Help! I’m having network issues
If your Wi-Fi seems slow or unpredictable, try these simple fixes
Most home broadband routers are configured to work right out of the box on their default settings.
However, sometimes we fiddle with settings when we’re trying to make things work and then forget to put them back again afterwards. And if you have had the same router for several years, it may be using out of date protocols. So let’s start with a look at the network settings that Apple recommends. To open the configuration panel of your router, enter the numeric IP address of your router into Safari’s address bar – usually ‘192.168.1.1’ but if that doesn’t work, go to the Network preferences pane, click Advanced, then click the TCP/IP tab. Your router’s address will be listed there. Every manufacturer’s router displays the settings in a slightly different way but normally there’ll be an ‘Advanced’ or ‘maintenance’ page that requires you to enter a username and password. If your router is still using the default password, your first job is to change it. If a hacker managed to connect to your router and access the admin page, they could reconfigure it to, among other things, redirect all your web searches.
The SSID is the name of the wireless network as it appears to other devices. This should be unique to your router. Most modern routers append a serial number to the name to make sure it is unique, such as SKYA123B. But there are still some routers using generic names. If two routers with the same name are in range of each other, your Mac can end up trying to connect to the wrong one, resulting in stalled network connections for you. The SSID should also be in ‘broadcast’ mode. Hiding the SSID doesn’t do anything to improve security because it’s very easy for hackers to grab it anyway, just by listening to network traffic.
False sense of security
MAC address filtering is also often mistakenly used as a security feature. The Media Access Control address (not related to the Apple Mac) is a unique serial number built into the hardware of every network device. Most routers will allow you to forbid specific MAC addresses from connecting, or alternatively only allow connections from a list of known MAC addresses. But this is just a convenience for network administrators. It is very easy for hackers to fake their MAC address, so you shouldn’t rely on it for security. In fact, all the security you need comes from the wireless encryption protocol, which should be set to WPA2, also sometimes called ‘WPA2 Personal’. This is the strongest encryption protocol available for Wi-Fi. If you have some older (pre-2004) hardware that doesn’t support WPA2-PSK, you can set your router to WPA/WPA2 mode, which will use WPA2 on anything that supports it, and the slightly less secure WPA to connect everything else. What you shouldn’t use is WEP. This protocol can be cracked in a few minutes using widely available hacking tools, so WEP security is essentially the same as none.
Now that we have AirDrop, moving the occasional file between your Macs and iOS devices is much easier than it used to be. But if you still have older Macs in your stable, you can occasionally come up against the old ‘There was a problem connecting to the server <foo>’ error message. The main text of the error message implies that the other computer might not be available or you might have its IP address wrong, when you know for a fact that the details are correct because it was working just yesterday. This is actually a
problem with the network discovery mechanism that OS X uses to see other computers on your local network. To shake it into action, you need to turn off Wi-Fi by clicking its icon in the menu bar (or go to System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi) and then turn it back on again. Then choose Go > Connect to Server in Finder and enter the numeric IP address for the computer. If it’s a Mac, the address should begin with afp:// and for Windows machines use smb://. Once you have connected manually like this, your Mac should be able to exchange files with the other computer normally.
Yosemite sometimes seems to stall at the start of loading a new web page, but then once the first page on that site loads, all the links within that site open much more quickly. This can be fixed by changing your DNS server. Normally when you type ‘apple. com’ into the address bar, Safari tells your router to contact the DNS server provided by your Internet Service Provider, which then converts the domain name into a numeric IP address that computers can understand. You can partly short-circuit this by supplying a DNS server address toOS X directly. Go to the Network preferences pane and click Advanced. Click the DNS tab and then the + button at the bottomleft to add a new server. Enter ‘18.104.22.168’ and ‘22.214.171.124’ (without the quotes), which are DNS servers provided by Google. Click OK, then Apply, and restart Safari. You should see an improvement in your page loading times.
Finally, if you think your settings are correct yet you still experience connection problems, try deleting your network preference files. In Finder, click Go > Go to Folder and enter ‘/Library/Preferences/ SystemConfiguration’. Drag the following five files to Trash: com.apple.airport.preferences.plist; com.apple.network.identification. plist; com.apple.wifi.message-trac er.plist; NetworkInterfaces.plist; and preferences.plist.
When you restart your Mac, all of these files will be recreated with default or auto-detected values, which may be enough to get you back up and running.
If you don’t know your router’s IP address, you can find it in the Network preferences pane.
Every router’s configuration page looks slightly different, but they all have essentially the same basic settings, including IP address ranges and Wi-Fi security protocol. Narrowing the range of IP addresses that your router dishes out using DHCP will enable you to assign those whose last part is outside of that range to old devices that need a fixed address. If you have a single access point at home, you should turn Wi-Fi off on your Time Capsule. If your broadband router already provides Wi-Fi networking, it’s best to turn off Wi-Fi on your Time Capsule. Also check that DHCP and NAT services are provided by just one access point.