By now most people at one point or another have set up, installed, or replaced a wireless router. Some of these routers let the user choose what channel to broadcast a signal on, others pick arbitrarily or are set to a default. But why does the channel matter, and which channel is best?  For a lot of us, this is instantly a mind-numbing question; we just want internet and we want it to be fast and we don't want our YouTube or Netflix to time out while we're watching a video. 


Thankfully, there's a handy new feature that's built-in to OS X Mavericks called Wi-Fi Scan that is a part of the Wireless Diagnostics to quickly show you the networks nearby and the channels they are on, as well as the best channel to be on for least interference for both a 2.4GHz and 5GHz network. 

First, you'll need to open the aforementioned Wireless Diagnostics Utilities app:

  1. While pressing the "Option" key,  click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar. 
  2. On the dropdown, choose the last option, "Open Wireless Diagnostics"
wifi scanner
  1. Enter the admin password and completely ignore the splash screen that launches
  2. Pull down the “Windows” menu and choose “Utilities”
  3. Select the “Wi-Fi Scanner” tab, and select “Scan Now”
  4. When finished, look at the bottom right for the best channels recommendations:
    • Best 2.4 GHz Channels (usually 802.11b/g)
    • Best 5 GHz Channels (usually 802.11a/n)
wifi scanner
  1. Now log in to your wi-fi router (this is going to vary depending on the manufacturer) and make the channel changes as necessary – typically this means using a web browser to point at the local router IP (192.168.1.1, etc)

As mentioned before, changing the broadcast channel will vary depending on the router manufacturer and the IP address used. Using a Netgear router with an IP of 192.168.1.1 as an example, simply point any web browser to that IP, log in using the router admin login (often admin/admin), and look for the “Channel” option, typically located within a “Wireless Settings” or “Broadcast Settings” preference region. Change the appropriate channels for each protocol, save settings, and you’re good to go.

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