Best Wi-Fi stumblers for the Mac

Here’s our take on wireless stumblers that run on Mac OS X for all you Apple fans.

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Macs turn

We recently reviewed low-cost Windows-based Wi-Fi stumblers. Now, here’s our take on wireless stumblers that run on Mac OS X for all you Apple fans. The six products we looked at are: AirRadar 3, iStumbler, KisMAC2, NetSpot, WiFi Explorer, and WiFi Scanner. Pricing ranges from free to $149, all at least require Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and most require an internal AirPort Wi-Fi card. (Read the full review.)

AirRadar 3

AirRadar 3

AirRadar 3 is a basic Wi-Fi stumbler sold by Koingo Software. The application runs on Mac OS X 10.7 and later. It works with the internal AirPort adapter, or an external USB adapter if using Apple Airport hardware and drivers. Pricing is $99 for up to 10 Macs in a business, and $295 for corporate licenses covering unlimited Macs. The program has three main screens, which you navigate to by the buttons on the top of the application. The default screen is the Scan page showing the network list. The SNR values are not shown at all, but it’s on their list of features coming soon. Supported data rates of the networks aren’t given either. From the AirRadar toolbar, you can save the network info for later viewing in the application and also export the data in a text format.

iStumbler

iStumbler

iStumbler isn’t just a Wi-Fi stumbler; it also detects Bluetooth and Bonjour devices, and provides detailed location stats. The current iStumbler build requires Mac OS X 10.10 or later. Only the internal AirPort adapter is supported; no USB Wi-Fi adapter. The iStumbler application has a tabbed-GUI. The Wi-Fi tab is where you’ll find Wi-Fi stumbler along with most of the usual network details. Signal and noise levels are shown in negative dBm values and SNR levels are in dB values. SNR and signal levels are represented by a line graph and signal bars. iStumbler is the only tool in this review that lacks filtering of the network list, which could be an inconvenience when dealing with more than a handful of networks.

KisMAC2

KisMAC2

KisMAC2 is a free and open source advanced Wi-Fi stumbler that also offers wireless injection and cracking features for penetration testing. It’s an active project that continues where the development of the original KisMac left off.  It runs on Mac OS X 10.7 - 10.10, 64-bit only. In addition to the internal AirPort cards, it supports some USB Wi-Fi adapters that utilize specific wireless chipsets. It also supports remote capturing from Kismet servers and drones. When you open KisMac2, you’ll see the Networks screen. Clicking the Start button begins the scanning. Though there are shortcuts in the Help menu of the toolbar, most don’t work as they point to the original KisMAC website that is currently not working. One link does point to the current project’s GitHub page but doesn’t include any good help or documentation.

NetSpot

NetSpot

NetSpot is a Wi-Fi stumbler and map-based surveying tool developed and distributed by Etwok, LLC. It’s supported on Mac OS X 10.6 and later and offered in three different editions. The free edition offers basic Wi-Fi stumbler functionality and basic map-based surveying. The PRO edition ($149) adds active scanning with speed testing and exporting of the network list to the stumbler feature. For the surveying portion of NetSpot, the PRO edition adds the ability to survey secured and hidden networks, additional visualizations, auto saving, and supports up to 50 data collection zones and 50 snapshots per zone. The Enterprise edition ($499) supports up to 10 users, or unlimited users for a custom price. It doesn’t add additional features, but does allow unlimited data collection zones and snapshots.

WiFi Explorer

WiFi Explorer

WiFi Explorer is a general Wi-Fi stumbler developed by Adrian Granados, available for $6.99 via the App Store. It runs on Mac OS X 10.7 and later. It only works with the internal AirPort card; USB Wi-Fi adapters aren’t supported. Once you open WiFi Explorer, you immediately see the list of SSIDs on an attractive GUI. You’ll see the usual network details, including noise and SNR, and can add/remove more details via right-clicking on the columns. By default, the signal levels are shown in percentages, but you can change to dBm via the Preferences. Accessing the Help brings up a traditional help window, containing great documentation, which is also accessible off-line. It includes some good general Wi-Fi troubleshooting information as well.

WiFi Scanner

WiFi Scanner

WiFi Scanner is a general Wi-Fi stumbler with network scanning capabilities, available from the Apple App Store for $6.99. WiFi Scanner runs on Mac OS X 10.6 and later, but for all features you must have 10.7 or later. When you open WiFi Scanner, you’ll see the network list and all their details on the main screen. It includes all the usual SSID and network details, with signal and noise levels shown in dBm values. On the File menu of the toolbar you’ll see several exporting and reporting options to save your results in CSV or HTML files. However, you can’t save the data and re-open with the WiFi Scanner app. The Help shortcut brings up thorough and useful documentation, but it’s not available off-line, though you can download from their website.