As long as everything works optimally, a (wireless) network is absolutely useful. Sometimes, however, unexpected things arise: the connection is broken, you have forgotten the password, the network traffic is suspiciously busy or you find it difficult to manage all networked devices. We cover 20 useful tools for your network! The last five are aimed at the more advanced user or a more complex environment.
1 Network Discovery
When your wireless connection starts to feel squeamish, a neighbor may be using an overlapping channel. NetSpot lists all nearby wireless networks in real time. The tool lists all important data of the detected networks: (b)ssid, signal strength, Wi-Fi spectrum (2.4 or 5 GHz), network mode (802.11x), security (open, wpa2 personal, etc.), the channel width and the channel. Based on the latter, you may consider setting up a different channel via your wireless router. The paid version of NetSpot also offers a site survey module.
2 Heat map
If you are installing a new wireless router or adding an extra access point to it, 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. You then walk around with this device, frequently indicating where you are. The program records 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 any access points.
3 Channel Select
If you work within the 2.4 GHz spectrum and the environment turns out to be 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 specifically aimed at indicating the ideal channel. The tool takes into account not only overlapping channels, but also the built-in mechanism (csma/ca) with which wireless routers or access points try to process different signals over a shared channel. After pressing a button, you gain insight into the motivated decision of the program.
You have protected your wireless network well using wpa2 encryption, but you still suspect that an unauthorized device occasionally connects to your network. Then it makes sense to use a tool such as Softperfect WiFi Guard. You have your network scanned and indicate which devices are trusted. Then you set the frequency with which the tool should perform new scans. If it detects new devices, you can sound an alarm, have a program run or send an email with information about the newly detected devices. For detection of more than five devices you need a license (€19,–).
GlassWire also allows you to monitor your (wireless) network and be notified when a device leaves or joins your network. But GlassWire offers a lot of other options. You can have different parts of your network monitored, for example when your computer exceeds a certain bandwidth of a specific type within a certain period. Or you can read how much incoming and outgoing traffic has passed through your network adapters. GlassWire also offers a kind of graphical shell around the Windows Firewall, so that you can block a certain application with one mouse click.
If you want to know which wireless networks your computer has recently connected to, the portable program WifiHistory View will suffice. As soon as you start this program, you will see the following information: time of the event (connection or disconnection), name of the (wireless) network adapter, (b)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 out via the web interface of your router, but it is just as easy with the portable WirelessKeyView, which can be run on a Windows PC that has previously registered with that network. The tool draws the mustard from the WLAN AutoConfig service of Windows. Keep in mind that your antivirus tool may sound the alarm once you run this tool.
8 Quick Recovery
You have probably experienced it: your computer refuses to set up a (wireless) connection even though you have not made any conscious changes. Instead of finding out all possible causes yourself, grab NetAdapter Repair All-in One (can be run as administrator). With the push of a button, it can reset a number of Windows settings (winsock, proxy, firewall) and with a bit of luck that will solve the problem. But there are dozens of other advanced options that can be controlled with little more than a 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 is suddenly underperforming, it's not a bad idea to convert those data transfers into hard figures. 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 perform the test: NetStress then sends data packets from the server to the client (over ipv4). You can, among other things, set the packet size and the number of packets per second, for both tcp and udp.
10 Network Settings
When 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 to get your device on the right network, to tune it to the right printer, etc. Thanks to NetSetMan you can all these options are fixed once in one or more network profiles, such as ip address, subnet mask, gateway, stmp and dns server, wifi settings, computer and workgroup name, etc. With one press of the button you activate the corresponding network profile, after which NetSetMan makes all the necessary changes for you.
11 Wireless Hotspot
You have a laptop with a wired internet connection, but don't see a hotspot for your mobile device? Then you can quickly solve that with a tool like Virtual Router. Start the tool, enter a suitable ssid and create a password. Choose the network adapter you want to share; this may be your wired LAN connection, but it could 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. Wise, but annoying if you also want to give your guests access. If a guest network is not an option on your router, you can make do with a QR code that contains the SSID and the corresponding password. This is possible with Zxing's online generator, where you first choose . in the drop-down menu Wi-Fi network. You can then print the code, after which your visitors scan it 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 does happen, it is nice to have some network tools at hand to monitor and test your (wireless) network. Essential NetTools is just such a suite. Each tool is directly accessible via a button. Here you will find obligatory classics like TraceRoute, Ping, NetStat and port scan, but there are many more, such as HostAlive (which periodically checks whether a device or service is still available), NSLookup for executing dns queries and WiFiMan, which lists the wireless adapters and available Wi-Fi networks.
14 Network Checkup
So you do need a PC for Essential NetTools. That is not the case with the Fing mobile app (enabled for Android). With this app you scan (albeit only via ipv4) the network of which your smartphone is part. Discovered network devices are clearly displayed, including host name, IP address, MAC address and manufacturer. You only have to tap 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 fpt, http, telnet, netbios, etc. Very useful for a 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 ones is PingTools Network Utilities, available for Android. This tool is packed with useful features including (Geo)Ping, Traceroute, UPnP Scanner, Wi-Fi scanner, DNS Lookup and Wake on Lan, but via the option Monitor it is also possible to receive a system notification if a device or another is no longer available. iOS users can use the free app Joe's Network Diagnostics & Scanner Utility for this.
16 Allround Suite
You can safely call Spiceworks a complete network suite. The program is not only able to inventory your network equipment in detail, but can also monitor it. It even includes a real helpdesk module, as well as an MDM (mobile device management) tool. Spiceworks can be operated from an integrated web server, but works agentless: you do not need to install a client module on your network devices. Spiceworks tells you, among other things, 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 understood that this tool is mainly aimed at the advanced user. Despite the name, the program can also handle wireless networks – for optimal use you also need AirPcap. Basically, you can capture all traffic from your network adapter and have Wireshark analyze it, broken down by network protocols. However, it requires a lot of network knowledge to correctly interpret this data.
18 Throughput Speed
We've talked about NetStress before, but while this tool is limited to Windows devices, the portable iPerf can be installed on just about any platform: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, etc. The program supports both ipv4 and ipv6 and can handle the protocols tcp, sctp and udp. In addition, all kinds of parameters are 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. Here you can find numerous parameters.
19 Proxy server
If you want to find out what data your mobile browser is sending, 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 don't have the space to explain the exact method here, but the bottom line is 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 surfing on your mobile device, all data will appear on the HTTP Historytab of Burp, 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, you will find a simpler solution in the Android app Packet Capture. It makes clever use of Android's VPN function, through which all traffic is guided. It is even possible to capture https traffic, provided you Install certificate opts. You will then see all data, including time, destination address and protocol. Tap a data package for even more detail.