Fixing Wi-Fi “Connection Timeout Occurred” Errors on Mac OS X

May 14, 2016 - 28 Comments

How to fix for Mac connection timeout error occurred

Connecting to wireless networks is pretty much mandatory these days, particularly now that most Macs only have wi-fi cards and no built-in ethernet, and so it can be incredibly frustrating to be unable to join a wi-fi network. Typically when you can’t connect to a particular wi-fi router on a Mac, you’ll see the error message “A connection timeout occurred” or “Failed to join network – a connection timeout occurred” either when trying to join a network or when the Mac is attempting to auto-join a wifi router and it fails.

If you see that error message, you should be able to resolve the connection timeout issue by following the steps outlined below.


The troubleshooting steps covered here apply to any and all Macs using nearly any version of Mac OS X, whether it’s on a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, Air, or whatever else you’re using. Note you’re going to be removing wireless networking preferences as part of this sequence, which alone can reliably resolve stubbornly problematic wi-fi issues, but as a side effect you will lose customizations to wireless settings in the process. Thus, if you set custom DNS or specific DHCP or TCP/IP settings, be prepared to make those changes again.

How to Resolve Mac “Connection Timeout” Error Messages with Wi-Fi Networks

Before anything else, you should reboot the wi-fi router that is having a hard time connecting. Sometimes just turning a router off and back on again is sufficient to resolve connection difficulties.

  1. Turn off wi-fi on the Mac by going to the wireless menu and choosing “Turn Wi-Fi Off”
  2. Turn off wifi

  3. Eject and disconnect any Thunderbolt or USB drives or disk peripherals that are attached to the computer (I know this sounds weird, just do it)
  4. Disconnect any External Hard Drives temporarily

  5. Next to to the Finder in Mac OS X and create a new folder, call it something like “backup Wi-Fi files” so that it’s easy to identify and put it on the Desktop or another easy to access location
  6. Open a new Finder window, then hit Command+Shift+G to bring up “Go To Folder” (you can also access this from the Go menu), entering the following path:
  7. Go to the Wifi settings folder on Mac
    /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/

  8. Select the following files in this directory, and copy them to the “backup Wi-Fi files” folder you made in the third step by using drag and drop:
  9. com.apple.airport.preferences.plist
    com.apple.airport.preferences.plist-new

    com.apple.network.identification.plist

    NetworkInterfaces.plist
    
preferences.plist

    Copy the wifi files to a backup location

  10. Back at the “SystemConfiguration” folder with the aforementioned files selected, delete those files by dragging them to the Trash (you will need to authenticate to make this change)
  11. Now reboot the Mac as usual by going to the  Apple menu and choosing “Restart”
  12. Restart a Mac

  13. When the Mac boots back up, go to  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and select the “Network” preference panel
  14. Choose ‘Wi-Fi’ from the side menu, and click the “Turn Wi-Fi On” button, then pull down the “Locations” menu and choose “Edit Locations”
  15. Click on the + plus button to create a new network location, name it something obvious, then click “Done” and using the Network Name menu item choose to join the wi-fi network as usual
  16. Create a new network location

  17. Authenticate and login to the router as usual, the wifi network connection should establish without incident and without a connection timeout error
  18. Close out of System Preferences (Choose Apply when asked about network settings) and enjoy your wi-fi connection

Wi-fi connection timeout error is fixed and works again on Mac

Once you have established a wi-fi connection, you can reconnect any USB drives, Thunderbolt drives, USB flash disks, or other peripherals back to the Mac again – why this sometimes impacts wi-fi connections is unclear but for whatever reason, perhaps due to a bug, disconnecting them as part of the sequence usually resolves any connection failed and connection timeout issues.

After the wireless connection is shown to be working as intended, you can trash the ‘backup Wi-Fi files’ folder that was created in this process – the reason we kept those is so that if there is a problem and things are somehow worse (which is incredibly unlikely), you can quickly swap the files back into place again and at least return to the prior point. Of course if you regularly back up your Mac like you should with Time Machine, that’s less of a necessity, but it’s still good practice.

Did this resolve your Mac connection timeout problems? Do you have another trick to fix the issue? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

28 Comments

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  1. Brian says:

    Can we get this rewritten in English? Example follows……….

    “Note you’re going not be removing wireless networking preferences as part of this sequence, that alone can reliably resolve stubbornly problematic wi-fi issue”

    • The King Donald says:

      Brian, you are loser, a total loser, the biggest loser. Ok? A jerk, a loser. Probably the biggest loser jerk there is, ok? This, this is the truth. I’m not making this up folks. I’m not the one who said it, ok? Science, there is science out there, science studies ok? I’m not a scientist, but there are scientists studying this, ok? Probably the best scientists folks, the most beautiful scientists. These scientists, everybody loves them, they’re beautiful. The best science. Ok? And this is what the science says, ok? And they say, the science says that guys like Brian, they are jerks. Total losers. That’s what they say, ok? Not what I’m saying, it’s what the scientists say. They say Brian is a jerk. A real loser jerk. A bigly jerk. Sad!

      http://www.sciencealert.com/people-who-constantly-pick-up-grammar-mistakes-are-kinda-jerks-scientists-find

      Now we, the rest of us, not Brian the Loser, Loser Brian, you ever meet this Loser Brian guy? Forget about him, he’s a jerk. Us, we are going to win this, and we are going to win it bigly. Bigly folks, we are going to win it, bigly. Ok?

      King Donald is here. King Donald is the best, the bestest beautiful best, ever. King Donald is so best that you will be begging King Donald, King Donald please can we be less best sometime? And I’m gonna say no, King Donald is the best and going to be bestly the best.

      Get out there and vote folks.

      • Bernard says:

        The scientists need to do a study regarding those who criticise those who criticise grammar…

        Or maybe on those who comment on the need for a study on those …

      • Paul says:

        Please stay on topic (wi-fi troubleshooting), thanks!

      • Charlie says:

        Here in the USA we have a MAJOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE who talks EXACTLY like this. Many people missed the joke, but that is the joke.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for catching the typos!

  2. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Very helpful thanks. I reset my router and turn wifi off and on and it usually works. I will use this when it doesn’t. Thanks.

  3. mike says:

    All worked OK but I didn’t get the big thumbs up thing is that OK?

  4. Del says:

    Thanks for such clear instructions. So far, so good, but I can’t find my com.apple.network.identification.plist. Even Spotlight can’t locate it.

  5. Arf says:

    Love your information keep it up. And if ignore little King David he obviously has numerous insecurities and the only way for him to feel BIG is to put everyone else down little David there was s a complex named after you

  6. John G says:

    When did Apple start deleting Ethernet from Macs?
    Just mobile devices like iPads, Air,etc or all Macs?
    First no dvd now no Ethernet! Are they mad?

    • ablonoi says:

      The MacBook Pro require a “Thunderbolt to Ethernet” adapter, the MacBook Air requires a USB to Ethernet adapter, and the MacBook with it’s whopping 1 port total requires a USB-C to Ethernet adapter but then you can’t have the Mac connected to a power source at the same time. How very convenient.

      Can’t wait to see how they hobble the new MacBook Pro in June in just a few weeks, will we get 1 total port? Maybe 2 ports? Wow how generous! How very “Pro!”

    • That weird relative says:

      I’ve heard they also plan to remove floppy drives and parallel ports.

      I won’t be able to save nor print anything anymore.

      Madness, this is madness…

  7. Zoomer547 says:

    Great article. Thanks so much. But I must be doing something wrong. How do I get the big yellow thumbs up?
    I do everything according to the instructions but It’s not telling me that it’s working with a thumbs up?
    Help!

    • io europa says:

      If your wi-fi is working you did it right. The big yellow thumbs up is emoji attached to the picture to demonstrate the wi-fi is working, it is not a confirmation. It’s photoshop.

      If your wi-fi didn’t have a problem, you don’t need to run through this to begin with.

  8. Edward says:

    This worked for me – although the situ was a little different.
    WiFi connection looked normal and “internet reachable” shown, but no internet connection via any browser on 10.11.5 Knew internet connection from router was ok because IOS/iPad had no problems…
    So followed your procedure. The list of files to copy/delete was not exactly the same but most there or had similar names.
    After reboot, new location etc browsers connected and all worked fine. So maybe this workaround has broader application and fixes other WiFi/internet connection problems.
    Thanks!

  9. Francois Lacoursiere says:

    It worked perfectly for me. The WIFI at my GF was so problematic. I kept getting connection timeouts constantly and your procedure totally fixed it up.

    On my side, I did not have the file com.apple.network.identification.plist


    Thanks

  10. Rachel says:

    Sometimes I have trouble with my MacBook connecting to our new house’s WiFi, so I’ll have to make sure I give this a try next time. Thanks for sharing the tips!

  11. Trisha says:

    You are a genius and so kind for posting this. I have been without consistent Internet access ever since I moved into my new roommates home. This worked like a charm thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!

  12. Urubu says:

    Genious!!!!

  13. Anne R says:

    Hi, thanks for the fix! It works great, only I have to repeat this every time my computer has gone to sleep… Does that suggest a specific issue that could be resolved permanently?
    Thanks!

  14. Sammy says:

    Worked like a charm!! Thanks

  15. Sigita says:

    The best – quick and permanent solution.

    Love you from all my heart!

  16. Eryn says:

    This didn’t work. Tried three times. Still “connection timeout”

  17. Topps206 says:

    Had to replace wifi extender and kept getting the “connection timeout” with the new unit. Did as the article states, and iMac now connects to the new extender. I was going crazy trying to get done what I thought was a simple replacement. Thank you very much.

  18. Amazing fix thank you so much

  19. Tom says:

    I have to do this EVERY time I turn my mac back on. I know this is an old thread but do you have any idea how to prevent me having to follow these instructions every time I log on?
    They work brilliantly but it getting tedious now haha
    Thanks in advance

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