When Defaults Are Bad: How To Pick a Unique Wireless Channel For Your Router
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what is the best channel to use on a wireless routerWired ethernet 6 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Network 6 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Network If you have more than one computer in your house, home networking knowledge becomes essential. But there are many factors which can slow down a home network, often quite easily fixed. Read More will always be better than wireless connections, but sometimes you don’t have a choice – all manner of mobile devices need wifi. There is however one very basic step you can take which will give you an instant speed boost – picking a unique wifi channel that no one else is using.

Today I’ll show you how to scan the wifi spectrum and pick the best channel to use on your wireless router.

What’s All This About Channels?

Wifi operates on different channels – typically 13 of them but this can vary by local regulations (only 11 in the US) – representing the full spectrum of the available frequency space for wifi. Each channel represents an increment of 5MHz, however Wifi is broadcast over 20MHz in total, so a signal broadcast on channel 5 is actually going to cover 4, 5, 6, half of 3 and half of 7!

The more networks that operate on the same channel, the more interference each one experiences and the worse the signal you will get (and hence, worse performance and speed). Ideally then, you want to set up your network on a channel that is unused and furthest away from any neighbouring channels.

Of course, channel selection isn’t the only factor affecting speed, so be sure to read Ryans article on complete Wireless Feng Shui Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Setting up a Wi-Fi network should be an easy prospect, shouldn't it? I mean, a house is a closed-in box, and you'd think when you place a device that transmits wireless signals in all directions... Read More for more great tips.

Finding The Right Channel


Use the built-in wifi diagnostic tool. From the find, hit CMD-SHIFT-G and paste in this location: /System/Library/CoreServices/

what is the best channel to use on a wireless router

Scroll down to Wi-Fi Diagnostics and run it.

what is the best channel to use on a wireless router

Hit CMD-N from the main screen to bring up the network ultilities dialog where you can perform a full scan.

best wireless channel for router


Use the free and critically acclaimed MetaGeek inSSIDer, which comes complete with pretty graphs to quickly identify free channels and overlap. Check out the video for an overview, or just download it and trust me when I say it’s awesome.


Wifi Analyzer is the best, and free; includes a nice graph, and running on your mobile will give you the advantage of being able to move around, so it can also help to identify wifi deadspots within the home.

best wireless channel for router

Wifi Analyzer also takes the hard work out of it entirely with its Channel Rating screen; it’ll suggest a better channel.

best wireless channel for router


Due to restrictions on access to private frameworks, no wifi analyzers are available on stock iPhones. If you are jailbroken, $1.99 will get you Wifi Analyzer from the BigBoss repo, and though I can’t confirm if it’s made by the same developers as the Android app, it does appear to offer the same functionality.

Using a combination of Wifi Analyzer on my Android and the built in OSX diagnostic tool, I found I was overlapping on channel 1 with 2 other networks; the signal strength was fairly dismal.

Setting The Right Channel – An Example

I’ll be performing this on my Virgin Media Superhub router, a stock cable modem.

  • Access the router homepage at (yours may be – or check the back of the modem) and log in.
  • Click on Wifi Settings.
  • This router actually has an AUTO setting for finding the best channel, which suggested channel 9, whilst my Wifi analyzer suggested channel 14. If you’re wondering why my settings show a pair of channels (such as 1+5), it’s because this is how 802.11n wifi works – by bonding two channels. If you’re operating on b/g speed, you’ll only see a single channel listed.

what is the best channel to use on a wireless router

  • Hit Save Settings; in my case, the change was instant, and no restarts were required. Older devices may need to be unplugged momentarily.

I tried a variety of channels, and in reality it didn’t make that much difference to the signal strength. Why? For starters, my router is downstairs, and the signal isn’t particularly strong. Changing the channel won’t help if you have bad reception.

Secondly, there’s not that many networks in my sleepy suburban part of London; if you live in the city and can’t count the number of networks listed on one hand, then this is going to make much more of a difference to you.

Thirdly, on an n-speed router where channels are paired, there’s very little chance that you’ll find two channels without some overlap – switching to the 5GHz band can help, but this reduces device compatibility. Me, I’ll be plugging my ethernet cable back in now, thank you very much!

Did you try to find a better channel to use on your wireless router, and did you get a performance boost? Let us know in the comments, and here’s hoping you had better luck than me.

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  1. Jennifer
    January 6, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    I used Wifi Analyzer and changed my router to a different channel (the 2.4 ghz side) and then that particular channel on Wifi Analyzer suddenly shows no stars and makes suggestions for a different channel. I've now changed the channel 3 times and each time will run Wifi Analyzer afterwards and the new channel does not show any stars at all. Before changing the channel would be lit up with stars.

    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Rickard
      September 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      It sounds as if Wifi Analyzer doesn't know (or is confused) about what channel you are currently using. It needs to know that, so that it doesn't see your own use of the channel as interference. Seeing zero stars suggests this is what's happening. The analyzer's idea of the current channel is shown at the very top, above the list of of all channels. If the channel number or network name seems wrong, tap on it and set it correctly. If it doesn't update the channel number automatically when you've changed it on the router, try selecting another network first, then your own network again.

      • Rickard
        September 24, 2017 at 4:57 am

        [ I'm using an old version of Wifi Analyzer, and I just saw several user comments indicating there might simply be a bug in newer versions causing no stars to show for the currently used channel. There might still be some workaround, but I don't know, and my comment above may not be applicable. Not upgrading to test it, because I like the way it works in my outdated version! ]

    • Elaine
      February 22, 2018 at 3:32 am

      That is the very same issue I am having. The channel graph does not coordinate with the channel rating either. On the channel graph chart the channel I selected is showing good signal strength but on the channel rating chart it shows zero stars.

  2. Anonymous
    April 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Just found this from another article...

    The problem with Wi-Fi analyser software (and with auto channel selection) is that it is blind to non-Wi-Fi interference - the 2.4 GHz band also being used by video senders.

    My location, CH1 looks perfectly clear, but is completely useless, I suspect due to a video sender.

    As for Microwave interference, this generally centres around CH9, so use channels as far away as possible.

    And finally, the channel plan - and how badly they interact....

    For the US standard (1-11) the common usage is CH1, CH6, CH11 - three clear channels. and in the US standard, only one wide channel is possible - the feature should turn itself off if enough clear space cannot be found, but using wide mode on 2.4GHz is just plain antisocial.

    The compromise 4 channel plan ... 1, 4, 7, 11 - not perfectly separated, but generally a better layout if everyone could be persuaded, but many devices seem to default to 6.

    The UK/EU 1-13 offers a better alternative, but ruined by many devices operating in the common US mode.
    For UK, 1, 5, 9, 13 offer 4 channels at minimum "clear" separation, and thereby TWO wide channels.

    Unless a conflicting channel is VERY weak, it's better to co-operate by being on the same channel, then to be 1 or 2 away.

    The other issue with conflicting channels, is that without sniffing the data, you only know the strength, not how busy it is, which matters far more when divvying up the throughput of a shared channel.

    • James Bruce
      April 6, 2016 at 7:10 am

      Excellent tips, thanks for adding that Matthew!

  3. M
    April 9, 2015 at 1:30 am

    Just FYI, two years later:
    MetaGeek InSSIDer is no longer free, apparently. Not too expensive, though.

  4. Stargazer
    January 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I can certainly recommend Android Wifi Analyzer. Was never sure about our wifi performance and realised we needed to do something when our newly acquired Chromecast kept buffering video. Turned out that our router's auto channel selection decided to select channel 6, which both our nearest neighbours were using. A hint for Wifi Analyzer users: you can selectively disable which channels Wifi Analyzer will recommend. This is useful as, for example, here in the UK it otherwise often recommends 14, which is not available in Europe.

  5. Subscription Accounts
    January 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Changing the channel can also have another bonus, particularly if you are getting static noises on wireless house phones when the internet is being used, Changing the channel can reduce or eliminate this noise as weel.

  6. Bogdan Chirita
    January 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Good article. I have tenthousandsofmillions of wlans arround.

    • Mike Davis
      January 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      living outside the us, it seem that the wifi is auto locked to the channel.

      • Muo TechGuy
        January 18, 2013 at 10:19 am

        I think thats router specific mike - in fact the US is the most restricted in terms of wifi channels. In other countries, you can choose from as many as 14 different channels - only 11 in the US.

  7. joe pianta
    January 17, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Very helpful, but my router was setting the best channel automatically. And thats cool to know the n was selecting two channels.

    What is the CC at the end of the Network Utilities screen? My neighbor's Wi-Fi has 'US' listed where mine has nothing and there are none listed in the example above.

    • Muo TechGuy
      January 17, 2013 at 10:05 am

      I suspect that might mean Country Code; you live in the US, I assume? Some routers are international, so they need to be set on the number of possible channels according to that country. In the case of the US, only 11 channels are available I think; you can change the code, but you'd be breaking the law if you broadcast outside of those 11 channels. If you hack the firmware, you can sometimes even "overclock" the wifi, and broadcast at far higher signal strengths than the law allows too.

  8. Starria Turner
    January 17, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Thanks for the lack of many networks also makes channel surfing pretty much useless. On other tech sites, I mentioned my crappy signal and how channel changing doesn't work and get bombarded by comments on that. There are like 4 or more wifi networks out here but my wifi adapter only picks up 3. Channel changing is useless when everyone is so far apart distance-wise.

    That said, this is definitely going on my Evernote so I can explain to others more extensively about wifi networks. :D

  9. Anonymous
    January 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Is their any way to make my microwave stop interfering other than upgrading the router? Drives me nuts when the fam uses the microwave and the whole wifi goes down.

    • Muo TechGuy
      January 17, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Move them further apart; change the channel away (the mcirowave will likely be interfering only on a specific frequency), or switch to 5ghz frequency instead of 2.4ghz (though your router might not be able to, and your devices might be compatible).

      So basically, not a lot you can do apart from use wired instead. ;(

  10. Eric Wardowski
    January 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Very helpful with multiple ways to check. Thank you! I did try with my MacMini but unfortunately it is Mac OS X 10.5.8 and does not have the Wi-Fi Diagnostics as you listed. :-(

  11. dragonmouth
    January 16, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    How does one find the proper channel in Linux?

  12. Mikey Ja
    January 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Wow, great article. Thank you. I have been struggling with just this issue recently. I am afraid that my wireless repeaters are actually causing some sort of interference or otherwise causing some sort of issues with my WiFi.

    • Muo TechGuy
      January 17, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Hmm, that shouldnt be the case. Repeaters are usually the best *solution* to bad reception, though I'm not well versed in using them. Perhaps your neighbour is juston the same channel. Did you scan to find out?

  13. Rigoberto Garcia
    January 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Excellent article and that will be very useful for my staff from support area in their daily tasks. I share with them waiting for their comments. Thank you very much James.