Trending September 2023 # Airport – The Little Known Command Line Wireless Utility For Mac # Suggested October 2023 # Top 16 Popular |

Trending September 2023 # Airport – The Little Known Command Line Wireless Utility For Mac # Suggested October 2023 # Top 16 Popular

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How to Access & Use airport Command Line Tool on Mac OS

In case you were wondering, yes the command line airport tool exists in nearly all versions of Mac OS X, even modern versions that stopped calling wireless networking ‘airport’ and refer to it as Wi-Fi. OK let’s begin.

First, Get Easier Access to airport Wi-Fi Tool

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a symbolic link to the airport command, because it is situated in a very inconvenient location with a deep path, this helps for quick usage. Creating a symbolic link to airport is very easy, in the Terminal type the following:

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

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

The above may be a bit hard to read on some browsers, so alternatively you can use the following (it does the same thing, just split into two commands):

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

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

Note the only difference between modern macOS versions and prior versions is where you will be placing the symbolic link, which is in /usr/local/bin/ versus in /usr/sbin/

Whichever method you go with, the sudo command will prompt you for a root password, enter it and hit return.

Yes, that giant cryptic path through the depths of Mac OS X is where Apple hid the wonderful airport utility, but by running the above command you have just linked that long path to the much shorter ‘airport’ , which is great.

Using the airport Wireless Tool in Mac OS X Command Line

Now that you have quick and easy access to airport with the above symbolic link, you can start using the airport tool.

For starters, you’ll probably find the -I flag and -s flags to be most useful and informative.

For example, with airport -s you will effectively have a wi-fi router stumbler and get a list of available wireless networks complete with their SSID, BSSID hardware address, security encryption type, and channel.

airport -s

You can also use airport -I at the Terminal prompt, which will return information specific to the current wi-fi connection, looking something like the following:


Displayed is detailed information on wireless signal quality, noise, security, and other WiFi network attributes.

The airport command is more powerful than just being able to list information on the current wireless network though, you can actually manually adjust any wi-fi settings, network card settings, troubleshoot networks, change security types used on a connection, capture packets into a pcap file, join and leae networks, disassociate from a wifi network, prioritize routers and networks, see signal strength and interference, adjust wi-fi hardware drivers, and perform a huge variety of network troubleshooting functions too. This is easily one of the most powerful ways to interact with a wireless card on a Mac.

While there is no manual page for the airport command, attaching the -h or –help flag to the command to will issue a brief list of flags and explanations of their function. You can also just run ‘airport’ at the Mac OS X command line to get the full help file, shown below:

Usage: airport [interface] [verb] [options]

If an interface is not specified, airport will use the first AirPort interface on the system.

the specified interface.

Boolean settings may be configured using ‘YES’ and ‘NO’.

WoWEnabled (Boolean)

logger Monitor the driver’s logging facility.

Requires super user privileges.

by prefixing it with a ‘-‘.

AllUserland – Enable/Disable all userland debug flags

AllDriver – Enable/Disable all driver debug flags

AllVendor – Enable/Disable all vendor debug flags

LogFile – Save all AirPort logs to /var/log/wifi.log

No options currently defined.


sudo airport en1 prefs JoinMode=Preferred RememberRecentNetworks=NO RequireAdmin=YES

airport en1 sniff 1

-h –help Show this help

As you can see, there is an abundance of options to interact with wireless networks by using the airport utility in Mac OS X. Advanced Mac users should really get a kick out of this one, as it’s extremely powerful, and wildly useful.

You can also do some pretty interesting things with airport. For a few examples, you can test wireless signal strength live from the command line with airport. Another example will list available wi-fi routers by name only that are nearby, sorted by signal strength (thanks to @jacobiun for this) but omitting BSSID and other data:

The next time you’re working on any wi-fi related task or wireless networking in general, remember the awesome airport tool.


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