Make a Wi-Fi heatmap to find your network's dead zones and hot spots

A nifty tool for figuring out where to put your wireless access points or improve your signal coverage

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Remember that game of hot or cold? One person hides something and tells you if you're hot (close) or cold (far away) from it. Ekahau HeatMapper (Windows only) is a network utility that reminds me of this game. It maps out all the Wi-Fi signals in your area as you move around, so you can see how hot or cold you are in relation to the access point.

This comes in handy when you want to make sure you're getting the strongest signal from your router or you're just setting up a wireless network (I could've used this when I set up a wireless network at a small office!). As you probably already know, all sorts of things, such as walls and windows as well as distance, can interfere with your wireless network strength and speed.

The How-To Geek has a tutorial on how to use Ekahau HeatMapper. The tool, which has been around for a few years already, is pretty straightforward to use. You can use a sketch or blueprint of the area you're analyzing (highly recommended for accuracy) or work with a grid. Then, just walk around with your laptop, clicking as you move from room to room. Once you're done walking around your space, right-click to stop the tracking and Ekahau will generate a heatmap.

You'll see where the signal is strongest, where your routers are and their security settings, and the direction of other nearby Wi-Fi networks.

If you find a dead zone, where the signal coverage is poor, you can try moving the router or access point or boost your network with an old router as a Wi-Fi bridge or repeater. Fun and educational!

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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