Too many Wi-Fi networks? Bad connections? Fix it!

If you travel with a MacBook you will probably have connected to many different Wi-Fi networks. OS X remembers each one and the list grows and grows. Is it too long? What are the implications?

Storing the configuration details of a large number of wireless networks is unlikely to be a serious problem, but who knows? If you have an old MacBook or you have travelled a lot, there could be dozens of stored networks.

Most people that use a MacBook out of the office or home will have connected have a number of Wi-Fi hotspots - home, work, cafes and coffee shops, hotels, train stations, airports, and so on. There could be dozens of networks stored on the Mac.

It is an easy task to tidy up the Wi-Fi network list. In addition to deleting ones you will never use again, you can also set the order of Wi-Fi networks and this determines the order in which the Mac will try to connect.

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Suppose for example, that at home, work or your favourite coffee shop, there are two or more wireless networks in range. If your MacBook can connect to both of them, which one should it use?

One may be better than then other, one may be your home network and the other is your next door neighbour’s, there may be two networks in your workplace, public and private networks and so on.

By removing unused Wi-Fi network details and setting the order of the remaining ones, the Mac will make the right connection and not the wrong one. It will examine each Wi-Fi network in the list and see if it can connect to it, so by placing one above another, you determine which the Mac will connect to.

1 Open System preferences

Go to the Apple menu and click System preferences. Find the Network icon and click it.

Apple Mac System Preferences

2 View the network

The current network is displayed and you can see the network name and set options like Automatically join this network and Show Wi-Fi status in menu bar. Click the Advanced button.

OS X System preferences

3 Edit the list

The list of wireless networks is displayed and you might see some that you have never used. Places that you have never been to with your MacBook! Where have they come from? Don’t panic, iCloud Keychain in OS X and iOS means that the networks you connect to are shared among all your computers, iPhone and iPad.

You probably connect to way more wireless networks with your iPhone and you may never use them again, such as that holiday you went on, the hotel you stayed at, the cafe you visited and connected using your iPhone to read your email while enjoying a meal or drink.

There could be a lot of junk in that list. It can be tidied up by selecting Wi-Fi networks you do not use and clicking the minus button below.

Apple Mac opreferred networks

What is the worst case scenario of deleting a network you actually need? Instead of the Mac connecting automatically you will have to click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and select it. You will also need to enter the password if it is a protected network, so don’t delete wireless networks to which you have forgotten the password!

4 Rearrange the order of networks

OS X looks for networks in the order in which they appear in the list. Click and drag a network higher up the list to ensure it is selected in preference to another one.

Apple Mac network settings

This means that in locations where there are two or more networks, the one higher in the list will be connected to and the other will be ignored.

 

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