As long as everything works optimally, a (wireless) network is absolutely handy. Sometimes, however, unexpected problems arise: the connection falters, you have forgotten the password, the network traffic is suspiciously busy or you find it difficult to manage all networked devices. We handle 20 handy tools for your network! The last five focuses on the more advanced user or a somewhat more complex environment.
1 Network discovery
If your wireless connection starts to be very happy, it could well be that a neighbor uses an overlapping channel. NetSpot sums up all wireless networks in the neighborhood in real time. The tool lists all important data of the detected networks: SSID, signal strength, the Wi-Fi spectrum (2.4 or 5 GHz), network mode (802.11x), security (open, wpa2 personal, etc.), the channel width and channel. On the basis of the latter, you may consider yourself setting a different channel via your wireless router. The paid version of NetSpot also offers a site survey module.
If you install a new wireless router or you add an extra access point, a ‘site survey’ is useful, for example with Ekahau Heatmapper. You install the tool on your laptop and ideally, you also import a floor plan of your home. Then you walk around with this device, where you frequently indicate where you are. The program registers the SSID at each point, as well as the signal strength. The result is a ‘heat map’ that indicates the signal strength in all rooms. Based on this, you determine the optimal position of your router and possible access points.
3 Channel selection
If you work within the 2.4 GHz spectrum and the environment is crowded with all kinds of wireless networks, it is often difficult to find the most suitable channel for your own network. WIFI Channel Picker is a tool that specifically targets the ideal channel. The tool not only takes into account overlapping channels but also with the built-in mechanism (CSMA/ca) with which wireless routers or access points try to process different signals across a shared channel. After a press of a button, you get insight into the motivated decision of the program.
You have properly shielded your wireless network using wpa2 encryption, but you still suspect that an unauthorized device occasionally connects to your network. Then it makes sense to use a tool like Soft perfect WiFi Guard. You let your network scan and indicate which devices are familiar. Next, you set the frequency with which the tool must perform new scans. If it detects new devices, you can sound an alarm, have a program executed or send an e-mail with information about the newly detected devices. For detection of more than five devices, you need a license (€ 19, -).
With GlassWire you can also monitor your (wireless) network and let you know when a device leaves your network or just adds. But GlassWire offers many other options. You can have different parts of your network monitoring, for example when your computer exceeds a certain bandwidth of a specific type within a certain period. Or you can read how much inbound and outbound traffic your network adapters have gone through. GlassWire also offers a sort of graphic shell around the Windows Firewall, so that you can block a specific application with a single mouse click.
If you want to know which wireless networks your computer is connected to lately, then you have enough to the portable program WIFI History View. As soon as you start this program, you will see the following information: time of the event (connection or termination), the name of the (wireless) network adapter, SSID, wifi specification (802.11x), authentication type (such as wpa2- personal), etc. It is also possible to retrieve this data from a remote computer.
7 Forgotten password
It can happen to anyone: you want to connect a device to your wireless network, but you have forgotten the password. Now you can find that through the web interface of your router, but just as easy is that with the portable Wireless KeyView, to run on a Windows PC that has previously registered with that network. The tool extracts the mustard from the WLAN Autoconfigure service of Windows. Please note that your antivirus tool may sound the alarm when you run this tool.
8 Quick recovery
You’ve probably experienced it: your computer refuses to set up a (wireless) connection while you have not made any conscious changes. Instead of finding out all the possible causes, you can add NetAdapter Repair All-in-One (to be run as administrator). At the touch of a button, it can reset a number of Windows settings (Winsock, proxy, firewall) and with a bit of luck, it will go wrong. But there are still other advanced options that can be controlled with little more than one push of a button, such as enabling the (wireless) network adapters, activating DHCP or changing the DNS servers.
9 Transfer speed
If your wireless network suddenly performs less, then it is not a bad idea to convert those data transfers into hard data. This is possible with NetStress, which works according to the server-client principle. This means that you have to install the program on the two computers between which you want to measure the (wireless) connection. As soon as you have entered the IP address of the client device on the server side, you can carry out the test: NetStress then sends data packets from the server to the client (over ipv4). You can, among other things, set the package size and the number of packages per second, both for TCP and UDP.
10 Network settings
If you constantly move your laptop from one environment to another, it is quite annoying if you have to change a number of settings every time in order to get your device on the right network, to tune it to the right printer, etc. Thanks to NetSetMan you all these options once fixed in one or more network profiles, such as IP address, subnet mask, gateway, stamp and DNS server, Wi-Fi settings, computer, and workgroup name, etc. With the press of a button you activate the corresponding network profile, after which NetSetMan will make all necessary changes for you.
11 Wireless hotspot
You have a laptop with a wired internet connection, but do not see a hotspot for your mobile device? Then you solve that quickly with a tool like Virtual Router. Start the tool, fill in a suitable SSID and create a password. Choose the network adapter you want to share; perhaps that is your wired LAN connection, but that can also be a wireless adapter or cellular connection. Just press a button and your wireless hotspot is ready for use.
12 Qr code
You have secured your wireless network with a wpa2 password. Sensible, but annoying when you want to give your guests access. If a guest network is not an option on your router, you can use a QR code that contains the SSID and the associated password. This is possible with the online generator from Zxing, where you first choose Wi-Fi network in the drop-down menu. You can then print the code, after which you scan visitors with their QR app. They will then immediately have access to your network, without seeing the password.
13 Network tools
A home network is useful as long as nothing goes wrong. If that happens, it is nice to have a few network tools at hand to monitor and test your (wireless) network. Essential NetTools is just such a suite. Each tool can be accessed directly via a button. You’ll find obligatory classics such as TraceRoute, Ping, NetStat, and Portscan but there are many more, such as Host Alive (which periodically checks whether a device or service is still available), NSLookup for running DNS queries and WiFiMan that the wireless adapters and available Wi-Fi networks.
14 Network check-ups
For Essential NetTools you need a PC. That is not the case with the mobile app ping (suitable for Android). With this app, you can (albeit only via ipv4) the network of which your smartphone is part. Here, detected network devices are clearly displayed, including hostname, IP address, MAC address, and producer. You only need to tap on such a device to call up additional functions such as wake-on-Lan, ping and traceroute. Fing also allows you to scan the devices for available network services such as fat, HTTP, telnet, NetBIOS, etc. Very handy for fast, mobile network analysis. A more or less equivalent tool – also available for iOS – is the He.net app.
15 Mobile monitoring
There are also monitoring tools for mobile devices. One of the better is PingTools Network Utilities, available for Android. This tool is packed with useful functions, including (Geo) Ping, Traceroute, UPnP Scanner, Wi-Fi scanner, DNS Lookup and Wake on Lan but via the Monitor option it is also possible to receive a system message if some device no longer accessible. iOS users can use the free app Joe’s Network Diagnostics & Scanner Utility.
16 All-round suite
Spiceworks can be called a complete network suite. The program is not only able to inventory your network equipment in detail, but can also monitor it. There is even a real helpdesk module, as well as an mdm tool (mobile device management). Spiceworks can be operated from an integrated web server, but it works agentless: you do not have to install a client module on your network devices. Spiceworks also gives you active services, installed software, hotfixes and even the status of printer toners. There are also extensive reports and you even get a message if, for example, a disk is full or an antivirus package is outdated.
17 Sniffer & analyzer
Wireshark should of course not be missing from the list of excellent free networking tools. This tool can be described as a network sniffer with protocol analyzer and you immediately understand that this tool aims especially at the advanced user. Despite the name, the program can also handle wireless networks – for optimal use you also need AirPcap. The bottom line is that you can capture all traffic from your network adapter and then have it analyzed by Wireshark, divided according to network protocols. However, it requires a lot of network knowledge to correctly interpret this data.
We’ve talked about NetStress before, but while this tool is limited to Windows devices, the portable iPerf can be installed on almost all possible platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, etc. The program supports both ipv4 and ipv6 and can handle the protocols tcp, sctp and udp. Moreover, there are all kinds of parameters available so that you can fine-tune things in terms of timing, buffers and protocols. Iperf works according to the client-server model and can be controlled from the command line.
19 Proxy server
If you want to find out which data your mobile browser sends, you can use a proxy server like Burp. You install it on a laptop that is connected to the same wireless network as your mobile device. We do not have the space to explain the exact method here, but it comes down to the fact that you indicate via the advanced network settings of your mobile device that it should use your Burp machine as a proxy. As soon as you start browsing on your mobile device, all data will appear on the Burp HTTP History tab, after which the analysis can begin. Burp also works for wired connections.
20 Data interception
If you want to log more than just the web traffic from your mobile device or if you find a proxy server like Burp a bit cumbersome, then you’ll find a simpler solution in the Android app Packet Capture. It makes clever use of the vpn function of Android, through which all traffic is piloted. It is even possible to capture https traffic, provided you opt for Install certificate after the installation. You will then see all data, including time, destination address and protocol. Tap a data package for even more detail.