Over the years i’ve used many wifi stumber applications such as Kismac, iStumbler, and Meraki to gain a little more perspective on my surroundings; but no more. Introduced in OS X Lion, the builti in Wifi Diagnostics tool has proved to hold it’s own, and now with the update to Mountain Lion, it’s only gotten better. The main purpose of the Wi-fi diagnostics tool is to capture network data and generate logs for use in troubleshooting, but with a simple keystroke, or peek under the File menu, there are a few more tools to really geek out on. The latest update includes a new Wi-fi scanner tool, a more advanced version of the contextual menu found under the wifi icon in the top right of your screen. Here is how to use it.
First you’ll want to make the Wi-Fi Diagnostics app readily available by bringing it to LaunchPad or the Dock, to do that:
- From any Finder window, hit Command+Shift+G and enter the path: /System/Library/CoreServices/
- Locate “Wi-Fi Diagnostics” and drag and drop it into Launchpad or the OS X Dock for easy access
- Option+Click on the Wi-fi icon in your menu bar, and select “Open Wi-fi Diagnostics…”
- Once it opens move it to a new a new location in the dock or into Launchpad for easy access.
Now that you have the Wifi app in an easy to find location:
- Launch Wi-Fi Diagnostics and ignore the frontmost menu, instead hit Command+N to summon the new “Network Utilities” window.
- Click the “Wi-Fi Scan” tab to get started with the wireless stumbler tool
Under the Wi-Fi Scan tool, you will see all available network names and their respective BSSID, channel, band, protocol (wireless n, g, b, etc), security type, their signal strength, and the noise level of the signal.
The tool defaults to scanning once and displaying the found information, but you can turn on Active Scan or Passive Scan mode to constantly search for new network by clicking on the “Scan” pulldown menu in the lower right corner.
There are plenty of potential uses for this utility and the wireless stumbler, whether it’s optimizing networks, reducing interference and noise, or discovering those around you, but the wifi diagnostics app also includes many powerful features that allow you to capture network traffic, be it data that is sent from the computer in use or even all nearby wireless networks.