Most wifi-enabled devices will give you some basic information about the networks in your vicinity: name, signal strength, security and so on. But if you need to know more, then NirSoft’s WifiInfoView is a quick and easy way to get started.
The program is large by NirSoft standards (247KB) and doesn’t run on Windows XP, but otherwise it’s all very straightforward: download and run WifiInfoView, the program then scans for wireless networks, and in a few seconds you’ll be presented with a detailed report on its findings.
You’ll get the network name and PHY type (802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, or High-Rate DSSS), for instance, along with the router’s MAC address, and maybe its manufacturer, model and name (not all routers provide this information).
Useful wireless and performance-related figures include RSSI (received signal strength indicator), frequency, channel, signal quality and maximum speed. If your setup is slow, look for other networks using the same channel: they could be conflicting.
The report also includes the dates when a particular wireless network was first and last detected, as well as the number of times it’s been detected in total. This is great for highlighting when something has changed, such as a new network appearing, or another going offline.
Wireless experts can also select a network and see a hex dump of all the information elements received from that device. But if you’re a little less technical then you can alternatively choose a Summary mode, which drops most of the low-level details and concentrates mainly on the basics.
None of this is too surprising, and WifiInfoView isn’t going to replace tools like inSSIDer any time soon. It’s a quick and easy way to explore the networks in your vicinity, though, and just might be worth including in your portable troubleshooting toolkit.