Mac Won’t Connect to Wi-Fi? 9 Steps to Get Back Online
Connecting your Mac to a Wi-Fi network is usually easy. You click the Wi-Fi icon, select the network you want to join, and enter the network’s password if necessary.
However, this process might not always go according to plan. We’ll walk you through connecting your Mac to a Wi-Fi network, even when it doesn’t want to connect properly.
1. Confirm Proper Network Operation
The first troubleshooting step is to check whether your Wi-Fi network is working normally. The simplest way to do this is to try connecting with other devices.
If another device manages to connect, you know your Mac is the culprit. However, if other devices also can’t get online, that’s a sign your Wi-Fi network has a problem.
In case your Wi-Fi network isn’t working correctly, try the following tips:
- First, you should try rebooting the Wi-Fi router. Switch it off, wait for a minute or so, and then switch it back on. In many cases, this will resolve the issue.
- Next, make sure your router’s cables are connected properly. If they are, try connecting the router using a different cable, as the current one could be faulty.
- If neither of these actions works, you should try contacting your internet service provider (ISP). Perhaps there’s a network outage in your area. Contacting your ISP lets them investigate and send an engineer if necessary.
2. Check Range and Interference
When connecting your Mac to Wi-Fi, ensure it isn’t too far from the router. Likewise, make sure your router is in an appropriate location. You should place it away from obstructions, like thick walls. It’s best to put it in a central location of your house or apartment; avoid putting it at an edge.
You should also make sure your router is free from other kinds of interference. Don’t put it near electric cables, cordless phones or video cameras, microwaves, or anything that might transmit an electrical signal.
Some users also report that switching off Bluetooth can help since Bluetooth signals might interfere with Wi-Fi. These are just a few reasons your Wi-Fi can be so slow.
3. Review the Obvious
If you’re confident nothing is wrong with your network or router, you can restart your Mac to see if it resolves the issues. Sometimes leaving your Mac on for too long might cause certain processes to act up and interfere with your Wi-Fi connection.
Next, you should check whether your Mac’s Wi-Fi is actually turned on. You can see this by clicking the Wi-Fi icon on the right side of the macOS menu bar. If it’s on, it will display the Wi-Fi symbol as normal, with arcs inside it. When Wi-Fi is turned off, this symbol appears blank or with a slash across the icon.
If it’s off, select the blank Wi-Fi symbol and click the toggle to ensure it’s blue (on). Your Mac will then display available networks and connect automatically to any network it knows. If there aren’t any known Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity, you’ll have to select one manually.
Lastly, ensure that you’ve chosen the correct Wi-Fi network. Perhaps you can’t connect because you’ve selected the wrong network. You should thus click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and select your Wi-Fi network from the dropdown menu that appears.
4. Update macOS
Checking for software updates is always wise when you have system issues. If you have a new version of macOS ready to install, upgrade your Mac’s operating system and see if that fixes your problem.
Here’s how to update your Mac if you’re running macOS Ventura:
- Go to the Apple menu and choose System Settings from the dropdown.
- Select General on the left pane and click Software Update on the right.
- Your Mac will search for an update.
- If there’s an update available, click on Update Now.
For those running macOS Monterey or older, we have a guide on updating your Mac’s software.
5. Forget Your Wi-Fi Network
Another troubleshooting step is making your Mac forget the Wi-Fi network you’re having problems with.
Do this by opening your Mac’s network preferences, as described below:
- Open System Settings on your Mac.
- Select Wi-Fi from the left pane, then click Advanced on the right.
- Look down at the list of Known Networks.
- Click on the more icon indicated by three dots inside a circle and choose Remove From List.
You’ll then have to reconnect to the Wi-Fi network manually. So, click the Wi-Fi icon on the right side of the menu bar and select the network you want.
6. Change Your Wi-Fi Router’s Channel
Routers connect to the internet using one of several Wi-Fi channels. Sometimes your router’s current channel suffers from interference or congestion. Because of this, changing your Wi-Fi channel can help when you experience connection problems.
To change the channel you’re using, you need to find your router’s IP address. To do this, follow the instructions in the below section to access the TCP/IP tab of the settings for your network. There, you’ll find your router’s IP address next to Router.
You should then copy and paste this into your browser’s address bar. This lets you log into the router to manage it; to do so, you’ll need to enter its password. If you don’t know your password and haven’t changed it, you can likely find the default password with a Google search of your router model.
The exact layout of your router’s configuration will vary by model. However, you generally have to go to a Wi-Fi settings page and find the channels list. From there, just select the channel you’d like to use.
7. Check Your TCP/IP Settings
Your Mac’s TCP/IP settings define how it communicates with other devices. It’s therefore worth checking them if your Mac won’t connect to Wi-Fi.
In particular, renewing your DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) lease can get your connection working again. That’s because it’s responsible for assigning IP addresses to your Mac.
Here’s how to renew it:
- Connect to the Wi-Fi network.
- Launch System Settings, select Network, and click Wi-Fi.
- Open Details on the Wi-Fi you’re connected to and choose TCP/IP in the following window.
- Click Renew DHCP Lease.
- When the prompt appears, click the blue Apply button.
- Click OK to close the sub-window.
8. Change Your DNS Settings
DNS is the system used to match website domain names with IP addresses. Sometimes, changing the DNS servers your Mac uses can help you connect to the web. Changing your DNS settings can even speed up your connection. And given that several public DNS servers are available, this is relatively easy to do.
If you use macOS Ventura, you can’t change your DNS server through System Settings without connecting to a Wi-Fi network first (you don’t have to be able to access the internet). Follow these instructions if you manage to connect to one:
- Click the Apple logo in the top left of the menu bar and launch System Settings.
- Hit Wi-Fi and click Details.
- Choose DNS in the sidebar in the open sub-window.
- Use the plus (+) sign to add any of the DNS servers in the table below.
If you’re on macOS Monterey or older, you can use the Terminal workaround instead:
- Press Cmd + Space, type Terminal, and hit Return to launch it.
- Enter the following command into the command line, but feel free to replace 126.96.36.199 with any of the other DNS servers in the table:
networksetup -setdnsservers Wi-Fi 188.8.131.52
- Input a password if you’re prompted.
There won’t be any confirmation, but the DNS will change.
9. Check Your VPN and Relevant Cybersecurity Software
While VPNs protect your online security and privacy, they may also be why you can’t connect to any Wi-Fi network. Sometimes VPNs could misbehave and force your Mac to look for Wi-Fi networks in the pseudo IP address, or they could generally block Wi-Fi traffic.
You can disable your VPN in System Settings:
- Launch System Settings and select Network in the left pane.
- Open the VPN menu and toggle off your VPN service.
Also, you can disable your VPN through the respective app or use the status menu from the menu bar if your VPN client has one.
10. Run Wireless Diagnostics
macOS has a built-in wireless diagnostics tool that can help scan your Mac’s wireless services and generate a report.
Launch Wireless Diagnostics by searching for it in Spotlight (Cmd + Space). Follow the onscreen instructions, and it will generate a log you can use when you’re trying to troubleshoot the problem with an IT professional or your internet service provider.
11. Perform an SMC and NVRAM/PRAM Reset
For Intel-based Macs, a simple restart may not be enough; you might need to perform an SMC and PRAM/NVRAM reset to fix your Wi-Fi issues.
Doing this resets all stored configuration data for hardware and information about your Mac’s settings, like your preferred startup disk, speaker volume, and network.
If none of the above solutions work, you should try contacting your ISP or your network administrator. Hopefully, this isn’t necessary since the above steps cover almost every Wi-Fi problem scenario. They’re also worth trying if your Wi-Fi connection is a little slow.
However, as a last resort, you might want to get your Mac or router checked for any hardware failures. So, feel free to book an Apple Store appointment at a Genius Bar, especially if you live close to one.