Because of the nature of wireless internet connections they can sometimes be rather intermittent or keep dropping out for no apparent reason. Even though an access point or router might not be far away, several factors affect how good the connection is and whether the signal coming from the device is strong and stable enough. Things like the number of walls or floors the signal has to travel through, noise from other electrical devices or a clash of channels are among several things that can stand in the way of a connection working properly.
Although most software that comes pre bundled with your laptop or wireless dongle will give a display of the currently available connections and their signal strength, an option to display these statistics over a period of time is more of a rarity. If you didn’t receive any software to accompany the WiFi hardware, you’re pretty stuck because Windows isn’t much help here either as it’s been more designed for ease of use and not viewing statistics or analysis. Being able to monitor a WiFi signal over a period of time could give an indicator of when a signal drops to below acceptable levels or another connection pops up causing a conflict with yours.
A small and free utility called Homedale is able to monitor all available wireless connections in your vicinity and display useful information about them. Things such as the access point name along with the signal strength, whether WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption is in use, the access point’s MAC address and the signal mode, band and frequency are all included as you might expect from utility like this. Homedale also has the ability to monitor the signal strength of one or several connections over a period of time and save this data into a text file or an image snapshot of the graph.
The program is only a tiny download of around 300K and is a completely portable standalone executable with no requirement for .NET or anything.
The information is selectable through the three information tabs and the options tab. The ‘Adapter Overview‘ tab shows the wireless adapter properties such as the IP address and the MAC address. You can choose to display non wireless adapters in here as well through the settings tab.
All the relevant information about the available access points is in the ‘Access Points‘ tab with all the data mentioned above and a couple of other useful columns like vendor and when the access point was first or most recently seen.
To get any chosen access points to display on the graph, simply double click on it in the ‘Access Points‘ window or right click and select ‘Show in Graph‘. Each one will be displayed in a different color for easier identification. Then right click and choose to start logging which will prompt for a location to save the text file. There is also an option on the right click menu to save the graph as a JPG, PNG, TIF, GIF or BMP image.
Homedale also supports a few command line switches for use from the Command Prompt making it also a handy tool for using in batch files etc.
/s log only for a specific SSID
/l log file name
/c use a comma in log file instead of tabs, or spaces for csv
/r save interval in milliseconds
For example; ‘homedale /s mywifissid /l wifi_log.csv /c /r 60000‘ will create a .csv log file named wifi_log.csv every 60 seconds for the SSID called mywifissid.
If you’re not so interested in the graphical logging capability of Homedale and perhaps just want to display detailed access point information, there is always an alternative in WirelessNetView from Nirsoft. Compatible with Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 32bit and 64bit.