How to Fix Mac Wi-Fi Problems and Dropped Connections

A bunch of network cables.

Like any computer, your Mac can be vulnerable to Wi-Fi problems and dropped connections. In this article, we show you some troubleshooting steps to take if your Mac’s Wi-Fi stops working. We cover adjusting your packet size, resetting the PRAM and SMC, configuring the DNS, changing location, and deleting and re-adding the Wi-Fi configuration.

Diagnose Your Mac’s Wi-Fi Problems

A good place to start when looking at Mac Wi-Fi problems and dropping or lost connections is to diagnose the issue. The native macOS Wireless Diagnostics tool can be quite helpful.

You can open it in a few ways: through Spotlight or by holding the Option key and opening the Wi-Fi settings within the Control Center.

The Open Wireless Diagnostics link.

You can follow the wizard here for some basic pointers, but there’s a little-known set of reports and analytics within the window drop-down in the menu bar.

The Performance Report option.

A useful report here is Performance. This will open a graph that shows the transmission rate, signal quality, and noise level on your Wi-Fi network.

In many cases, the transmission rate and signal quality impact each other. You can improve your signal by positioning your Mac closer to your router. It’s a simple solution to a sometimes complex problem.

If your noise levels are high or spiking, try finding a better Wi-Fi channel. Alternatively, log in to your router settings through your browser and change from the 2.4GHz to the 5GHz band.

Solutions to Mac Wi-Fi Not Working After Sleep Wake Cycle

This is a common problem for Mac users. After the computer wakes from sleep, the Wi-Fi won’t work or the connection keeps dropping.

One possible solution involves the “System Preferences -> Network” menu. In the left pane, select “Wi-Fi,” then click the “Advanced” button in the bottom-right corner.

The macOS Network pane.

On the next screen, remove every network in the list. First, select them using Command + A, then click the minus (-) icon to remove them all.

Deleting networks from the Mac.

Click OK, then click the “Locations -> Edit Locations” drop-down menu in the main Network screen. From here, choose the Plus “+” icon and give the new location a name of your choice. Click Done to use this location from now on.

The Locations menu.

Finally, reconnect to your home Wi-Fi network and check whether this does indeed fix this frustrating Mac Wi-Fi problem.

How to Fix Your Mac Wi-Fi Problems

Below are several different solutions for when your Mac won’t connect to Wi-Fi. They’re not in any specific order, so feel free to choose one that looks like it may help with your issues. Though, if the first option you try doesn’t work, the next one might. As such, check out every fix here.

1. Restart Your Mac

Before getting into more complex solutions, try restarting your Mac to see if this resolves the problems with your Wi-Fi dropping. If your Mac connects to the Wi-Fi after it restarts, it could be a temporary glitch.

2. Disconnect Your USB and Wireless Signal Devices

This is a simple troubleshooting method. You could get things back up and running by disconnecting any USB3 and USB-C devices on a temporary basis.

As such, the first thing to try is disconnecting your USB devices one by one to see if the Wi-Fi comes back.

There’s a simple reason why this could be a solution: some USB devices emit a wireless signal that can interfere with your connection. Devices such as USB hubs can also disable the Wi-Fi port. This is similar to how a plugged-in Ethernet cable can disable your Wi-Fi connection.

3. Reset the NVRAM/PRAM and SMC

If your Wi-Fi still keeps disconnecting or dropping after you try the first two steps, look to reset the Parameter Random Access Memory (PRAM) / Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) and the System Management Controller (SMC).

These are the areas of your Mac that control basic operations that are critical for basic system functions. However, you won’t be able to do this for Apple Silicon machines, as they don’t have an SMC. The equivalent is to turn the machine off, wait 30 seconds, then boot back up.

For Intel machines, there are a couple of steps you can take. Let’s start with the PRAM. There are five steps here, and they’re straightforward to carry out:

1. Press and hold the power button on your Mac to completely shut it off. You should wait until the screen goes dark and all fans stop spinning. At this point, you can power on your Mac again.

2. Once you see the startup routine and sound, press and hold the Command + Option + P + R keys. Hold them until you hear the startup sound and see the Apple logo.

3. Once you release the keys, the PRAM/NVRAM will be reset.

As for Macs with SMC, this process will vary depending on whether your Mac is a desktop or laptop and whether it has a removable battery. Look up your particular Intel machine to find which process you should follow.

4. Reconfigure the DNS

In layman’s terms, the Domain Name Server (DNS) converts IP addresses into readable web addresses (such as “maketecheasier.com”). It’s akin to a phone book of sorts for the Internet. This step will only address Internet connectivity issues, assuming your Mac can connect to your Wi-Fi network.

However, sometimes the given DNS for a service provider won’t work properly. You can test this theory with a free public DNS. There are a few providers, but Google and Namecheap have solid solutions.

Here, we’re using Namecheap’s public DNS or 198.54.117.10. To do this, head to the Network screen again and click the “Advanced” button. This time, select the DNS tab.

The DNS tab.

From here, click the Plus “+” icon to add a new DNS server, then add the IP address.

Adding a new DNS server.

When you’re ready, click OK, then monitor your connection for any issues.

5. Adjust Packet Size

If only some pages are failing to load, it could be down to the number of packets (or “data”) that can transmit across the network. We can adjust the value to let all sites load without fail.

To start, head to “System Preferences -> Network -> Advanced.”

Next, select the “Hardware” tab.

The Hardware tab.

You’ll see two options. First, change the “Configure” setting from “Automatic” to “Manually.” This will let you alter the MTU setting. Choose “Custom.”

For the MTU value, enter “1453” into the text field and confirm your changes.

Changing the MTU value.

You’ll have to monitor the performance and connection, much like reconfiguring the DNS, to ascertain whether these changes resolve your problems.

6. Change Location and Renew DHCP Lease

Sometimes the automatic location determined by your Mac isn’t correct. In these cases, we can set up a custom location and settings, along with renewing the DHCP lease and IP address. As DHCP is a protocol to help you arrange IP addresses, changing this can help make sure traffic goes to the right location.

To do this:

1. Enter the Network panel within macOS and access the “Edit locations” option from the “Locations” drop-down menu.

2. Click the Plus (“+”) icon and give your location a new name. It won;t affect the results, so it can be anything you like.

Adding a new location.

3. You’ll notice that “No IP Address” appears under the Wi-Fi option in the panel on the left.

The Wi-Fi option on the Network pane.

4. Head back to the “Advanced” screen, then to the “TCP/IP” tab.

The TCP/IP tab.

5. Click the “Renew DHCP Lease” button and assign a new IP address to your machine.

Browse the Web and monitor your performance and connection, before trying another option in this list.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any third-party tools that can help me resolve my Mac Wi-Fi problems?

The Mac’s own native tools are often perfect for diagnosing Wi-Fi problems, so we wouldn’t suggest you go premium as a matter of course. However, you could analyze your network using solutions such as NetSpot or WiFi Explorer.

Most solutions will be quick to implement, though, so we’d only recommend a third-party solution if you have long-term issues that are difficult to root out.

2. Should I buy a new router to fix my Mac’s Wi-Fi problems?

In many cases, you won’t need to buy a new router. Your settings will be the way to resolve a problem nine times out of ten.

However, you may want to extend your connection through a Wi-Fi extender or Mesh network. If you live in a large house or have thick walls, this is a good idea anyway, regardless of whether you have problems.

Wrapping Up

Given how much time we spend on the Internet, it’s important to have it running almost all of the time. When it goes down, it can stop everything in its tracks. However, Wi-Fi problems don’t take long to diagnose and fix, especially when you use the native tools to analyze your system. If you do need to buy a new router, we can help you choose one.

With your Mac Wi-Fi fixed, it’s time to start using your computer like you’re meant to. See our list of simple drawing apps for Mac, and our guide on 3 ways to reveal the path of a file on Mac.

Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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