Home / Mac / How to fix common Wi-Fi issues with the built-in macOS Wireless Diagnostics app

How to fix common Wi-Fi issues with the built-in macOS Wireless Diagnostics app

There is no need to resort to third-party tools for solving Wi-Fi problems. macOS has a built-in tool that can scan your wireless network and provide all the recommendations that a paid tool does.


Photo: Andrii Panchyk, Getty Images / iStockphoto

If you work from home, you know how important a good Wi-Fi connection can be. You also know that the rapid expansion of telework due to the COVID-1

9 pandemic has resulted in some severe downturns on the Internet and potential Wi-Fi problems as well.

If you live in a neighborhood where several people work from home, children go to school remotely, or the neighbors are stuck in place, it is quite possible that you are experiencing Wi-Fi problems. The good thing is that some of them may be within your control.

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollout, use cases and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Troubleshooting and resolving W-Fi issues can be done right from your Mac, but wait before running to the Internet to search for the best Wi-Fi troubleshooting software for macOS. There is no need to pay for a premium product once Apple has built a Wi-Fi analytics tool right into macOS Catalina.

To be clear, not all common Wi-Fi problems can be solved using Wireless Diagnostics in macOS. Some problems with Wi-Fi have to do with your local internet being overloaded by the number of users in the area, and there is nothing you can do about it other than switch providers in the hope that things will get better.

For diagnostic issues that you can control, Wireless Diagnostics has you covered.

You can find wireless diagnostics on a Mac in several ways: Use Spotlight Search (the default combination to open it is Command + Space Bar), or by holding down the Option key and clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar, which reveals more hidden alternatives (Figure A), among them the Wireless Diagnostics tool.

Figure A


How to find macOS Wireless Diagnostics from the menu bar by pressing and holding the Option key.

Troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues with macOS Wireless Diagnostics

When you open Wireless Diagnostics, you are greeted with the screen shown in Figure B. From here, you have a few options: Let macOS go through the automated diagnostic routine, or open one of the other tools in Wireless Diagnostics to make a manual diagnosis.

Figure B


The first screen you see when you open the macOS Wireless Diagnostics app.

The easiest way to get an idea of ​​how to fix Wi-Fi using Wireless Diagnostics is to let the app make decisions by clicking Continue, at which point the app will start scanning your network. You may be told that your network is behaving as expected, but it is still worth taking the test to get actual recommendations from the app.

When the scan is complete, you will be asked to enter additional information about your network, but only for record keeping. Click through these options and Wireless Diagnostics will generate a report (Figure C). This may take some time, and a complete macOS will save the report in the / var / tmp directory.

Figure C


What you see when macOS Wireless Diagnostics finishes scanning and generates a report.

You may never need to look for the report, which is a whole bunch of text files that describe the details of your scans’ wireless diagnostic runs. In most cases, the summary screen will be enough to tell you what is going wrong and how to fix it (Figure D).

Figure D


The summary screen that appears after the report is generated. In most cases, you will find all the solutions you need to solve common Wi-Fi problems here.

By clicking on one of the blue ones I the buttons on the summary screen will provide more information about the current issue, and provide steps on how to resolve the issue as well (Figure E).

Figure E


A closer look at one of the proposals shown in Figure D.

Learn more from macOS Wireless Diagnostics

You do not need to use wireless diagnostics in the manner discussed above. The app contains several different tools that you can access by clicking on Window in the menu bar when the app opens (Figure F).

Figure F


Where to find the various tools included in the macOS Wireless Diagnostics app.

The tools can help you visualize your network status, give you real-time feedback on network conditions, and help you figure out what to do to resolve issues.

Assistant: This is the automated diagnostic tool that automatically launches with the app, discussed above.

Info: This shows you a complete overview of the Wi-Fi network: Name, MAC address, quality, channel, IP address and more are displayed. This is a decent way to get a quick summary of your network and its status, displayed in real time.

Logs: Here you can choose to turn on active logging for Wi-Fi, EAPOL and Bluetooth.

Scan: The scan tool is one of the most valuable in the Wireless Diagnostics app. It shows you details of all Wi-Fi networks within the Mac area, and provides recommendations on which channels are best for 2G and 5G networks. As shown in Figure EIf you restart a Wi-Fi router, it can automatically select a better channel, or you can use the information provided here to tune the channel yourself (see the documentation for your router to learn how).

Performance: This is a visual representation of the speed, quality and signal strength of your Wi-Fi connection that is displayed in real time, and can be very valuable in determining which areas of your house have the best connections.

Sniffer: The sniffer captures Wi-Fi traffic as long as you let it go. When you stop it, it creates a report in the same directory as the automatic Wireless Diagnostics report.

Side trolley: This is another visual representation of Wi-Fi data. It shows things like latency, failure and channel load.

How to solve signal problems without the Wireless Diagnostics app

The most common Wi-Fi issues are channel load and a weak signal, and to solve the latter problem you do not even need to open the Wireless Diagnostics app.

Note the information displayed about the connected Wi-Fi network displayed in Figure A, and look for two values: RSSI and Noise.

RSSI is an indicator of Wi-Fi signal quality and ranges from 0 dBm (the strongest) to -120 dBm (the weakest). Acceptable RSSI is in the range of -40 to -80. If you go much lower than -80, your Wi-Fi will be virtually useless.

Noise is a measure of the interference your computer receives and can be caused by a number of things. Noise is expressed using the same scale as RSSI, but in this case you want it to be as close to -120 dBm as possible. When you get over -80 dBm, you are likely to start experiencing issues.

If you find unacceptable values ​​in one of these categories, try moving closer to your Wi-Fi router to see if problems persist. In that case, you will probably need to proceed to the Wireless Diagnostics app for a little more thorough analysis.

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