Solve Wi-Fi problems with Wireless Diagnostics for OS X

Black wireless routerWireless networks are brilliant - when they work. Mostly they do work perfectly well, but there are occasions where something isn't right and you have a poor connection or none at all. You can't get on the internet and you might not even be able to get on the Wi-Fi network. What can you do?

Determining what is wrong is not easy, but if you are struggling to diagnose the cause of a wireless networking problem, there is a secret utility buried in OS X that can help. It can analyse the Mac's configuration and the network settings, and then offer advice and help on how to solve the problem. It might not be useful in every situation, but it is still a tool you should try.

The best place to start when trying to solve networking problems is the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen. Do not just click it though, hold down the Option key on the keyboard and then click it. This displays a lot of hidden options and information that are not normally revealed. Here is an example of the sort of information you can see on this menu:

Secret Wi-Fi menu in OS X

Notice that you can see useful information like the type of network (PHY Mode: 802.11g), the channel (6), the network frequency (2.4GHz), the security (none), and the transmit rate (54 - mbit/s). Restarting the router can sometimes help and some modern models can check if there are other networks using the same channel and they switch to another one that isn't so crowded. Try restarting the router and see if if shows a new channel in this hidden menu.

Down at the bottom of this menu is Open Wireless Diagnostics. This is a handy tool that can help with Wi-Fi network problems. Click it and wait a minute while it does its magic.

Wireless Diagnostics in OS X

It asks questions like, 'Where is the router located?' and 'What is the make and model of the router?' You don't have to enter any information, but it is helpful if you can. When it has finished analysing the Mac and the network, the Wireless Diagnostics app shows a summary. In this example there are four items:

Wireless Diagnostics results

At the right-hand side of each of the topics in the summary is a question mark. Click it and the app shows more information about the problem. Clicking the Custom DNS Settings question mark above shows this:

Wireless Diagnostics suggested fixes

It reveals that the default DNS settings supplied by the router are not being used and that this might be causing a problem. It then goes on to provide a step-by-step guide to fixing this.

The information provided by Wireless Diagnostics can be useful if you aren't sure what might be causing a network problem. Run it and see what it says the next time your Wi-Fi isn't working properly. It is a good place to start when troubleshooting.

Related: Use these hidden apps on your Mac to solve network problems

 

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