Troubleshooting Ways to Boost WiFi Signal on Your Mac

Posted on December 8, 2012 by Nikhil P Naik

Most converted Mac users will swear that they get the strongest signal on their MacBook that they’ve ever had. But the truth is, this isn’t always the case. In fact, MacBook pros are cased in aluminum, which actually deflects internet signals! If you just got a new Mac, or you’re having trouble with a weak Wi-Fi signal on your usual machine, there are a few reliable methods you can try to make it stronger and make connecting to the internet slightly easier. You probably know – the increased quality you get with a Mac should make solving any minor connection issues more than worth it.

troubleshoot wifi

1. Open Wi-Fi Diagnostics

Hold down the option key and click on the Wi-Fi symbol on your menu bar – then open Wi-Fi Diagnostics. This is the primary tool for diagnosing connection problems. Go to Network Utilities, and you should get four tabs. The Performance tab tells you how well your computer is connecting to the base router, or wherever your signal is coming from. The Signal Strength tab shows you how strong the router’s signal is, and also how much noise or interference you’re picking up. These are the two tabs that help you figure out your problems.

Mac Wifi Diagnostics

2. Decrease Interference

If your computer and router are both in good working order, one of the first things you can try is reducing interference in the signal. If your signal cuts in and out no matter where your computer is, you probably have too much chatter on the network. Try changing your Wi-Fi channel by going into your router’s settings and choosing one that isn’t crowded by users. If that doesn’t work, you might try moving the actual base station to a different area. Another thing you can do is switch to 5GHz band wireless – a nice benefit of using a Mac, since most PCs will be stuck on 4GHz. Just make sure your router supports 5GHz, too. iStumbler is one such tool which helps you check the channel that your neighboring wireless routers are using.

Mac Wifi

3. Protect Your Network

Security issues with your home wifi network can be a leading cause of slow connections and interference. Make sure your network is secure and password-protected, so that nobody but you and members of your household can access it. Also try MAC address filtering, which allows only certain devices to connect to the network, whether they have the password or can hack in. You’d be surprised how vulnerable networks can be, and there are many internet criminals counting on you not protecting yours. They can mess up your signal and have access to your information.

4. Get Some Gadgets

If you really want to get the optimal strength in a Wi-Fi signal, especially if you do a lot of traveling with your MacBook, there are extra devices that can help you along the way. External antennas and USB boosters can help you maintain a stronger connection. And Apple sells affordable products like AirPort Express, which can actually extend a signal so it’s stronger in a farther range. If you have recurring signal issues, something like that might end up saving you a lot of time and frustration.

5. Redecorate

It might sound silly, but it can make a huge difference. Place your base station as close to the center of the house as you can. Then make sure all large furniture is out of its path, including pictures or mirrors which can contain metal, which deflects internet signals just like the casing on a MacBook pro. Keep televisions and microwaves as far away from the internet as you can. Also try and figure out where your neighbors keep their routers, so you can put some distance between their signal and yours.

6. When All Else Fails, Unplug

Never underestimate the importance of power cycling. Turning your computer or internet base station off and on again can not only be the solution to a crash, it can keep things running as smoothly as possible.

In the future, Apple is headed towards long term evolution internet, or LTE, which means you’ll soon be able to use your laptop on the same network as your iPhone, and Wi-Fi issues will largely be a thing of the past. This is because they know that not being able to keep and hold a strong Wi-Fi signal is one of the most frustrating things in the world, especially if you depend on the internet for work or school. That’s why when you set up your new Mac or your new wireless network; you want to take the time to make sure it’s in the right location, properly secured, and as trouble-free as you can make it. That’ll make problems that arise much easier to detect and diagnose, so you can go back to getting the most out of your Apple products.

About the Author: Amy Nielson is an avid blogger who writes often for tech sites. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.

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About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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