Mac Wireless airport Command

In macOS and prior most functionality found in the GUI can also be performed from the command line. One of those is the “airport” command which allows users to scan, sniff, connect, and disconnect from Wireless routers.

If you are not comfortable with the command line, I have a previous post here on Mac Built-in Wireless Tools accessible in the GUI.

Getting Started

The airport command is found in the following directory:


The easiest way to use the airport command is by creating a Symbolic link.

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


Perform a wireless scan of available Wireless networks by using the -s or –scan option. Example:

$ airport -s
                            SSID BSSID             RSSI CHANNEL HT CC SECURITY (auth/unicast/group)
              TheCenturionLounge 6c:f3:7f:58:3X:XX -77  1       Y  US NONE
                    WiFi Printer 28:cf:e9:82:eX:XX -91  149,+1  Y  US WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) 
  HP-Print-A5-Officejet Pro 8610 58:20:b1:5f:eX:XX -67  1       N  -- NONE
                   McCarran WiFi 40:e3:d6:f8:0X:XX -58  11      Y  -- NONE
                            Ji6S 3a:71:de:d3:6X:XX -78  11      Y  US WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) 
                            TCLO 6c:f3:7f:58:3X:XX -80  52,+1   Y  US WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) 
                        icandy 2 30:46:9a:3e:dX:XX -64  6       Y  -- WEP
 DIRECT-41-HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 72:5a:0f:f1:1X:XX -49  6       Y  -- WPA2(PSK/AES/AES) 


When sniffing, you will need to define your WLAN interface. A channel number can be specified as well.

$sudo airport en0 sniff
Capturing 802.11 frames on en0.
^CSession saved to /tmp/airportSniffDiGthp.cap.


Using the -I option will view the current wireless status information such as signal, BSSID, Authentication, etc. Example:

$ airport -I
     agrCtlRSSI: -66
     agrExtRSSI: 0
    agrCtlNoise: -95
    agrExtNoise: 0
          state: running
        op mode: station 
     lastTxRate: 174
        maxRate: 289
lastAssocStatus: 0
    802.11 auth: open
      link auth: none
          BSSID: 70:3a:e:21:eX:XX
           SSID: McCarran WiFi
            MCS: 8
        channel: 165 


WLAN Disconnect

If you want to disconnect from your existing WLAN you can use the -z option.

$ sudo airport -z

Disconnect After Logout

sudo airport en0 prefs DisconnectOnLogout=Yes

Output Information


When performing a Sniff it saves a .cap file to the /tmp directory.
Wireshark (tshark) and tcpdump are great options for analyzing the 802.11 frames quickly.

Read the captured packets in tcpdump.

tcpdump -r /tmp/airportSniffDiGthp.cap

Read the captured packets in tshark.

tshark -r /tmp/airportSniffDiGthp.cap


Print info as XML by using the -x option. Example:

$ airport -I -x 
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">

Save the XML info to a file.

$ airport -I -x >> /Users/UserName/Desktop/wifi.xml

Using the plutil we can convert a plist or xml file from one format to another.
Convert it to JSON format.

plutil -convert json wifi.xml -o wifi.json

File example:

	"RSSI_UNIT": 0,
	"RSSI_CTL_AGR": -58,
	"CHANNEL": 149,
	"NOISE_CTL_AGR": -95,
	"RSSI_CTL_LIST": [-56, -62, -56],
	"RSSI_EXT_LIST": [0, 0, 0]

You can use PlistBuddy command to read and write values to the file.


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