Find & Scan Wireless Networks from Command Line on Mac OS

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A long-hidden airport command line utility hidden deep in Mac OS X can be used to search for and find available wireless networks. This powerful tool is very useful for network administrators and system administrators, but it is useful for the average user to discover nearby wifi routers as well.

Access the Wi-Fi utility in the Mac OS X command line

To use this tool to find nearby Wi-Fi networks, the first thing you want to do is create a symbolic link from the airport utility to / usr / sbin for easy access. The command for this varies by version of Mac OS in use, select which one is relevant to your Mac OS X version on the particular Mac.

Launch the Terminal and type the following command:

Creating a Symbolic Link for the Airport Tool in macOS High Sierra, Sierra, OS X El Capitan, Yosemite, and highersudo ln -s /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport / usr / local / bin / airport

If you see an ‘operation not allowed’ error, it’s probably because you either don’t have a bin directory in / usr / local / (you can create your own), or you have enabled SIP, the SIP rootless feature can be disabled by advanced users if desired.

Create a symbolic link for the airport tool in Mac OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard

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

Each of the above commands must be on one line to work correctly.

Enter the administrator password to create the symbolic link, which acts as an alias in the Finder. Now you can use the airport command without the long path to access it.

How to Scan for wireless networks from Terminal in Mac OS X

Now to search for and find all wireless networks in range, type the following:

airport -s

The returned list shows all available Wi-Fi networks and their router name (SSID), router address (BSSID), signal strength (RSSI), channel and security types used by the network.

list of wireless networks

This basically works like a command line WiFi stumbler, revealing the available wireless networks that are within range.

By viewing airport -s output and RSSI strength, you can use the airport command line utility in a similar way to the Wi-Fi Diagnostics utility to optimize a wireless connection.

You can also get much of the same detailed information from the Wi-Fi menu by holding down the Option key on a click, although that only shows you the details of one access point at a time.

Alternatively, Mac users can turn to the Wi-Fi scanner tool native to Mac OS X to completely stumble across the GUI to nearby wireless networks. The output is the same for the Wireless Diagnostics app approach or the command line approach offered here.

Do you have something on hand? tips or tricks for scanning wireless networks from a Mac’s command line? Do you use built-in tools or third-party options? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Find & Scan Wireless Networks from the Command Line in Mac OS X: FAQ

Tutorial Summary: Find & Scan Wireless Networks from the Command Line in Mac OS X

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How this tutorial helping you?

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What is actual time in which this method complete?

The time to complete the Find & Scan Wireless Networks from the Command Line in Mac OS X tutorial is 10+ minutes.

What are the supported Device?

Apple

What are the supported Operating system?

mac OS


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