set a default wifi connection

If you live in a busy neighbourhood, your wifi connection will likely be one of many. This means when you are trying to connect to your own wifi, your computer may try to connect to other ones first. The simplest way around this problem is to set a default wifi connection so it goes to that one only.

Here is how to do it on a MacOS computer.

Set a Default Wifi Connection In System Preferences

Go to the Apple logo in the top-left hand corner of the screen and choose “System Preferences“.

macos system preferences

Now go to Network.

On the next screen, you will see the wifi connection you are currently on. Mine has been smudged out for security reasons. At the bottom left, click the padlock and enter an administrator password.

Then click the “Advanced” button on the right hand side.

Dragging Your Wifi Connections In Order Of Preference

The first tab you will be taken to is the “Wifi” tab. This is the one you need to add wifi networks and remove unneeded ones. If you have more than one network stored, you can also rearrange your order of preference here.

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is something which says “Drag networks into the order you prefer”. So if you have more than one network stored in the window, you can set a default wifi connection by dragging it to the very top.

When you connect to wifi, your computer will attempt to connect to the wifi network at the top of the list first. If it fails for whatever reason (poor connection, no connection, etc), it will move to the next one in the list (if any).

Adding Wifi Connections

If your desired wifi connection is not listed in the “Preferred Networks” window, then you will need to add it manually.

Click on the plus button underneath the “Preferred Networks” window.

That then pops up this box. Type in your network name and the security protocol and click “OK“. To prove you are authorized to access this network, you will also have to log in with the network password.

Another way to add a network is to click the “Show Networks” button shown above. Clicking that will bring up this box.

Once again, I have covered over the wifi networks for the local area. Somehow I don’t think my neighbours would appreciate me broadcasting their wifi networks on a website.

This list will have your network. Click on it and then click “Join” at the bottom. Sign in to access the network, if a password is required (and it SHOULD be).

Removing Wifi Connections

When you start using your Macbook on a regular basis, you are likely to log into a lot of wifi networks. Yours, friends, family, hotels, Starbucks, etc. These all get stored in the “Preferred Networks” window shown above.

When you try to connect to wifi, it will go through this list of stored connections and try to connect to one of them. To connect faster to your preferred network, you should routinely delete the networks you no longer need.

To delete a network, click on it with the mouse or trackpad. Then click the minus button underneath the box.

Once you have done everything, come back out of the “Preferred Networks” window and click the padlock to save your changes.

Conclusion

How to troubleshoot your wifi connection on MacOS is something I looked at, not so long ago. But sometimes wifi connection issues can be a simple case of deleting unneeded ones and setting a default wifi connection. Sometimes you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill
Freelance journalist and editor living in Würzburg, Germany. Former Managing Editor of makeuseof.com (2007-2013), and contributing writer for other sites such as PC World and Quiet Light Brokerage. Specializing in online security and privacy issues.