The latest Raspberry Pi models have WiFi chips built in that allow the device to connect to a wireless network. If you are connected to WiFi on your Raspberry Pi, but experiencing poor speed or dropped connections, it is time to check the WiFi signal strength to begin troubleshooting the issue. Generally, the little WiFi chip built into Raspberry Pi 4, Raspberry Pi 3, or Raspberry Pi Zero W models is about as strong as the one you would find in your mobile phone, but checking the signal strength will tell you if you are close enough to the router or hotspot.
In this tutorial, you will see how to check the WiFi signal strength from a Raspberry Pi. This can be done via both command line and desktop GUI on the Raspberry Pi OS, without installing any extra software. We will be using a Raspberry Pi 4 in to test out the WiFi signal strength in the examples below.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to check WiFi signal strength on Raspberry Pi via command line
- How to check WiFi signal strength on Raspberry Pi via desktop GUI
|Category||Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used|
|Other||Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the
# – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user
How to check WiFi signal strength on Raspberry Pi
We will cover two methods below, both command line and GUI. The command line method allows you to check the WiFi signal strength even if you are not physically in front of the Raspberry Pi, such was with an SSH connection. On the other hand, the GUI desktop method allows you to monitor the WiFi signal strength from a taskbar icon in the corner of the screen. This is good for users that are sitting at their Raspberry Pi or using a VNC connection. Feel free to choose whichever method makes the most sense for your situation.
Check WiFi signal strength via Command Line
The easiest way to check the WiFi signal strength from command line on a Raspberry Pi is with the following command:
$ iwconfig wlan0
Or for more concise output regarding signal strength, pipe to the grep command and filter for the word “Quality”:
$ iwconfig wlan0 | grep Quality
The output shows both signal strength and quality. The quality is the more human readable number, which is based on the signal strength and gives a numerical rating out of a possible 70. Our quality in the screenshot shows 70/70 because our Raspberry Pi is very close to the router it is connected to for WiFi. The signal level is -21 dBm.
Another way to see the quality level, signal strength, and other related data is by viewing the following file:
$ cat /proc/net/wireless
You can use the command above, along with the
watchcommand to continuously monitor the signal strength of your Raspberry Pi’s WiFi connection. Check our guide on using the watch command to learn how.
Check WiFi signal strength via Desktop GUI
- Get started by right clicking on the task bar at the top of your screen (the default location for the bar in Raspberry Pi OS). Then, click on Add / Remove Panel Items.
- In the Panel Preferences window that opens up, click on the ‘Add’ button to the right side.
- From the Plugin Panel menu, find the plugin named ‘Network Status Monitor.’ Highlight that option, and then click on ‘Add.’
- Now we can see the network status monitor plugin in our desktop’s taskbar. Click on it to see the signal strength. You will need to select your WiFi connection from the drop down menu, which should be
As you can see in the screenshot above, our current WiFi signal strength is 94%. This little window will also show when data is being uploaded or downloaded on the Raspberry Pi (the arrows will light up). It also shows the total amount of data that has been sent and received on the Raspberry Pi.
In this tutorial, we saw how to check the WiFi signal strength on a Raspberry Pi system. This included a command line method and GUI desktop method, depending on whether you use your device as command line only or usually have a monitor connected or VNC connection. It is always a good idea to keep on eye on your Raspberry Pi’s WiFi signal strength, and consider moving closer to your router or hotspot, or getting a more powerful network device if the signal strength remains low.