How to Fix a Mac with WiFi Problems and Dropping Connection

Macs, like any computer, are vulnerable to losing their Wi-Fi connections. If you have reset your router, found that other devices are connecting to it, and your Mac is still refusing to go online, then it’s pretty certain that the issue stems from the Mac itself. This article will cover adjusting packet size, resetting the PRAM and SMC, reconfiguring the DNS, changing location, and deleting and re-adding the WiFi configuration.

Wi-Fi Switching Off After Sleep Wake

This one’s a common problem for Mac users, where the Wi-Fi disconnects when the Mac wakes from sleep. Here’s a possible solution:

Go to the “Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Network”. In the left-hand pane, click Wi-Fi, then “Advanced” in the bottom right corner.

Fix Wifi Mac Advanced Options

On the next screen, select every network in the list using Command + A, and use the ‘-‘ icon to remove them all.

Fix Wifi Mac Select All Networks

Back in the main Network window, click the Locations dropdown, then the ‘+’ icon and give the new location a name of your choice. Click Done to use this location from now on.

Fix Wifi Mac New Location

Finally, reconnect to your home Wi-Fi network. With a bit of luck, it should stop disconnecting upon Sleep Wake from now on.

Disconnect USB and Wireless Signal Devices

fix-mac-wifi-problems-disconnect-usb-devices

Before moving onto the nitty-gritty methods of fixing your Mac’s Wi-Fi woes, there’s something simple you can try that might just solve everything. Quite a lot of Mac users have reported that disconnecting certain USB 3 and USB-C devices has solved their problems. So the first thing to try is disconnect your USB devices one by one and see if the Wi-Fi comes back.

Why does this happen? Certain USB devices emit wireless signals that can interfere with the Wi-Fi, while devices like USB hubs have been known to outright disable the Wi-Fi port (sort of like how plugging in an ethernet cable automatically disables Wi-Fi).

So unplug all your devices, then observe whether your Wi-Fi returns after removing a particular one.

Reset the NVRAM/PRAM and SMC

I first started having connection issues while running macOS Sierra’s public beta. Of course, start by restarting your Mac to see if this resolves the issues. Otherwise, try to reset the PRAM (Parameter Random-Access-Memory) / NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random-Access-Memory) and the SMC (System Management Controller). These are the portions of your Mac that control basic operations critical for basic system function.

PRAM/NVRAM

1. Press and hold the power button on your Mac to completely shut it off. Hard discs and fans need to stop spinning, and the screen needs to go dark.

2. Power on your Mac.

3. Immediately after you hear the startup sound, press and hold the Command + Option + P + R keys.

4. Keep holding them down until you hear the start up sound again and see the Apple logo.

5. Release the keys, and the PRAM/NVRAM will have been reset.

SMC

This process will vary heavily depending on whether or not your Mac is a desktop or laptop and if it has a removable battery or not. Apple covers this process quite heavily.

The following attempts at getting back online will all require you to begin with your Mac’s “Network Settings.” To get there:

1. Click on “System Preferences” from the dock, or click it from the top-left Apple logo’s drop-down menu.

2. Click “Network” from the newly-opened window.

mac-connect-internet-network

Reconfigure the DNS

DNS stands for Domain Name Server, which essentially changes web addresses that we are able to read (e.g. www.google.com) to IP addresses that the server can understand. This acts as a “phone book” of sorts for the Internet. Sometimes your service provider’s given DNS will not work properly, in which case we can use safe and free publicly available DNS options like Google’s.

1. Click “Advanced.”

mac-connect-internet-advanced

2. Select “DNS” from the network settings.

3. Click the “+” icon.

4. Type 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4 into the box and press Enter (these are Google’s DNS options).

5. Click “Okay.”

mac-connect-internet-google-dns

Now try to surf the Web.

Adjust Packet Size

Are some pages loading just fine and others failing completely? This could have to do with the amount of packets that are able to be transmitted. In layman’s terms, this is the amount of data able to be transmitted over the network. We can adjust the value so that certain sites are able to load.

1. Click “Advanced.”

mac-connect-internet-advanced

2. Start by selecting “Hardware” in network settings.

3. Change the “Configure” setting from “Automatic” to “Manually.”

4. Change MTU from “Standard (1500)” to “Custom.”

5. Add the value “1453” into the box and press Enter. Click “Okay.”

mac-connect-internet-mtu

Try surfing the Web a bit to see if this was able to solve the issue.

Change Location and Renew DHCP Lease

Sometimes the automatic location determined by your Mac will not get settings 100% correct, in which case we can set up a custom location and settings that go along with it. This is where we can also renew a DHCP lease and IP address. DHCP is a protocol for arranging IP addresses, and changing that can make sure traffic is being directed accordingly. Now after all of that tech jargon, here is how to do it.

1. Again in network settings, click “Edit locations” from the drop-down menu where “Automatic” is currently selected.

2. Click the “+” icon and name this new “location.” You can name it literally anything you would like; the name itself does not affect anything. Press Enter and click “Done.”

mac-connect-internet-new-location

You will now notice that “no IP address” appears under WiFi on the left menu bar.

mac-connect-internet-no-ip

3. Click “Advanced,” then “TCP/IP” from the menu bar.

4. Click “Renew DHCP Lease.” A new IP address will be assigned.

5. Click “Okay” and try to surf the Web.

mac-connect-internet-renew-dhcp

Conclusion

Hopefully one of these steps were able to get you online. If not, drop a comment below and let us know.

10 comments

  1. I’ve tried all of your suggestions- each worked for one or two searches then I was right back where I started. I have been absolutely in love with my mini MAC until this. This computer is just six months old and I’m so frustrated!
    Any other ideas?

    1. Hi G.
      I had the problem too, and i think that has to do with that i have two wifi spots in my house and the macbook keeps searching for this other wifi-airport.
      This seems to work: Network preferences > unclick ‘Ask to join new networks’

  2. Is there no solution if my wi-fi loss problem is related to a USB-C connection? I just discovered today that my 2019 MacBook Pro loses wi-fi connection to my modem when I plug in my USB-C to USB3 adapter that then connects to my USB3 to eSATA adapter. I just bought this eSATA adapter from OWC so I could connect an OWC external drive and am now discovering this frustrating wi-fi anomaly. The external drive doesn’t need to be powered on for the wi-fi to drop. I lose it either way. I’ve had this laptop and USB-C to USB3 adapter for just over a month and have had no problems with them. With this new eSATA adapter in the mix, wi-fi connection to my home network modem is lost around 5 seconds after plugging in both adapters. My wireless signal is strong, so it’s not that or my modem. If I instead connect to my iPhone personal hotspot through my Verizon network, THAT wi-fi signal works fine. Changing the computer location in my home doesn’t help. It’s somehow all related to this eSATA adapter and my home network signal. The two adapters connected together must emit some signal that blocks my connection. Is it static electricity? Maybe if I rub them both down with a fabric softener sheet it might help? Ridiculous! Electronics can be so frustrating sometimes I wonder if I’d be better off switching back to pencil and paper.

    1. I tried wrapping my eSATA adapter and its cable connections in aluminum foil. That appears to have worked! My wi-fi signal stopped dropping out. No more problems. Weird, wild stuff.

    2. Another solution that works is moving my problem connection to a right side port on my laptop. I had my eSATA connection on the left side and APPLE says the left side near the lid hinge is where it picks up wi-fi signal. They say moving to the right side any USB connections that emit signal interference can clear wi-fi problems because it’s as far away as possible from the wi-fi antenna. It does! I don’t need the aluminum foil wrap around my eSATA adapter when its plugged in on the right side. Apparently, wi-fi signal interference from USB-C connections is a very common occurrence with newer MacBook Pros. See this APPLE article – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201163. I hope this helps anyone experiencing wi-fi problems.

  3. I think my MacBook Air is finally not having connectivity issues. I reconfigured the DNS and changed the packet size (two of your above recommendations) and I didn’t drop WiFi all evening, actually got to watch an entire movie for once with no interruptions!! Thank you so much!!! 😊

  4. Does a lot of you have problems with the wifi connectivity on your macbook pro 2019?
    I just bought this and I’m thinking that they must’ve made this new one with poor antenna. That’s the only con about it but everything else is fine. Debating whether to buy a different laptop rather than this one…

    Any suggestions? I’m thinking of Surface book 2 from Windows.

  5. MacBook Air Sierra still drops connection.

  6. I think it’s fixed!
    I started having problems with my iMac about 2 months ago, both wireless and wired (ethernet). Essentially I would drop connection on average about every half hour and require me to renew the DHCP lease in the network setup page. I checked everything hardware-wise (cables provider, etc.) and even changed routers. I tried some of the recommendations in this article as well. Nothing helped and I was very frustrated. Recently I read an article on anti-virus programs are now needed for Macs just like PC’s. I never thought I needed one for the Mac, but I guess times have changed, and virus, trojans, ransomware, and other threats are becoming more prevalent on the Mac platform. Anyway , after some research, I decided to buy BitDefender and after a complete system scan, it found over 20 threats. Since their removal, last week I have not experienced any connection issues. As nothing else seem to resolve my connectivity issues, I’m glad I installed an anti-virus program after all this time, even if it’s only partially responsible for the fix.

  7. Greetings Mike,
    I changed the “DNS” to the suggested Google DNS and viola, my wifi is working like a charm. I also cleared the P/RAM and the many listed networks from the Network Preferences window. Well done Mike as I very much appreciate your sharing these insights and cures. Sites like these remind me of the golden era of the Web, when peopled shared more and complained less.
    I’m using a 2013 MacBook Pro with High Sierra.
    All the best and gain, thank you,
    Eric

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