Mac WiFi Guide: From Setting Up a Router to Finding a Lost Password

Mac WiFi Guide: From Setting Up a Router to Finding a Lost Password

mac wifi


In today’s digital society, there’s very little that can’t be done online. As valuable as our Macs are, the Internet is indispensable today. We use it to do everything from running a business to working from home to browsing the Internet. Additionally, a reliable online connection lets us download apps, documents, and photos, send and receive email, catch up with family, shop…and the list goes on and on.

Lots of people like you and I rely heavily on our trusted Macs to help us do all those things. This guide will show you how to set default WiFi on Mac, help you make the best connection with your Wi-Fi, and help you get online - and stay online. This guide will also show you how to analyze your Mac’s Wi-Fi connections for troublesome issues, recommend troubleshooting Wi-Fi on Mac solutions, and provide valuable tips for how to improve Wi-Fi’s performance on a Mac. Keep reading to find out how to connect to the Internet world via your Mac.

System & Setup

Setting Up A Router For Wi-Fi

Let’s start by getting a router set up. The following setup instructions will help you get your Wi-Fi connection up and running on your Mac quickly and easily using Apple's AirPort Utility. Start by plugging your Airport Base Station into an outlet and connecting your modem to your AirPort with an Ethernet cable. Launch the AirPort Utility on your Mac. Now follow these steps:

  • Click Other Wi-Fi Devices
  • Click Other Options
  • Select Create A New Network and click Next
  • You’ll be prompted to enter a Network Name and a Base Station Name

pick network name

(You can leave the defaults in place if you prefer)

  • Enter your password
    (You can choose one password for your Wi-Fi network and to configure the AirPort, but having separate passwords provides added security
  • Click Next
  • Click Done 

How To Configure WiFi On Mac

To get Wi-Fi set up on your Mac, follow these directions:

  • Click the Wi-Fi icon 
  • Click Turn Wi-Fi On
  • Click the name of your Wi-Fi
  • Enter your password
  • Click Join
  • Your Wi-Fi status will now read Connected

Passwords & Permissions

wifi password

How To Set Up or Change A Wi-Fi Password on Mac

The Wi-Fi password that comes with your router is likely to be a string of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols you’ll never remember in a million years. You can change it to something that’s hard to hack and much, much easier to remember. Your Wi-Fi router’s default network name and password are printed on a sticker the outer case of your router. To change it, you have to access your router’s administrative interface.

How to change WiFi password on mac

Locate Your Router’s IP Address

  • Find your router’s local IP address on your network by clicking the Apple menu in your Mac’s OS and selecting System Preferences
  • Click the Network icon
  • Select your Wi-Fi connection
  • Click Advanced
  • In the TCP/IP, locate therouter’s address to the right of Router

router address

Access The Web Interface

  • Open your browser and type the IP address from above into the address box
  • Press Enter
  • Enter the router’s existing (default) username and password

Change The Wi-Fi Network Name and Password

  • Now that you’re logged into your router, look for the Wi-Fi settings

(Try searching in sections named, Wi-Fi, Wireless, or Wireless Networks)

  • You’ll see either SSID or Network Name
  • To change your Wi-Fi password, look for settings named password

(It might also be called Passphrase, Wireless Key, or WPA-PSK Key

  • Enter your new Wi-Fi network name and password
  • Click Apply

Your Mac will disconnect when the router shuts down and restarts itself. Don’t forget to reconnect your Mac and all the other devices – like your smartphone and tablet – that rely on your Wi-Fi using the new Wi-Fi name and password you’ve just created.

A Word of Caution: Choose your new password carefully. Try using a longer wireless password or phrase versus a single word that anyone might be able to guess. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers that mean something to you, but would be difficult for others to guess.

How To Find Wi-Fi Password If You Forgot It

When you misplace your Wi-Fi password, buy a new Mac and need to get it online, or just plain forget your password, there are a few things you can do to recover it. For example, you can probably find the original password on your router or you can reset the password to give yourself access. Here are a few more ways to get that password back:

How to Find Your WiFi Password on Mac

To recover a saved Wi-Fi password on a Mac, open the Keychain Access app. Next, press Cmd+Space, and type Keychain Access. Next, hit Enter. Select the Passwords category and look for the name of the Wi-Fi network. Then, right click on the Network Name, and select the Copy Password To Clipboard option. Alternatively, you can right-click the network name, select Get Info, and then check the Show Password box. Make sure you’re signed in as the administrator because you’ll need to enter your Mac’s username and password.

find password

Find the Password on Your Router

You might be able to find the Wi-Fi password on your router, assuming you didn’t change it from the factory default settings. It’s usually printed on a sticker and fairly easy to locate on the side or bottom of your router, itself.

Reset Your Router and Password

If all else fails, you can reset your router to its factory defaults and use the password provided. Of course, you’ll have to set your Wi-Fi up all over, again, but just go back to the first page of this guide and we’ll walk you right through that process. That’s typically done by finding your router’s reset button and pressing and holding it with an unbent paper clip or straight pin for ten seconds.

A Word of caution: This will definitely erase your current password and restore your router to its full factory defaults, but, hey, you’ll be able to use it, again.

Changes & Consequences

How To Delete WiFi Network On Mac      

Want to delete a Wi-Fi network? Here’s how to do that in a few simple steps:

  1. Head over to System Preferences by following this path: > Network > Wi-Fi
  2. Click Advanced
  3. Click Wi-Fi
  4. From the list of Preferred Networks, select the wireless network you want to delete
  5. Click the minus sign (-)
  6. Click OK
  7. Go to Settings > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced
  8. Click Apply
  9. Your Wi-Fi should be removed at this point. If you deleted this Wi-Fi because you’re upgrading or adding a new one, head back to the top of this guide for help getting the new one up and running.

remove wifi network

How To Change WiFi Channel On Mac     

Changing the channel you're on can help your Wi-Fi run more quickly and smoothly. Open the Scan tool from your Windows menu in Wireless Diagnostics. If you notice that your router is operating on the same channel as other routers, you can change it manually. Try to choose a channel that’s not occupied by your neighbors.

In your web browser, type the IP address of your router. Don't just move it to the next available channel, however. Check your routers manual or online support option for specific directions on how to change the channel. You might also try configuring your Wi-Fi network channel to automatic, so it routinely selects the best channel on its own.

Run Apple’s diagnostics by shutting down your Mac. Turn it on while pressing and holding D. On the next screen, choose your language, then watch as the progress bar indicates that your Mac is being assessed. If problems are found, Apple Diagnostics will suggest the best solutions for how to run Wi-Fi diagnostics on Mac computers.

Change the DNS setting for your network – but only if you’re super confident in your IT skills! Start by backing up your Wi-Fi preference files. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!! Find Wi-Fi preferences by opening Finder, then:

  • Choose Go > Go To Folder and type: /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/
  • Locate the following files and drag them to clearly labelled backup folder on your Desktop:
    • NetworkInterfaces.plist
    • preferences.plist

going to folder

Now reboot your Mac and reconnect to your Wi-Fi.

How To Create A WiFi Hotspot On Mac

From hotels to coffee shops to libraries to airports to schools, Wi-Fi is readily available almost everywhere we go nowadays. Sometimes, though, we all find ourselves in need of Wi-Fi when one of those locations is unavailable, their Wi-Fi is overloaded or experiencing downtime, or you’re in one of those hotels that charges an arm and a leg for Internet access.

A Wi-Fi hotspot option is part of the Internet Sharing feature on your Mac that allows you to share WiFi on Mac with friends and colleagues. Check for it in the System Preferences window, then take these steps on how to share Wi-Fi on Mac:

  • Click on the Apple menu
  • Select System Preferences
  • Click the Sharing icon
  • Select Internet Sharing from the options list
  • Choose the Internet connection you want to share with other devices
  • Enable the Wi-Fi option in the To Computers Using box
  • Doing so will create a Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Click the Wi-Fi Options button to configure your Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Select your preferred network name
  • Click the Security Box
  • Select WPA2-Personal
  • Provide a password (unless you’re okay with anyone nearby to using your hotspot)
  • Click the Internet Sharing checkbox
  • Click Start to activate your Wi-Fi hotspot

share internet

A Word of Caution: Your Mac can’t be connected to a Wi-Fi network and host a Wi-Fi network at the same time.

Troubleshooting & Testing

What To Do If Your Wi-Fi Doesn’t Work

Whether you’re wading through business or personal emails, working on client research, or trying to Netflix and chill, nothing is more aggravating than WiFi not working on Mac. Wi-Fi not working correctly can make it hard to connect, hard to stay connected, or cause your Mac’s browser to run annoyingly slowly. Try these quick solutions to get your Wi-Fi back in working order.

  • Make sure you’re running the latest version of Apple's software
  • Make sure you’re following Apple's Wi-Fi recommendations
  • Reboot your router by disconnecting it for 30 seconds, then plugging it back in

Need more comprehensive help? Try using Apple's Wireless Diagnostics

  • Click Cmd + spacebar to open the Wireless Diagnostics
  • On the menu, click Window > Performance
  • Click Continue to run a report

The three resulting graphs will tell you the transmission rate, signal quality, and signal level of your Wi-Fi connection.

  1. The top graph displays the data rate of your wireless network in Mbps. You want the rate to be consistent, rather than seeing dips and drop-offs.
  2. The Quality level displays the ratio of signal to noise over time. What you want to see a relatively straight line with just a few small spikes.
  3. The Signal graph displays the signal strength and noise levels in dBM. Look for a signal strength of -60 and -10dBm and a noise level below -75dBm.

What To Do If Wi-Fi on Mac Is Slow

WiFi on Mac slow? Been there. Done that. A slow Internet connection can aggravate the best of us. Wi-Fi speed on Mac matters – especially when you’re trying to be productive. Take heart! Here are a few ideas for speeding up your Wi-Fi so you won’t feel like you’ve travelled back to the days of dial up.

Start by unplugging your router, waiting 30 seconds, and plugging it back in. The router will reset itself and that might solve your problem. If you weren’t lucky enough for that do the trick, try these solutions.

  • Check your network preferences by going to the Apple menu, choosing System Preferences > Network, and clicking Assist Me. Select Diagnostics, then choose your connection type and click Continue to run a speed test.
  • Make sure your setting is secure by enabling wireless security to ensure your entire building or whole neighborhood aren’t slowing you down by using your Wi-Fi connection. Turn on the security settings on your router – you can find specific instructions for doing so in your router’s manual – and selecting the highest security level and a password.
  • Try cleaning up your Mac to increase its overall speed. Check out my reviews on a variety of programs, apps, and software that help clear your Mac of unnecessary, large, and duplicate files that might be causing your computer to run sluggishly. Also, try clearing out your browser cache to help speed up your Wi-Fi connection.

How To Run Wi-Fi Diagnostics

Occasionally, you might need to run a Wi-Fi- diagnostics analysis to assess any wireless connectivity issues. Running a wireless diagnostics analysis won’t change your network settings, it will simply provide a guide for making necessary changes and adjustments. Here’s an easy way to do that so you can get back to work:

  1. Quit any open apps
  2. If you’re not already online, try to connect to the Wi-Fi network you’re having issues with
  3. While holding down the Option key, click the Wi-Fi status icon
  4. Choose Open Wireless Diagnostics
  5. Enter your user name and password
  6. Click Ok
  7. Click Continue
  8. Step by step onscreen instructions will help you analyze your network connection

wifi diagnostics

Once the Wireless Diagnostics is complete, it will show you an analysis of your Wi-Fi network, list the issues it finds, and offers suggested solutions. Your system automatically saves a diagnostics report before it displays its troubleshooting summary. You can easily recreate that report any time you need it by holding down the Option key and selecting Create Diagnostics Report from the Wi-Fi status menu.

Your Mac will generate this report in mere minutes and save it to the /var/tmp folder of your startup drive. You can also open the folder by following this path: Go > Go to Folder from the Finder menu bar, then enter /var/tmp. This comprehensive report describes your Mac’s wireless environment in detail so you (or a network specialist, if you have one) can decide on the need for further analysis.

These tips and techniques have helped me setup Wi-Fi on Mac, know what do to when the Wi-Fi on Mac is not working, how to disconnect from WiFi on Mac in order to add a new router or repair any damage to your router or system, or get around the aggravation when the Wi-Fi on Mac keeps dropping the signal. You should now have the tools at your disposal to get your Mac up and running on Wi-Fi and get your world spinning correctly on its axis.

Thanks for reading all that!

thank you


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