WiFi technology is everywhere these days and it seems almost every electronic device around has a wireless network connection of some sort. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, digital cameras, printers, gaming consoles, smart watches and many other devices can connect to each other or the internet through a WiFi connection. But a wireless network setup also presents its own set of problems when it comes to your own home network and the devices attached to it.
Naturally, setting up your own WiFi network with adequate protection like WPA2 and a strong password is vital, but that still doesn’t mean people you don’t know about aren’t using your network without your knowledge. It’s entirely possible friends, neighbors or family members have shared the WiFi credentials with others and people you don’t even know could have access to your network and your shared files. Even though many routers have additional security measures such as MAC address filtering, these might not be configured or someone has circumvented them.
A lot of modern routers will give you a list of the wired and wireless devices making a connection to the network, but some do not and some people wouldn’t actually know how to find that information. Another simple way is using a tool to get the list of connected devices, here’s 5 for you to try out.
Wireless Network Watcher is by Nir Sofer and is another one of his many utilities that simply does what it says on the tin. The good thing is it requires no setting up of IP address ranges and starts scanning your main network adapter automatically for connected devices. If you wish to scan a different adapter or a custom IP address range, use the Advanced Options by pressing F9.
Scanning the IP range is fast and only takes a few seconds, after which you get information like IP, device name, MAC address, adapter manufacturer, detection count and activity state. While Wireless Network Watcher is open a background scan continuously looks through the IP range to detect new and disconnected devices, you can set a tray balloon and audio warning when devices are detected or disconnected. The background scan interval can be set in seconds through the Advanced Options windows (F9). A portable or installer version is available.
2. SoftPerfect WiFi Guard
WiFi Guard is like a cutdown and more basic version of the excellent SoftPerfect Network Scanner which is more suited just for detecting unknown or unauthorized network connections. This tool will scan your network for connected devices and rescan every xx minutes, popping up a message if an unknown connection has been found.
If you have more than one active network adapter the program will popup the settings window on launch to select the adapter you want to scan, otherwise you will be taken to the main window where pressing Scan Now will detect all devices connected to the network. For every red marked connection you know is authorized, double click on it and tick the “I know this computer or device” box, that will tell the program to ignore the device on rescans as it’s known. While running or minimized WiFi Guard will rescan between 0 and 60 minutes (default is 30 mins) and popup a message on screen if a new unknown device has been detected.
As mentioned above, there is Softperfect Network Scanner which is one of the most comprehensive scanning and administration tools of its type. It can also be used for scanning and identifying wireless connections but it won’t scan every number of minutes and warn you on unknown connections. Both WiFi Guard and Network Scanner have portable and installer versions.
3. Advanced IP Scanner
This is an all round network administration tool that can do a number of tasks in addition to scanning your network for connections. There’s also remote options to Wake-on-LAN and shutdown, connect via HTTP/FTP as well as remote control with Remote Desktop and Radmin. Of course, those features are unnecessary for simply scanning your network for wireless connections.
By default Advanced IP Scanner will set the address ranges for all connections on the computer, only the range that the WiFi connections are likely to be on will need to be scanned, such as 192.168.0.1 – 192.168.0.254. If you only have one active connection, there’s no need to touch the IP range. After the scan, all connections will show along with the wireless device manufacturer, MAC address and its name. Advanced IP Scanner doesn’t have to be installed and the option to run it as portable can be selected when running the setup executable.
4. Angry IP Scanner
Angry IP Scanner is a multi platform tool that works on Mac and Linux as well because it’s Java based, this will obviously mean the Java Runtime Environment needs to be installed on your computer. The tool simply pings every IP address in the selected range for a response and then displays the result along with the information you ask for in the Fetchers window.
To select a range of addresses to scan, enter them yourself or click the IP button and select the correct network adapter. Then click the drop down to its right to choose the range, /26 will scan up to 63, /24 will scan up to 255 and etc. You can also choose our own IP list text file if you have a complicated setup. The scanning process is quite fast because the program scans using multiple threads. To see the result of all scanned addresses, go to Tools > Preferences > Display and choose “All scanned hosts”, this will reveal other possibly connected devices that are not responding to pings. Portable and installer versions are available.
5. Who Is On My WiFi
This tool is a little different from the others because its main task is to identify the computers on your network and warn you when unknown or unidentified connections are made. Unfortunately one of its most useful functions of blocking unknown or suspicious connections is only available if you sign up for a paid subscription, plans start at a slightly steep $9.95 per month. The free version however, still lets you scan and find devices on your network.
The first thing required is to configure the address range to scan from the default by clicking the Settings button and entering the the range you need for your network, such as 192.168.0.1-254. If you are not sure go to the Diagnostic tab in Settings and click “Detect IP Ranges” to see what your network is currently using. Then run a scan and devices on the network will be identified. Select all known connections in turn and set their state to KNOWN from the drop down, then optionally give each a description.
If you keep Who Is On My WiFi running in the background it pops up a visual and audible message when an unknown network device is detected, by default it will scan every 5 minutes although you can change this time to between 2 and 10 minutes in the settings. Make sure to close Who Is On My WiFi from the tray icon if you don’t wish to use the monitoring feature.
Note: We did test a few other network scanning tools called LanSpy and Lizardsystems Network Scanner but they were quite inconsistent in detecting wireless networks. Sometimes they would show up, sometimes they would be missing even though the tools in our list had no such difficulty. If you want to use those tools to search for wireless connections, do so with caution.