with the iPhone necessary.

How to Change Your Router Settings to the Best WiFi channel

So, by now, you should have been able to successfully identify the best WiFi channel in your area based on the signal strength, least users on a channel, and width (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz).

Follow the next steps to enjoy a faster WiFi connection:

Step #1 – Log into your router’s main dashboard. 

Here’s how to log into your router’s main dashboard. In the article, scroll down to the “Use the Data to Configure Router Settings” section and follow the steps.

Step #2 – When you have successfully logged into your router’s dashboard, tap “Settings.” Under settings, find “Wi-Fi” or “Wireless.” 

D-Link Wi-Fi

Image Source

Step #3 – Next, it’s time to change the “Wi-Fi Channel.” Simply select the little arrow to fold out the drop-down menu and select the recommended channel based on your network analysis.

Select Wi-Fi Channel Router

Image Source

You have the possibility to select either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz channel. Remember, it’s only advantageous to go for a 5 GHz WiFi channel if you live in a less-congested WiFi network area, without any objects blocking the signal.

That’s all for now!

Reach Your WiFi’s Full Potential

By following the steps above, you should be able to reach the full potential of your WiFi network – especially if you live in a densely congested WiFi network area.

It would be a shame to suffer from annoyingly slow internet speed. Connecting to a faster available WiFi channel will provide the solution.

I hope you’ll enjoy a faster internet connection after reading this guide. Happy browsing!

How to Find Best WiFi Channel FAQs

What Is a WiFi Channel Scanner?

A WiFi channel scanner is an essential tool for any modern day networking professional. Channel scanners help you to quickly identify the best channels for your WiFi network in order to avoid interference from other devices and optimize performance.

There are a few different types of channel scanners available on the market, but they all generally work in the same way. You simply need to connect the scanner to your computer and launch the software. The scanner will then scan the area for any WiFi networks and provide you with information on each one, including the signal strength and channel number.

Once you have this information, you can then use it to determine which channels are most likely to be free from interference. This is important because having a strong signal will mean a faster internet.

What wireless channel to use in a crowded space?

Wireless channels 1, 6, and 11 offer the least interference and best throughput. This depends on what channels neighboring networks are using. If you’re using channel 1 and your neighbor is using channel 2, you’ll want to switch to channel 6 or channel 11 to avoid overlapping.

What are the main reasons for WiFi interference?

There are multiple reasons for WiFi interference, but the most common reasons are:

  • AC Adapters - This can also include battery chargers. Many chargers and AC adapters are made cheaply and radiate wideband noise. 
  • Bluetooth Devices - While modern Bluetooth devices are designed to avoid active WiFi channels, older devices intrude on the same 2.4 GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n.
  • Toys and Gadgets - Many recently-manufactured toys and gadgets use WiFi. This can include drones, remote-controlled devices, display mirroring devices, keyboards, computer mice, speakers, wireless microphones, and more.
  • Hackers - Hackers can use illegal, interfering devices that can cause interference on WiFi networks.

When Should You Use a Wi-Fi Scanner?

Wi-Fi scanners can be used to find the best channel on which to broadcast your Wi-Fi network, by finding out which channels nearby Wi-Fi networks are using. This helps users optimize their Wi-Fi networks for best performance and limited interference.

A Wi-Fi scanner can be used to discover quite a bit of information about available Wi-Fi networks, including their SSID (the name of the network), a network’s alias, the channel the network is on, whether it is using the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHZ frequency, the type of security it uses, its signal strength, and much more.

Why does WiFi need a channel number?

WiFi needs a channel number because it operates on the same radio frequencies as other devices that use wireless signals, such as cordless phones and baby monitors.

These devices would interfere with each other's signals if there were no channel numbers. The channel number allows WiFi to operate on a specific frequency so that it doesn't interfere with other devices.

Is 5GHz WiFi better for gaming?

It depends on the game. For fast-paced games with a lot of movement, like first-person shooters, 5GHz may be better because it has less latency (the delay between when you do something and when you see the result).

But for other games, like strategy games or role-playing games, there may not be as much of a difference. And some people find that they get more lag with 5GHz WiFi than with 2.4GHz WiFi. So it's really up to your own personal preferences and situation.


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