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Is there some way (preferrably one that comes with an existing tool) to measure the traffic going through the whole WiFi network from a computer connected to it? (That is, not from the AP or something between the modem and AP.)

My situation is this: a few months back, the internet connection at my parent's place got really sluggish and laggy. (Lag spikes that cause page loads to time out etc, connections plain getting lost and dropping packets forever.) It's impossible to get mom's husband to do anything about this because he brushes this off with something like "just tell your sister to turn off torrents".

Unfortunately the WiFi router's firmware doesn't do traffic logging. I'm not going to risk bricking it to put WRT on it; nor am I keen on rewiring the network to add a proxy to analyse the traffic. (I'm one of those people that make computers break just by looking at them, except machines I own.)

I'd like to be able to find out roughly how much data is going over the air here while all the LAN wires are out of the router, all the computers accused of torrenting are off, etc. The idea is to either show that:

  • Even if everything but my macbook is turned off, something is congesting the network. The husband is a systems developer and has a whole lot of mysterious hardware that's not to be touched around, one of them might be culprit.
  • There is barely any traffic on the network, but the internet is still sluggish. Meaning this is likely a problem the ISP should solve. (Some hardware of theirs being glitchy, someone on an aggregated line hogging it constantly...)

The network is encrypted, but I can temporarily set it to open for the sake of finding this out.

So, in conclusion? Can this be done? Or is there some alternative way I could try to diagnose the problem?

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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Use wireshark and get the 30 day trial of the Pilot program to make fancy charts and graphs (he may need them to understand what you're talking about...)

You'll want to be plugged directly in to the switch to get the best results.

The endpoints tab in WireShark should show you the IPs and the traffic being used.

wireShark Pilot program to make fancy charts

Take heed young padawan, the network hold secrets that you may not want to uncover...

Seriously though, the dude could be blowing you off about it since he's using all the bandwidth up downloading pornography, or spying on your sister's web cam. Keep that in mind when you're poking around the network.

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I'm house-sitting ATM, so I don't think it's the husband trying to pass the blame for something he's doing - the only actual PCs left here are ones I've checked for anything that could cause congestion, and a bunch of boxes that might or might not be connected to the network. I changed the WiFi password (which should drop all wireless clients AFAIK), which would rule out a wireless spy cam as well. Network congestion is not my first candidate really, the latency issues / packet loss is erratic, not consistent. –  millimoose Sep 5 '12 at 0:49
    
Anyway, WireShark / Pilot looks like it should do the trick, I'll try out tomorrow and accept the answer if it tells me anything. –  millimoose Sep 5 '12 at 0:51
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did you try changing the wifi channel? There are many tools available for monitoring wifi traffic on the web, wireshark is one of the more popular.

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The previous answer already mentioned Wireshark. –  Scott Aug 2 '13 at 23:15
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I'm not sure what OS you're using, but it occurs to me that most OS's have a task manager than can monitor network traffic in real-time. This is most definitely the case with modern versions of Windows, however you may need to enable the "bytes received/interval" and "bytes sent/interval" columns.

It's been a while since I've used anything other than XP (hopefully Vista and Seven will have a similar procedure), so I can only tell you how to do this on that OS: click the "Networking" tab, open the "View" menu and choose "Select columns...". From there, you should see the above mentioned columns. Put a check in the box next to the columns, click OK, and you're done.

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