Free Wi-Fi Stumbling and Surveying Tools

Free Wi-Fi Stumbling and Surveying Tools

By CWNP On 08/04/2010 - 23 Comments

You’ve most likely heard of NetStumbler, but there are many more free Wi-Fi stumblers out there. These can come in handy whether you want to check the channels, find rogue APs, or do full RF site surveys. Here’s a review on several of these stumbling and surveying utilities.

NetStumbler
This is probably the most popular Wi-Fi stumbler for Windows and Windows CE/Mobile.
It scans for and shows you the basics: MAC address, SSID, channel, speed, vendor, and whether or not encryption is enabled. Plus it gives you the signal, noise, and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) levels in negative dBm values.  It even features GPS support to log AP locations.
However, NetStumbler unfortunately does not show real encryption method of APs; it always shows WEP regardless if it’s WEP, WPA, or WPA2. Additionally, it does not reveal the SSID of “hidden” wireless networks that don’t broadcast its name in beacons.
inSSIDer
This is another simple Wi-Fi stumbler, but unlike NetStumbler, it’s an open source project. It gives you similar AP details, but displays signal info on graphics instead of just text-readouts. Plus it shows you the accurate encryption method, not just WEP.  It also features GPS support and even lets you export to Google Earth. However, it doesn’t include noise or signal-to-noise (SNR) values.
Kismet
This is a W-Fi stumbler, packet sniffer, and intrusion detection system for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and BSD. It shows the AP details, including the SSID of “hidden” networks. It can also capture the raw wireless packets to a PCAP file, so you can import into Wireshark, TCPdump, and other tools.
Ekahau HeatMapper
Rather than giving you boring signal readouts like most other free surveying utilities, this gives it to you on a map. You can even import a floor plan or blueprint. Just walk around while clicking your location and it will create a heat map of the AP signal levels. However, this doesn’t include the noise or SNR levels, and it doesn’t support GPS. It’s a streamlined version of their commercial offering.
WaveDeploy Basic
This is another mapping utility, similar to the Ekahau HeatMapper, but with a couple more features. You can also load a floor plan or work from the grid. However, with WaveDeploy you can set acceptable limits for the signal and interference levels and the data (PHY) and TCP downstream rates. Then at the end, you can see the heat waves for each characteristic.
NetStress
This isn’t a stumbler; it calculates the maximum throughput or data rate (speed). Simply install it on two Windows computers, where one acts as a server and the other as the client. Then it can send traffic, and calculate and show you the data rate levels on a graph.
There’s even more
Here are several more Wi-Fi stumblers you might want to check out: NetSurveyor, Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector, the web-based Meraki WiFi Stumbler, and KisMAC for Apple fans. Please let me know if I missed your favorite tool!
You might also want to check out my other writings or the Free Trial of my hosted 802.1X/RADIUS service, so you can quickly and easily run Enterprise-level Wi-Fi security.


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