Wireless Diagnostics

wireless logoWireless Diagnostics can help you resolve wireless connectivity issues by analyzing the Wi-Fi network your Mac is connected to and providing solutions. Wireless Diagnostics is included with OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.4 and later.

If you can connect to your Wi-Fi router, but are having issues with webpages loading, sending or receiving email, music or video streaming, or downloading, use Wireless Diagnostics. After Wireless Diagnostics has completed an analysis of your Wi-Fi network, it will list any issues it finds and offer some solutions.

Wireless Diagnostics can collect detailed logs that could be provided to a network specialist, such as an IT person.

How to use the Wireless Diagnostics Assistant

First, update to OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.4 or later, if you have not already.

When Wireless Diagnostics is opened, the Assistant will check your Wi-Fi connection and settings, and provide recommendations if issues are found. After it has completed its tests, a diagnostic report is saved on your desktop. This report can be used for further analysis if needed. You can also choose to let Wireless Diagnostics continue to monitor your connection.

Note: Wireless Diagnostics won’t change your settings, in case you intentionally configured your Wi-Fi settings in a certain way.

  1. Quit all open applications.
  2. Try to join the Wi-Fi network that you are having issues with if you are not already connected.
  3. Open Wireless Diagnostics. Tip: You can hold down the Option key and then click the Wi-Fi menu extra.
  4. Enter your admin name and password when prompted.
  5. Read the Introduction window, then click Continue.
  6. Wireless Diagnostics will test the Wi-Fi connection to your base station or router, and check your Wi-Fi configuration settings.

    If no issues are found, a message will appear indicating that “Your Wi-Fi connection appears to be working as expected.”

    Select “Monitor my Wi-Fi connection” if the issue is intermittent and you want to have your connection monitored. Wireless Diagnostics will monitor your connection until it detects an issue or you stop the monitoring. See the Monitor mode section for more information.

  7. If you don’t want your connection monitored, select “Continue to summary”, then click Continue.
  8. If you wish, enter a description of your physical Wi-Fi network in the Additional Information window, such as where your Wi-Fi base station or router is located.

    This may help as a reference if you need to get additional support from a network specialist, such as an IT person.

  9. Click Continue. The Router Information window appears.
  10. If you wish, enter text to describe what brand, model, and firmware version your Wi-Fi base station or router is using.
  11. Click Continue. The Summary window appears.

About the Summary window

In the Summary window, a list of issues and recommendations appear. Click the “?” button by an item to see more information.

Here is an example of the “Wi-Fi Best Practices” sheet. See the Wi-Fi Best Practices section below as well.

The following suggestions might be offered if your DNS settings appear to be misconfigured:

Follow the recommended steps for each item until they are all completed. Click Done when you are finished.

Wireless Diagnostics will then quit; your Wi-Fi network should be up and running.
About the Wireless Diagnostics report

A compressed file containing details found during the diagnosis will be saved to the desktop of your Mac. The file’s name starts with “WirelessDiagnostics-” and ends with “.tar.gz”.

Typically, the following files are captured, including archived logs:

  • com.apple.Bluetooth.plist files
  • configd-reachability
  • configd-state
  • configd-store.plist
  • ifconfig
  • ioreg.txt
  • ipconfig
  • kextstat
  • opendirectoryd.log
  • PacketLoggerBluetoothTraceFile.pklg
  • ppp.log
  • spindump.txt
  • system_profiler.spx
  • system.log
  • SystemConfiguration folder
  • SystemDiagnosticReports folder
  • top.txt
  • UserDiagnosticReports folder
  • wifi.log
  • wireless-diagnostics-ID.log

Can’t join a Wi-Fi network?

If you can’t join a Wi-Fi network before running Wireless Diagnostics, it will still collect information which may help diagnose the issue. This information will be saved to your desktop. Solving the connection issue may be simpler if you follow the best practices steps provided in the Summary window.

Wireless Diagnostics helps diagnose connection and configuration issues that occur while the Mac is connected to a Wi-Fi network.

If you can’t connect to your Wi-Fi network, try the following steps.

Make sure Wi-Fi is enabled on your Mac

  1. Make sure Wi-Fi is turned on in the Wi-Fi menu extra. You can view the Wi-Fi status icon in the menu bar to see if Wi-Fi is turned on.

  1. Choose Apple menu () > System Preferences, and then click Network.
  2. If Wi-Fi isn’t in the list of network connection services as shown below, click the add (+) button at the bottom of the list.

  1. Choose Wi-Fi from the Interface pop-up menu. Name the Wi-Fi service, and then click Create.

  1. Click Apply in the Network window.

Wi-Fi is enabled, but Wireless Diagnostics states “Not Connected”

If Wi-Fi is enabled, start by reviewing Wi-Fi Best Practices, and make sure you have a strong signal between your Mac and your Wi-Fi router, or the computer creating the network. It is possible that the Wi-Fi router is too far away from your Mac, or there is some wireless interference affecting the connection.

If you still can’t connect to the Wi-Fi network you can collect information to help diagnose the issue with the support of an IT network specialist.

After clicking Continue, you will see the Additional Information window which will prompt for a description of your physical Wi-Fi network, such as where you Wi-Fi router is located.

Click Continue to go to the Router information window. You may choose to enter text to describe what brand, model and firmware version the Wi-Fi router is using, and then click Continue.

Wireless Diagnostics will generate a Summary report. This may take several minutes to complete.

Click on the ‘?’ button to review the Wi-Fi best practices.

A compressed file containing details found during the diagnosis will be saved to the desktop of your Mac. The file’s name starts with “WirelessDiagnostics-” and ends with “.tar.gz”.

Features and utilities

In addition to letting you quickly view extensive Wi-Fi and networking state information about your current connection (including the Wi-Fi Interface, the Wireless Environment, and your Network Configuration), Wireless Diagnostics includes:

  • The Wireless Diagnostics Assistant
    When Wireless Diagnostics is launched it opens the Assistant, which will help identify Wi-Fi issues and provide recommendations. The Assistant is the main window of Wireless Diagnostics. Upon completion, a diagnostic report will be placed on your desktop which can be used for further analysis if an issue still exists. An option to use Monitor Mode will also be presented in the reporting window.
  • Monitor mode
    Use Monitor mode for intermittent issues, such as unexpectedly dropped connections and auto-join issues. When an issue is detected, Monitor mode will automatically stop, indicate it’s detected an issue, and collect information about what occurred. Information will be saved to the desktop as part of the Wireless Diagnostics report, so that you may share it with a network specialist.

    How to use Monitor mode

    Monitor mode can work when the Mac is on, or in sleep/wake mode. Selecting a different Wi-Fi network from the Wi-Fi menu extra while Monitor Mode is running, or restarting the Mac will end monitoring.

    To start Monitor Mode from the Summary screen, select “Monitor my Wi-Fi connection” and then click Continue. A new window with a progress bar and label will appear indicating that it is monitoring the Wi-Fi connection for problems.

    Clicking either the Continue or Start Over will cancel monitoring.

    If a problem is detected, monitoring will be stopped, and you will be given the option to continue monitoring the Wi-Fi connection or go directly to the Summary screen.

    Click Continue to generate a Wireless Dianostics report that will be saved on the desktop. You might want to share it with a network specialist.


  • Utilities
    Utilities includes additional functionality that can be helpful when resolving intermittent issues, or when working with a service provider. It consists of several tools: Info, Frame Capture, Logging, Wi-Fi Scanning, and Performance. In Wireless Diagnostics, choose Window > Utilities, or press Command-2. The Utilities window appears.

    • Info–Quickly view useful Wi-Fi and networking state information for your current connection in the Info window.

      What’s in the Info window?

      • Wi-Fi Interface
      • Wireless Environment
      • Network Configuration

    • Frame Capture–This advanced utility lets you perform wireless packet captures, such as for for network and IT specialists. Use it if you want to capture Wi-Fi traffic around a reproducible issue.

      Using Frame Capture

      First select a channel. 5 GHz channels are denoted by 1 and -1 at the end.

      • -1 indicates the channel below the primary channel
      • 1 indicates the channel above the primary channel

      Note: These channels are available in the United States. The list will vary by country.

      Click on the Start button, and the Frame Capture will begin to capture Wi-Fi Traffic on the specified channel. Press stop if you wish to stop the capture.

      A file ending in .wcap will be sent to the desktop.

      You can use an application such as Wireshark to view the capture.

    • Logging–Log additional important information for the Wi-Fi interface, the wireless environment, and the current network configuration, then include them in the final diagnostics report archive which will be saved to your desktop. You should enable and disable background logging for specific logs if requested by your IT network specialists.

      Select the logs you want to capture by checking them, and then clicking the Collect Logs button. Define when to collect each type of log.

      Note: Wireless Diagnostics will continue to collect logs even if you quit the application or restart the computer. Make sure you open Wireless Diagnostics again and uncheck logs after you are done collecting them.

    • Wi-Fi Scanning–Wi-Fi Scanning will examine the Wi-Fi environment around you, and let you know what Wi-Fi routers exist. It includes information on the Network name, Password Security type, Protocol, Signal Strength, and Noise, as well as Channel, Band, and Country the router is designed for.

      Select Scan Now button

      You can sort by category, and columns can be resized.

    • Performance – The Performance window shows information about your current connection, as well as two live signal graphs.

      A SNR graph compares the Signal and Noise transmission Ratio, where the Signal (dBm) graph separates the two. The numbers are relative, and there isn’t an exact value that indicates an excellent signal relative to a poor signal simply because there are so many factors involved. However, if you look at the Quality value provided in the top left side of the Performance window, you will see an indicator showing what the perceived quality of the Wi-Fi signal is.

      • Poor – Unreliable wireless connection with frequent disconnects, poor throughput, and slow network performance.
      • Good – Reliable wireless connection with moderate throughout and network performance.
      • Excellent – Reliable wireless connection with excellent throughout and network performance.

      Understanding the Performance graphs


      Bigger numbers are better. As you move further away from your Wi-Fi router the numbers will get smaller, and the signal will degrade until you eventually lose your connection. This may also happen if there are physical materials blocking the signal between your Mac and the W-Fi router, such as walls containing bathroom tile, steel, etc.

      Signal (dBm)

      Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) is better if the -number is smaller , so -45 is better than -55.

      Noise is the opposite. It is better to have less noise, so -90 is better than -80. The higher Noise (Blue line) rises, the poorer the signal quality will be.

      The bigger the gap between RSSI and Noise, the better.

      Example: If your Mac is very hot, or you are using a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network and there is a microwave oven turned on between the Wi-Fi router and the Mac, you might see this Noise line rise, and your Wi-Fi signal quality would not be as good.


Wi-Fi best practices

Wi-Fi best practices are recommended configuration steps for most 802.11-based Wi-Fi routers. These settings are recommended for all Macs and iOS devices that support Wi-Fi, and will help ensure best performance, security, and reliability. If you are having issues with dropped connections or auto-joining, review the Wi-Fi Best Practices dialog.

Before configuring or adjusting specific settings, perform the following steps:

  1. Ensure that your Wi-Fi router’s firmware is up to date.
  2. Verify that all Wi-Fi devices you intend to use support the settings recommended in this article.
  3. If possible, back up your current Wi-Fi router’s settings through its software or web interface.
  4. If necessary, refer to the product documentation or manufacturer’s website.
  5. Forget or remove the Wi-Fi settings for your network from any devices that connect to your router. This will prevent the devices from attempting to connect to your network with the old configuration. You will need to reconnect these devices to your network after you’ve finished applying the new settings.

Important: You should configure all Wi–Fi base stations on the same network with the same settings to avoid connectivity and reliability issues. On dual-band Wi-Fi base stations, configure both bands to use the same settings unless otherwise noted.