Mac Wireless Problems? Guide to Troubleshooting Airport & Wireless Problems on your Mac

Dec 22, 2009 - 40 Comments

mac wireless troubleshooting Mac’s are amazingly reliable and have few problems, but it’s not incredibly unusual to run into problems connecting to a wireless network. If you’re having problems connecting your Mac wirelessly to an Airport or other WiFi router, check out this guide and try out these troubleshooting tips to fix your wireless internet connection.

Mac Wireless & Airport Connection Problem Troubleshooting: The Basics

* Turn Airport on & off – You can do this via the Airport menu bar or from the Network Preferences. This is the first thing you should try when troubleshooting Mac wireless problems.

* Reset your router – This is the second thing you should try doing. You can fix a surprising amount of wireless problems just by resetting the airport/router. All you need to do is turn the thing off for a few seconds and turn it back on.

* Reset your Cable/DSL modem – You’ll usually want to reset this in combination with your wireless router. Reset this first so the DHCP information will be pulled to the wireless router properly.

* Change Wireless Channels – sometimes your router’s wireless broadcast channel will interfere with a neighbors, be sure you have your router set to a unique channel. Even if it’s a weak signal there can still be interference.

* Make sure Wireless/Airport card software & firmware is up to date – This is usually done just by going to the Software Update menu, if there are any updates available for your Mac or Airport, install them.

Mac Wireless Troubleshooting: Intermediate

* Change wireless security protocol – You shouldn’t be using WEP anyway for security reasons, but sometimes changing from WEP to WPA/WPA2 or WPA to WPA2 can resolve wireless connection difficulties.

* Make sure router firmware is up to date – Check your router manufacturers website for firmware updates, if there are any available, install them.

* Delete and recreate connection – Try deleting and recreating/reestablishing the wireless connection, sometimes a setting can be corrupted and this may fix it.

* Create a new Network Location – Similar to the above suggestion, try creating a new and different wireless network location to see if it resolves the connection problems.

* Change DHCP auto settings to manual – sometimes there is a problem with the DHCP server, and if you manually set an IP address on the network you can be fine. Remember to set the IP to a high number so it wouldn’t interfere with other DHCP machines. As long as you have the subnet mask, router, and DNS settings configured manually as well, this shouldn’t be a problem.

* Disable “Wireless G/N/B only” mode – Sometimes a setting is selected that only broadcasts your wireless signal in Wireless B, G, or N mode (depending on the routers abilities). If this is set, try disabling it.

* Flush the DNS cache – Launch the Terminal and enter the following command onto one full line within the Terminal:
dscacheutil -flushcache

Mac Wireless Connection Problem Troubleshooting: Advanced

* Zap the PRAM – Reboot your Mac and hold Command+Option+P+R during restart until you hear another chime, let the Mac boot as usual.

* Delete Wireless Config files – Delete com.apple.internetconfigpriv.plist and com.apple.internetconfig.plist files from ~/Library/Preferences and reboot

* Trash your home directories SystemConfiguration – Remove all files within ~/Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ and then reboot your Mac.

* Reset your Mac’s System Management Controller (SMC) – For MacBook and MacBook Pro’s: Shutdown the MacBook/Pro, remove the battery, disconnect the power, hold the Power Key for 15 seconds. Replace the battery, reconnect power, and zap the PRAM and wait for 2 chimes before letting the keys go. Let boot as usual.

Many of these tips are from our fixing dropped wireless airport connection problems in Snow Leopard article.

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Posted by: David Mendez in Mac OS X, Troubleshooting

40 Comments

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  1. Bromana says:

    VERY useful guide, bookmarked for when my wireless connection craps out, thank you.

    this is what i used before from apple, which is practical but not as technical but still helpful:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1401

  2. Mac Wireless Problems? Guide to Troubleshooting Airport & Wireless … Trackback says:

    [...] posted here: Mac Wireless Problems? Guide to Troubleshooting [...]

  3. [...] Troubleshooting Mac Wireless Problems [...]

  4. Keith McBeath says:

    I tried all of the above when I suddenly had wireless issues both in the office and in my house. I later found that if my macbookpro was sitting beside the router (still wireless) it worked ok but if I moved any more than a metre away it lost connection. I checked out iFixit and found a detailed guide on how to replace the Airport Extreme card. It cost about £25 from Amazon and took about 10 minutes to fit. Wireless issues gone, everything working beautifully. Hope this helps anyone with the same issue.

  5. Marc says:

    My brand new macbook suffered from randomized wifi connection drops. I changed my router from WEP to WPA and the incident was solved. According to the Dutch apple helpdesk engineer, WEP & Macbook wifi can give some problems.

    • mirekzocalima says:

      The US support guy concurred with the Dutch support guy: it is the wireless, stupid! Took me a couple of nights, just like back in the day when setting up wireless on linux notebooks required extensive literature search. Eventually, I gave up and called up the support.

      I have MBP 15″ and 13″ and 15″ worked w/o a problem, while dealing with 13″ was a nightmare: connection would randomly drop, then I could not start the Airport, had to reboot, etc.

      The fix is simple: your wireless encryption needs to be WPA2/AES. In my linksys router (Firmware Version : v4.20.7 ) that is under Wireless/Wireless Security, Security Mode: WPA2 Personal, WPA Algorithms: AES. The original post mentions changing WPA to WPA2, but the key may be the encryption algorithm.

      In the rep’s words, both MBPs should live happily ever after with this fix, no need to do anything strange. With it, he also said the browsing experience should be faster.

      I hope this tip helps.

      • Glenn says:

        After trying absolutely everything else, this appears to have worked for me. I have a Netgear CVG824V3 cable router through Optus Australia. Thanks for sharing.

  6. [...] Here is a good article on troubleshooting your Mac OS X wireless networking at osxdaily.com [...]

  7. Tim says:

    2 macs one will see the others wireless network, but other can not, any ideas.

  8. Ash Nagar says:

    hi!

    sub – trouble with airport showing no airport card installed

    i jus read through this as im currently having troubles with my airport…but i dint find or may b i jus didnt get if there was any solution to the problem im facing ….

    it shows that the airport card is not installed…that really weird…and plus when i restart my laptop i have to restart it 3 or more times to get the airport working again…and sill it works only for about 30 mins…the last ting i got to know was restarting the laptop while holding ‘Cmd+opt+P+R’ but its still the same.

    plzz….plzzz help…i cant find any solution anywhere

    ash

  9. Ash Nagar says:

    ohh and yaa…my laptop is macbook 10.6.3…and also plzz lemme know…while installing windows7 do i have to get my machintosh HD, documents, download files and any other files in my laptop.

    ash

  10. [...] recently needed to install some Mac OS X Software Updates on an older machine that couldn’t connect to the internet. This means the option to just go to the Software Update installer built into Mac OS wasn’t [...]

  11. JBS says:

    I had wireless connection issues on 2 machines that I upgraded to Snow Leopard. The issue that fixed it for me was deleting the “Modem Connection,” which no longer existed on my new Core 2 duo macs. All internet connections are imported onto your new mac when you use Migration Assistant. Another solution might be not to import the internet connection settings when migrating or upgrading. Anyway, I hope this helps others who’ve had problems. I know how frustrating it is to have a brand-spankin’ new machine that can’t connect to the damn internet.

  12. Sandy says:

    Hi – have upgraded to snow Leopard 10.6.4 and my local wifi network share drops every time I boot my iMac (2006 core duo Intel) – just bought a nice swanky new MacBook Pro which I like to connect to my iMac’s internet connection (ethernet) via Airport – but I have to toggle the internet sharing off and on again on my iMac for my local wireless network to work. There’s heaps of blogs on this and obscure settings which don’t really work or stay working – is this a bug in 10.6.4 that we just have to put up with?

    • emmech says:

      Not a bug! Careful what you utter. There are no bugs in Mac. Only features.

      If it is any consolation, I have a similar problem that just wont go away. I’ve tried everything on every support blog.

      Luckily, I have a 5 year old Sony Vaio that I recently upgraded to Windows 7. Works just fine.

      I’ll probably throw the my 2 year old Mac Book Pro out of my 27th floor window pretty soon.

  13. [...] or setting up a LAN. If you’re encountering trouble with your Macs wireless check out these troubleshooting tips for Mac wireless problems. Sometimes you’ll want to set a manual IP address on your Mac and that isn’t difficult [...]

  14. bks says:

    OS X 10.4.11 – After moving to a new apartment, my wifi mysteriously no longer worked. I reset the internal settings in the router, but my Mac would not connect. Worked through this list top to bottom, and, after the very last troubleshoot, I now have super fast, working wifi.

    Thank you so much!

  15. Alice Dixon says:

    After suddenly losing access to the Internet, I turned off the router and modem. But still no access. I noticed that my husband’s Acer PC had no problem, so it had to by my Powerbook G4 (OSX 10.5.8). My husband suggested I leave it alone for a while, so I took a shower and got dressed. When I opened the lid, I discovered a message saying there was an update for my Microsoft Mac Office 2004 and did I want to install it. I said yes. The update was downloaded and installed. After that, I had no trouble accessing the Internet. I suspect some sort of connection. If so, I wish Microsoft would warn me ahead of time.

  16. Kevin says:

    Very nice troubleshooting guide.

    Solved all my problems, THANKS.

  17. Gravem says:

    Thanx allot! This finally got my macbook pro back online after almost a week offline. All the other gadgets still had a connection, so it had to be a local issue. It worked after i Deleted the Wireless Config files and trashed the home directories SystemConfiguration.

    a +1 to your page :)

  18. [...] Line, Mac OS X – May 31st, 2011 – Leave a Comment Sometimes the easiest fix when troubleshooting an AirPort wireless connection problem is to just turn AirPort on and off. Instead of using the menu item or System Preferences, we can [...]

  19. Conor says:

    Hi there i had the same issue but managedto solve the issue. It was the firewall on the laptop the was stopping the redirection that occures when you log into the hotels website. So i basically added the ips of the hotel as safe and then it was ok.

  20. Curtis says:

    Please help me!! I brought 27″ iMac early this year
    And I’m having problems with my wireless network
    I have a virgin modem and a netgear g wireless router
    My virgin modem and router is upstairs in the bedroom
    And my iMac is out in the office, I can get a connection
    Sometimes but 85% of the time I lose it. What can I do!
    do I need a new wireless router or something? Please help me!! Thankyou

  21. kimie says:

    I am having problems using the “internet sharing” feature of my macbook. I have internet through a USB modem/dongle, ISP is verizon. Internet is fine on my macbook. I want to use internet sharing so I can get my ipad and roku box on the internet. Went through the steps and set up “internet sharing” just fine. created a network and password. My devices see the network, are prompted for a password, and connect successfully. But no internet signal is transmitted!
    firewall is off…
    I noticed the IP that airport was getting starts with 169. Tried to manually change it to 10.0.0.1 or the IP address of the USB modem itself (starts with 75.)
    nothing seems to get the internet working. Spent so many hours searching for an answer! can anyone please help?

  22. [...] of these tips are borrowed from our Mac wireless problems troubleshooting guide, which is an excellent resource with many more solutions and fixes if the following tips [...]

  23. Nigel Green says:

    I have been searching for 2 weeks on fixing my wi-fi issues. I knew it was in my Mac and not the router as others on the router were OK. This is only article I found that went into sufficient depth to fix my Mac. I only needed to reset my PRAM but this is well and truly bookmarked. Thanks

  24. Peter Druska says:

    Try to set different channel for your AirPort wifi because of bluetooth. I have Magic TrackPad and my wifi was dropping down all the time on my iMac with Mac OS X Lion. If I turned off bluetooth, wifi goes like Schumacher.

    So I set my 2.4 GHz wifi to channel 13 (from 1) and everything is going well.

  25. [...] You can also mouse-over other SSID’s to see a slightly more condensed version of this information. All of this can be helpful for avoiding potential channel conflicts, or when troubleshooting wireless problems. [...]

  26. Ashley says:

    So useful thank you!

  27. Pinch says:

    Thanks! the “dscacheutil -flushcache” got me out of trouble.

  28. kemila says:

    This was very useful. I went down two of the advanced list yesterday and got it working. But today l lost wifi again. This time nothing works. is it possible that some chip is fired in the phone?

  29. quasar neutron says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am having lots of problems in connecting to the internet, and it seems to be because of the IP address.

    I am connected to the internet via a wireless modem extender. Yesterday we contacted the ISP and reconnected and reset everything, and all the computers associated with the modem were connected and working fine. The router/modem address is 192.168.1.254.

    This morning I try to connect to the internet and it won’t connect saying that I have no IP address.
    Nothing has changed since yesterday as far as the computer’s settings are concerned.
    It seems to be something to do with the modem and how it assigns IP addresses. It frequently changes the subnet mask from 255.255.255.0 to 255.255.0.0

    I have two Mac (Leopard and Mountain Lion) and a PC laptop.
    I know how to go into network preferences and assign a manual IP address or use DCHP.

    My Lion Mac has the internet and Skype etc, all working fine.

    On my PC, which wouldn’t connect this morning, despite the connection working fine yesterday and leaving the connection on all night, I have alternated between allowing the computer to set the IP address automatically or putting in an address manually.
    I changed the setting to assign an address manually, then went into an advanced tab somewhere and selected something that enabled NetBios over something else. That seemed to fix the problem at the moment, but I can’t find that option anymore to be more specific about what I did. And there’s no saying that tomorrow, I won’t be back with no internet connection again!

    On my Leopard I erased the hard drive and reinstalled all the software yesterday set up everything, and the internet was working fine. This morning I can’t connect again. There is some problem with the IP address it seems. I have gone into the ‘Advanced’ option a hundred times and tried alternatively to set the IP address manually or chosen the DCHP option and selected renew lease. I’ve compared it with my Lion Mac and chosen an IP address that is different (e.g., my Lion Mac has 192.168.1.14, my PC has 192.168.1.12), so I chose for my Leopard 192.168.1.150. The message on the Sys Pref windows says I am connected to the internet, but I can’t access anything using Safari or anything else.

    I have gone through this same procedure a hundred times over the last few days. I sometimes am able to get the internet for a while, but then it stops working.

    When I look up m IP address on the internet and try to use that number it doesn’t work. My Leopard IP address was different this morning than what it was last might when it last worked. Last night I assigned an IP address (as above), then chose automatic DCHP. When I do that it just chooses the same number I put in. But this morning, after my Leopard had been put to sleep last night with everything working fine, when I woke it up it had a different IP address, one beginning with 168 I think.

    What is happening?!!!

    • paul says:

      Try using manual DHCP as you are, and try using custom DNS too. Google DNS of 8.8.8.8 is often very fast.

      This sounds like an issue with DHCP assignments from the router / extender. If your ISP will swap it out as leased equipment that may be worth a try, particularly if the problems are intermittent and effect random computers at seemingly random times.

  30. quasar neutron says:

    Hi Paul,
    thanks for your help – this is driving me crazy as I don’t have any idea what I’m doing or what anything means.
    Anyway, I’ve tried what you suggested – I entered a manual address using 192.168.1.13, and the clicked the DNS tab and added 8.8.8.8. and entered google in the domain window, and – wonder of wonders! it works, (for now at least)
    I have no idea what all this means (what are all those little numbers about? curiouser and curiouser said Alice)
    Anyway, I am very grateful thank you.
    And as an added question is the fact that I have 3 computers with IP address 192.168.1.12, 192.168.1.13 and 192.168.1.14 likely to cause problems and should I change the last numbers to e.g., 14, 150,250?
    thanks again paul
    quasar

    • Paul says:

      As long as the computers have unique IP addresses within the acceptable range it shouldn’t matter what they are, you just want to make sure they don’t conflict with each other.

      DHCP issues can be very frustrating, they auto-assign from a router and sometimes are known to cause conflicts by either assigning the same IP, or by not issuing proper DHCP data. Often the best solution for that is to use manual DHCP settings and manual DNS settings, which sounds like it worked for you, but if you can replace the router that could possibly resolve the problem as well.

      Anyway, glad you’re up and running now, cheers!

  31. quasar neutron says:

    Hi paul,

    I’ve just received a message on my leopard saying that the IP address is in use by e0:f8 etc, etc, so I guess it does matter.
    I’ve change the last number on my leopard to 100, and now I can’t access the net again

    quasar

  32. jono says:

    Hi, I am having a strange problem with my mac and my home wifi system. I tried to connect to my modem via the cable. It jammed my mac. It then wouldn’t restart until i wentinto safe mode and disabled my wifi from auto switching on. I have since tried connecting to other wifi networks and no problem..I just can’t connect to mine, even though my tablet, phone, girlfriends laptop can…So it is just a problem between Mac and the modem…Maybe it want to set up a connection when I used the direct cable ( I don’t know ), but because it froze my mac it couldn’t finish ..All I know is, that whenever I try to connect now…It jams my mac up and I have to cut my mac with the on/off button….Please is there Anyway I can clear my wifi memory or something…It’s very strange as my modem and mac seem to work fine witness other networks/devices…any ideas on what could Be?

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