NetStumbler: The Best Wi-Fi Tool Money Can’t Buy

Kirk Kirksey, author of Computer Factoids: Tales From the High-Tech Underbelly, called NetStumbler as “one of the greatest freebies of all time.” The downloadable program is a tool that sniffs WiFi signals and informs users if their wireless network is properly configured.

But prior to downloading, users need to check if their wireless cards are compatible with NetStumbler and this can be done by visiting their wireless card’s Web site or the NetStumbler forum. The next step is to disable the automatic configuration service of the said device. Users of Windows machines, for example, must turn off the Windows Wireless Zero Configuration service, which can be located in the the Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Services.

NetStumber features several columns that provide useful information on detected signals. The media access control column or MAC reflects signal strengths as indicated by the color of the dots that represent each entry. A padlock symbol inside the dot suggests that the access point is encrypted. The SSID or service set identifier column locates the network from which the wireless packets come from. The Chan (channel) heading shows which channel the network access point is tapping for signal broadcasting and beside that is the column for channel speed, which is expressed in Mbps. The vendor heading reveals the name of device manufacturers like Linksys, Netgear, D-link, and 2Wire while the Signal-to-Noise Ratio column indicates the quality of WiFi signal.
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