Test Wireless Signal Strength from the Command Line

Jul 7, 2010 - 4 Comments

If you’re trying to tweak a wireless router to get the best signal, being able to continuously measure the signal strength while you toy with the antennas, placement, and whatever else is really valuable. Here’s a way you can do this through the command line using the airport wireless tool we’ve discussed in the past:

To see a running tally of signal strength use the following command:
while x=1; do /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport -I | grep CtlRSSI; sleep 0.5; done

You’ll see something like ‘agrCtlRSSI: -38′ with the last number changing frequently, but printed repeatedly on your terminal screen. You can stop this command from refreshing by hitting Control+C.

To report just a single line with signal strength, use the following:
clear; while x=1; do /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport -I | grep CtlRSSI | sed -e 's/^.*://g' | xargs -I SIGNAL printf "\rRSSI dBm: SIGNAL"; sleep 0.5; done

Again just hit Control+C to stop the command. I found both of above code samples on MacOSXHints and they’ve been a big help when trying to position my hardware for maximum reception quality.

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Posted by: David Mendez in Command Line, Mac OS X


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  1. Asher says:

    If you use this one often, you might want to symlink it as follows…

    sudo ln -s /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport /usr/bin/airport

    …so that “airport” is now symlinked into a directory within your $path, so subsequently instead of having to type out the full path, you can simply type e.g. “airport -I”

  2. Robert says:

    Does anyone know how you can get the signal strength of an iPhone connected to a WiFi network? If I open Airport Utility and look under: /Advanced/Logs and Statistics/Wireless Clients/ it shows me signal strength of clients connected to network, any way to get at this from command line? Thanks. :]

  3. Sam says:

    There’s another handy way to use this script:

    while x=1; do /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport -I | grep CtlRSSI | sed -e ‘s/^.*://g’ | say ; sleep 1; done

    This will let my macbook read the signal strength out loud, while I’m tweaking the antenna in the other room ;-)


  4. sdb says:

    Instead of:
    while x=1; do …

    should do:
    while true; do …

    Avoids confusing the issue with an unnecessary variable.

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