Three smart tools for solving the Wi-Fi headaches

Thanks to improvements to routers and network management software, connecting to Wi-Fi is vastly easier than it used to be. But that doesn't mean the experience is seamless quite yet. Even now you can still run into problems like poor signal quality, dropped connections, lack of public hotspots, and slow speeds.

These three programs can help take the headache out of Wi-Fi woes.


Do your connection speeds suck even though you're paying for plenty of bandwidth? Does your laptop connection keeps dropping all the time? The problem may not be your broadband connection, but that all the other routers around you are using the same Wi-Fi channel and causing interference.

Once ViStumbler's installed, fire it up and click the Scan APs button. After a few seconds, ViStumbler will show the closest Wi-Fi routers in your area. The app has some annoying sound effects, so after the scan has about 20 routers or so, you can just hit Stop.

Now you've got a list of Wi-Fi routers in your area with tons of supplemental information for them, including router names, signal strength, encryption type, and so on. But all we care about is the column that says "Channel." Find your router in the list (if you're connected to it, it should be near the top) and see what channel you're on.

If you don't know how to do this, your best bet is to call your Internet service provider and ask them for help, or do an online search for the make and model of your router to find a user manual.

Speed Test 

One of the easiest ways to test just that is to use by Ookla, a website that quickly tests your Internet speeds. Just navigate to the site and tap the green Begin Test button to start.

Testing your broadband and Wi-Fi speeds can help you figure out if that slow Netflix streaming speed is a problem with your connection or not. It can also give you a good idea of what kind of speeds you get at various times of the day, if you're curious. isn't just a web app. There are also apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone to test what kind of connection you've got at home, a hotel, or your local cafe.

Hotspot laptops

It might be due to connection limits on hotel Wi-Fi, or maybe you're in the middle of nowhere with just a Wi-Fi-only iPad and a laptop with a broadband connection, but sometimes you can only get one device to connect to the Internet.

So instead I opted for MyPublicWiFi, a free desktop program that is very simple to use. MyPublicWiFi does, however, require you to right click the shortcut and select "Run as administrator," a move that not all Windows users might be comfortable with. MyPublicWiFi also has a pretty weak default password that you'll want to change to something more robust unless you like sharing your PC with strangers.

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