Fixing Wi-Fi “Connection Timeout Occurred” Errors on Mac OS X
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.
- Turn off wi-fi on the Mac by going to the wireless menu and choosing “Turn Wi-Fi Off”
- 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)
- 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
- 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:
- 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:
- 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)
- Now reboot the Mac as usual by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Restart”
- When the Mac boots back up, go to Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and select the “Network” preference panel
- 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”
- 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
- Authenticate and login to the router as usual, the wifi network connection should establish without incident and without a connection timeout error
- Close out of System Preferences (Choose Apply when asked about network settings) and enjoy your wi-fi connection
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.