What Is a Wi-Fi Catcher?

By Simon Foden

Wi-Fi catcher's let you identify hot spots without starting your computer.
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The term Wi-Fi refers to any device that can remotely connect to a wireless network using RF signals. The vast majority of computers manufacturer have built-in Wi-Fi catchers, which scan for available Wi-Fi networks, or "hot spots." But Wi-Fi catchers also come as USB devices that you attach to your machine. There are various criteria upon which you judge the function and effectiveness of a Wi-Fi catcher.


The range of the Wi-Fi catcher determines how close to a hot spot you must be to connect to it. Naturally, the greater the range the more convenient it is for you. Similarly, the closer to the Wi-Fi hot spot, the stronger and more stable the signal. Also, proximity typically influences the degree to which a Wi-Fi catcher is prone to interference from other devices that operate using RF signals.


Certain devices can interfere with the functionality of the Wi-Fi catcher, making it difficult to establish a connection to a hot spot or causing an existing connection to drop out. Devices with potential for interference include cordless phones, AV senders, microwave ovens and Bluetooth equipment.


There are two types of Wi-Fi catchers: integrated like the Dell Wi-Fi Catcher and stand-alone like the Iogear GWF001 Wi-Fi Finder. You can attach it to your key-chain and keep it separate from your computer. The advantage of using a device such as the Iogear GWF001 is that you don't need to boot up your computer to check for hot spots. So if you're out and about looking for somewhere to work, you can quickly check the LED display on the catcher. The integrated version of a Wi-Fi catcher typically functions whether or not the computer is on. For example, the Dell Wi-Fi Catcher, when switched into momentary mode, scans for hot spots and causes the wireless switch to light up on your computer when one is located.


The Wi-Fi catcher is specifically the part of the device that scans for available networks, as distinct from the other components which connect the computer and transfer data between wireless router and computer. Because integrated catchers are connected to the rest of the computer, they typically require some degree of configuration. The Iogear GWF001 requires no set up or configuration; it simply scans for hot spots and indicates when it finds one.