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Wi-Fi Signal Strength: What is a Good Signal?

Have you ever had your Internet completely cut out? Sometimes, this is because of obstacles, but other times it is because you have a bad Wi-Fi signal strength.

What is Wi-Fi signal strength?

Wi-Fi signal strength refers to the reliability of your Wi-Fi network connection. You need a good Wi-Fi signal strength for different online activities. We wrote a whole article on how to run a test to check your Wi-Fi signal strength.

It doesn’t matter if you are using a phone, tablet or laptop, you will need a strong Wi-Fi signal for all of them to browse the web, check emails, stream videos and more.

Wi-Fi signal strength is measured in multiple ways, but the most common is in decibels per milliwatt (dBm). Understanding different measurements like milliwatts (mW) or Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) can be helpful, but it is more common that you will see signals measured in dBm.

Signals measured in dBm will display as negative numbers. The dBm scale ranges from -30 to -90.

What is a good signal?

A perfect signal is -30 dBm. Likely, you do not have a perfect signal, but that is OK. Any signal between -67 to -30 dBm will let you perform most online activities.

Here is what the scale looks like and what each signal strength measurement means:

-30 dBm: This is the maximum signal strength. If you have this measurement, you are likely standing right next to the access point.

-50 dBm: This is considered an excellent signal strength.

-60 dBm: This is a good signal strength.

-67 dBm: This is a reliable signal strength. This is the minimum for any online services that require a reliable connection and Wi-Fi signal strength.

-70 dBm: This is not a strong signal strength. You may be able to check your email.

-80 dBm: This is an unreliable signal strength. You may be able to connect to your network, but you will not support most online activity.

-90 dBm: This is a bad signal strength. You are not likely to connect to internet at this level.

Ideally, you are looking to fall in the -60 dBm to -50 dBm range (since -30 dBm is unlikely). A signal strength at -67 dBm will work for a while, but this is the minimum strength you will want before your connection starts to suffer.

If you are getting a bad signal, it could be due to obstacles like thick walls or your router being too far out of reach. But if that isn’t the case, checking your signal to see the strength level is a good place to start in diagnosing the problem.

How to check and measure your signal strength

There are a few ways to check and measure your Wi-Fi signal strength.  You will want to use a Wi-Fi signal strength meter (sometimes called a scanner or analyzer). There are free and easy ways to check your signal strength, and there are more advanced ways that will cost money.
Like anything free, you don’t get the full depth of data like you would with a paid tool.

To check your Wi-Fi signal strength for free, move throughout your space with all of your devices (phone, tablet, laptop) and look at the Wi-Fi symbol indicator on the device. As you move throughout the space, you will see the solid bars increase and decrease. This should show you the areas that have a stronger connection than others. If your router is too far away and that is the signal strength issue, consider Wi-Fi extenders to extend the reach of your network throughout your home.

If you use a Mac, you can also check the signal strength by holding down the option key and clicking the Wi-Fi symbol. You will see the dBm measurement in the RSSI field.

A more complex way to check your signal strength is with a Wi-Fi signal meter tool that will run the numbers for you. Whereas the “free way” is easy to do, you won’t see specific numbers attached to the signal strength like you will with a paid tool. Paid tools, like Optim, offer easy-to-understand data in an organized dashboard. A tool like Optim also offers other tools to help enhance and troubleshoot your whole home network.

Managing your home Wi-Fi network can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do everything on your own. With a tool like OptimTM Managed Wi-Fi solution you have all of the help that you need in one secure and organized place. Optim is available from your Service Provider – ask for it by name.

You can learn more about home networking and Wi-Fi signal strength and speeds with Actiontec’s Complete Guide to WiFi Networking. For the latest news in technology, check out Actiontec’s blog

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