Mavericks Tip: Troubleshooting Bluetooth devices & their connection strength

Back in February last year, I blogged about ‘Troubleshooting Bluetooth devices and their connection strength in Mountain Lion‘.

This is an updated version of that blog for Mavericks as TJ Luoma kindly commented on my blog to inform me that these features have changed in Mavericks (OS X 10.9), prompting me to update my blog. Thanks TJ!

So, to monitor and troubleshoot Bluetooth connections in Mavericks, here’s how!

Mavericks has simplified Bluetooth Preferences along with other GUI settings that Apple prefer end users not to play with.

The good news is that as long as you know where to look, you can still access most of these options.

To monitor a Bluetooth connection, a Bluetooth device must be enabled and currently connected to your Mac.

Then follow the below steps to monitor the signal strength of that connection:

Step 1) If you hold down the Option/Alt key and then click on the Bluetooth Icon in the Apple Menu Bar, you can select the device you wish to monitor:

bluetooth devices mavericks

Step 2) You should then have an entry for the, RSSI signal  strength (Received signal strength indicator) of that device, along with the Bluetooth MAC address of that device’s Bluetooth card:

rssi signal strength

There is no Monitor Connection window showing a graph of the bluetooth signal that was available in Mountain Lion, but at least you can still monitor the RSSI.

There are third-party utilities you can use to monitor all wireless communication including Bluetooth. For example iStumbler:

istumbler

Without going into too much techie talk on how RSSI works, basically the higher the number, the better the connection.

Notice that the numbers are negative, therefore the nearer the number is to 0, the better the connection.

-51 is better than -55 for example.

Below is a basic outline of the ranges that represent a good to bad connection:

  • -110 and lower = Very poor connection and likely to be unusable
  •     -100 to -109 =  Poor connection
  •     -70 to -99 = Good connection
  •     -40 to -55 = Very strong connection

You can also select ‘Create Diagnostics Report on the Desktop’ from the Bluetooth menu bar after holding down the Option/Alt key to generate a list of log files on your Bluetooth performance:

create Diagnostics Report

To finish, I’d like to give you a couple of suggestions on how to improve your wireless connection, if the RSSI reading is poor.

Check the obvious first.

Low batteries are the most likely reason for a poor Bluetooth signal.
You can use the Bluetooth menu bar to check your current battery percentage before trying a new set of batteries:

improve wireless connection

Also, move location in case of any major interference from other radio frequencies in the immediate area.

It’s not easy to isolate an environment factor with regards to wireless networks, but move your computer to different locations and see if the RSSI reading improves.

I hope that this blog has helped those like me that use Bluetooth devices to improve their wireless connections.

To learn how to support and troubleshoot OS X Mavericks, come on our OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.