How to Find Free Wifi Using these Free and Easy Apps
Ever wonder why your home or office wireless signal is better in some rooms and terrible in others? Or why your wireless network may inadvertently just drop your internet at times? How can you measure the signal?
Do you realize that your neighbors may be using the same wireless equipment you are, and as a result, their equipment may using the same channels (by default) that your wireless router is? Who is using the most traffic and on what channel? How would you know?
Unless you have a tool to actually see wireless networks, and not just the broadcasted name (or SSID), you're pretty much in a guessing game.
Note - No matter what wireless equipment your neighbors are using, a simple scan of your surrounding wireless networks will usually reveal that a majority of your neighbors are all on the same channel....
And that's what this article is all about. I'll showcase some of the best free and easy apps to show you how to find free WiFi and actually see wireless networks around you. If you've never used these tools, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it is to see the network traffic that surrounds you......
"Let there be light"
Actually, when you think about it, this is a free hub, that’s showcasing free and easy apps that will show you how to find free WiFi.... Isn't technology awesome?
Grab you're favorite energy drink and Let's get started!
This article is assuming that you already know how to check for wireless networks using the Windows built in wireless utility. Finding an open network is (usually..) easy.
The free WiFi finding tools I'm about to showcase give much more detailed information, invaluable to those travelers on the go or who need to troubleshoot their surroundings...
XIRRUS WiFi Inspector
Okay, I'll admit it. I found this awesome free WiFi finding app while researching for this article. And, I'm really glad I did!
This visual WiFi finding tool shows a complete map of my surroundings, including a radar screen that shows what direction the signal is coming from! No more guesswork on where the best spot in the hotel is, you have a radar screen right in front of you....
This tool also lists all of the SSID's, what channel they're on, and whether they require a password or not. This is a great FREE tool, perfect for laptop warriors on the go.
Simply Google search for "Xirrus WiFi"
Meraki WiFi Stumbler
Okay, this awesome free WiFi finding tool doesn't have "Radar", but it took exactly two seconds to download, and gives me all the information I need about my surrounding WiFi signals.
One of the greatest features about this WiFi app (and the next app I'm about to share), is the fact that I can see what "Channel" my neighbors are broadcasting their WiFi on.
If you look at my pic, you can see most are either on Channel 6 or 11. This can cause interference with your network. Try changing the channel to a number that's not in use.You'll notice a difference in your network connection, I promise.
Simply Google search for Meraki WiFi Stumbler, and it should download and install within minutes.
InSSIDer for Android and Windows
I first downloaded "inSSIDer" to my Droid through the new "Google Play". I'm a little slow sometimes (cough, cough, Okay, Most times...), and it took me five or ten minutes to realize that "Market" was gone and now "Google Play" was my Droid marketplace...
Nonetheless, I'm still able to search for my free apps, and in this case I stumbled across another awesome free WiFi gem!
inSSIDer was really easy to download and even easier to use. I ran it right from my Droid and immediately noticed that my own wireless network was broadcasting on the same channel as 3 of my neighbors... (aha!).
I changed my wireless network to a different channel (by logging into my router) , and immediately noticed a big difference in WiFi signal quality. If traveling, this tool gives you everything you need to find a free wireless network -- SSID's (of course), signal strength, and whether the signal is open or not.
TIP - Signal not to good where your sitting at in the hotel? Pull this tool out and find a better place to sit....
You can download InSSIDer from Google marketplace, or from your Windows PC just google search for InSSIDer.
~ Warchalking ~
One of my favorite topics from one of my college courses (many moons, er um, a few moons ago), was the concept of "Warchalking", that is, the use of symbols (drawn with chalk, paint, crayons etc) in public places to advertise an open WiFi network.
You may have walked past a symbol or two like this on a busy city street. That's not random graffiti, if you know how to read the symbol then you know you have just scored a WiFi hot spot. Its really pretty simple.
- The image on the far left, the split (open) circle, means an open network (requiring no password) is within range.
- The picture in the middle, the circle, (closed), means there is a WiFi signal, but is does require a password. The "SSID" (Service Set Identifier) is simply the name of the WiFi signal. For example -- "Jacks_network", "Patriots Rule" , or "ABC Paint Company"
- The symbol on the far right is telling me that the WiFi signal requires a password, but that they're only using WEP encryption. TIP - Don't use WEP. It's old and not very secure.
You weren't thinking of chalk symbols as free WiFi tools were ya? Well as rudimentary as they are (sometimes simple is the best), they work, and are easy to spot.
If you're like me and don't live in the city, you probably won't see too many of these. Plus with the popularity of smart phones and free WiFi apps that you can download in minutes, Warchalking probably isn't needed as much these days, (not at all really), but I thought it was worth a mention.
Warchalking was the original grass roots wireless finder. Pretty cool in my book.
Free is Good
There are many, many tools out there that a Windows user can use to gauge their WiFi networks, but the free apps I showcased in this article are easy to use, have great, detailed user interfaces, and make it very easy to see your surrounding wireless networks.
Best of all, they can show you how to find free WiFi networks no matter where you are. And of course, the price doesn't hurt. (Free is Good). I hope you enjoyed this article and happy (wireless) surfing!
More of howlermunkeys articles include:
- Use Netstat to check your Windows PC network traffic
Want to see whose connected to your PC right now? We'll open up the Windows cmd prompt, use Netstat, then use the "Foreign Address" info found to take a look at the connections on the other end.
- How to Rock your Internet Explorer Favorites Bar Toolbar
I'll show you how to literally ROCK your Internet Explorer Favorites toolbar. Add, delete and rename your internet browser shortcuts, as well as some awesome tricks that go beyond normal web surfing.
- What is the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR)?
Microsoft's SIR (Security Intelligence Report) is a very comprehensive report published by Microsoft twice a year, But don't let the name fool you, Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report is much more than just the report itself. It's a dynamic webs