Resolving Mac OS X Wireless Issues

May 19, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Wireless Internet is one of the best things about modern computing, and is made possible by a wireless router (also known as a Wi-Fi router) and an AirPort card in your Mac. This device is connected to the case and sends and receives signals to and from your router, allowing you to browse the web free of extra cabling; this is particularly useful if you own a laptop and a nice garden!

However from time to time things don’t work quite right on any computer platform, even Mac OS X. If you’re having problems connecting to your wireless network the chances are that these can be easily resolved.

Resolving Mac OS X wireless issues

Check Your AirPort Card

This is a lesson I learned early on, and I want to share it with you right now. One thing that many people fail to check – and end up taking their Mac to an Apple Store to get fixes – is the AirPort Card.

While there can be a thousand and one reasons why your Mac won’t connect to the Internet when the card is connected, if it is for some reason disconnected then you will have your answer right there.

Now, checking the current physical connection status of an AirPort Card is only possible by opening the case of your Mac, so you need to be familiar with this process. You should also avoid opening your Mac if it is still covered by Apple Care; in this case, detail your suspicions and ask your allotted Apple Store Genius to check.

Also, different Macs have different methods of opening which are too complex to be covered in this article. However once you have opened your Mac, you should be able to find your AirPort Card and confirm that it is correctly seated; for instance in the G5 iMac, the AirPort Card is situated on the left hand side of the computer when viewed from behind, and may require the cable to be tightened or re-connected entirely for successful network connectivity.

Why Can’t I See My Wireless Network?

There are various reasons why you might not see the wireless network that you are trying to connect to. If you are using a MacBook, move closer to the router to see if you can pick up a signal.

Wireless connectivity problems aren’t always about signal strength, however; you might be trying to connect to a hidden network, in which case you wouldn’t be able to see it. To connect to such a network, open the AirPort menu and select Join Other Network…, and enter the SSID or network name.

If you don’t know the name, connect your Mac via an Ethernet cable to check the network name and open System Preferences > Network > Ethernet.

A common cause of wireless connectivity issues on all platforms is interference. Wi-Fi routers use channels to communicate with the computers on the network, and other devices such as cordless phones can cause interference. To avoid these problems, use your router setup page to change to a different channel.

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