Help! I’m hav­ing net­work is­sues

If your Wi-Fi seems slow or un­pre­dictable, try these sim­ple fixes

Mac Format - - MAC & OS PROBLEMS SOLVED -

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 And if you have had the same router for sev­eral years, it may be us­ing out of date pro­to­cols.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 ‘8.8.8.8’ and ‘8.8.4.4’ (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.

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