Before we get started
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A fast and reliable Internet connection is something that’s easy to take for granted, but if your Mac loses Internet access, then you’re definitely going to notice.
If your Mac is suddenly unable to connect to the network, then this usually means there’s a problem with your Internet provider, your router, or an issue with your Mac’s hardware or software.
In this article I’m going to help you pinpoint why your Mac isn’t making the connection, and cover the steps you need to take, in order to fix this problem and get back online.
Are you connecting to the “right” network?
Double-check that your Mac isn’t trying (and failing) to connect to the “wrong” network.
If you use your Mac in different locations, or regularly switch between Wi-Fi networks, then there’s a chance that your Mac might be attempting to connect to a network that simply isn’t available in your current location.
If you recently installed a new version of macOS, or downloaded an app that has a networking element, then there’s a chance this might have affected your Wi-Fi settings. Even if it seems unlikely, it’s always worth clicking that little ‘Wi-fi’ icon in your Mac’s menu bar, and checking exactly which network your Mac is attempting to connect to.
Check your network settings
Have you recently made any changes to your network settings? If you added extra security features, such as a Firewall or a new password, then you won’t be able to connect to this network until you update your Mac’s network settings.
If you share your network with other people, then you should also check whether anyone else has modified the network settings.
Test your router
Check that your router is switched on, connected surely to a power source, and isn’t displaying any error or warning lights.
The strength of your Wi-Fi signal can fluctuate, so if possible move your laptop closer to the router, to check whether the problem is the strength of the signal, rather than the network being unavailable.
If your Mac does connect once you’ve moved it closer to your router, then there’s several ways that you can boost the signal that your Mac is receiving:
- Re-think where you use your Mac. For example, relocating your desk to a room that’s closer to your router. Physical barriers, such as walls, and even other electrical appliances can interfere with your signal, so even changing your Mac’s position within a room can have a noticeable impact.
- Move your router. If you can’t relocate the router itself, then take a look at where your router is positioned in the room. In particular, metal can block a router’s signal, so even increasing the distance between your router and a nearby radiator may be enough to resolve your connection issues.
- Purchase a Wi-Fi extender, repeater or booster. These devices can increase the strength and the reach of your Wi-Fi network.
If there’s nothing visibly wrong with your router, and moving your laptop closer to the router doesn’t have any effect, then try rebooting your router:
- Turn your router off.
- Disconnect it from the power source.
- Wait for at least 30 seconds.
- Re-connect the power, and restart the router.
Could the network be to blame?
Have your smartphone to hand? You can use your mobile data to check whether the problem might lie with your Internet provider.
Increasingly, Internet providers have a dedicated page where you can enter your telephone number or postcode, which will bring up any problems in your area, for example BT’s Service Status page.
Most major Internet providers have a customer services Twitter account where they post updates about known outages, so it’s also worth checking Twitter for any information. While you’re on Twitter, you may want to check whether anyone else is complaining about their Internet connection, for example you could check the tweets that are being sent to @BTCare, or search for tweets containing phrases such as “BT downtime” or “BT connection.” Alternatively, you could head over to DownDetector and search for your Internet provider, which will reveal any issues that other people have reported.
Finally, you could go oldschool and ring your Internet provider’s custom services department, which is often the best way of getting a definitive answer about potential downtime!
Is the problem actually with your Mac?
If you have another Wi-Fi enabled device to hand, then you can check whether the problem lies with your Mac, by attempting to connect to the network using this second device. If this device connects without any problems, then you’ll know that your Mac is at fault.
There’s a few tricks that can help kickstart your Mac into connecting to a Wi-Fi network:
1. Turn it off, and then on again
Toggling your Mac’s Wi-Fi off and then back on again, forces macOS to re-scan for available networks, which may be enough to resolve your problem:
- Click the little ‘Wi-Fi’ icon in your Mac’s menu bar.
- Select ‘Turn Wi-Fi off.’
- Wait a few moments.
- Click the ‘Wi-Fi’ icon again, and then select ‘Turn Wi-Fi On.’
- Keep the menu open, so you can verify that your Mac is trying to connect to the “right” network.
If this doesn’t work, then try turning your Mac’s Wi-Fi off, rebooting your Mac, and then turning the Wi-Fi back on.
2. Forget the network
You may get some success from forcing your Mac to forget the network, and then re-adding it as a “new” network.
- Navigate to ‘System Preferences… > Network.’
- Select ‘Wi-Fi’ from the left-hand menu.
- Click the ‘Advanced…’ button.
- Select the network you want to forget, and then select the little ‘-’ button.
- To re-add your network, select the ‘+’ button.
- Click ‘Show Networks.’
- Select the network you want to re-add, and then click ‘Join.’
- Enter the network’s password, if required, and then click ‘OK.’
3. Disable Bluetooth
Some users have reported being able to connect after turning off their Bluetooth, so if your Mac’s Bluetooth is currently enabled then you should try disabling it:
- Click the ‘Bluetooth’ icon in your Mac’s menu bar.
- Select ‘Turn Bluetooth Off.’
If the Bluetooth icon isn’t visible in your Mac’s menu bar, then you can access your Bluetooth settings by navigating to ‘System Preferences… > Bluetooth.’
You should now be able to disable your Bluetooth connection.