MacBook Pro Constantly Dropping Wireless Connection?

I love my MacBook and haven’t had very many major issues for the better part of 3 years. Unfortunately, that is not the case with all MacBook owners. Since I do a lot of technical support, I’ve run into a ton of people with MacBook Pro’s that simply lose the wireless connection randomly. It’s been an issue for years and still really hasn’t gone away.

And since it’s such a complicated issue, there are all kinds of different things you can try to fix your specific problem. In this article, I’m going to try and list out every fix I’ve ever used or read about and hopefully something will fix your problem.

If you suffered through this problem and found a possible solution not listed here, definitely post it in the comments for everyone else to read. The solutions are in no particular order, just the order in which I happen to read them while going through my notes. Sorry it they seem a little random.

Method 1 – Airport Express/Airport Extreme

airport extreme

– If you’re using either one of these devices and you’re having problems, it could be that you need to upgrade to a newer model. I saw this problem with several clients and in the end, some were using routers that were several years old.

– Another issue that cropped up with the Airport devices is something called bridge mode. Research a little and try to switch to bridge mode if you’re not using it and off bridge mode if you are currently using it. Don’t really know the details, but it has fixed the issue for some folks.

– Other people have said that they switched from other brand wireless routers to Apple’s and the problem went away.

Method 2 – Channel Interference

This problem is one of the hardest to detect because it has nothing to do with your computer or hardware. If you live in a neighborhood or apartment complex with other wireless networks around, you really need to understand that there could be interference on the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks as many newer routers broadcast on both.

One way to fix this that I have told my clients is to download this WiFi Scanner app:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wifi-scanner/id411680127?mt=12

It’s not free ($5), but super super useful. Basically, it will show you all the networks around you, including your neighbors. Then it will tell you the channels that they are using. You can then go into your router and change your channel to something that is not interfering with the neighbors.

wifi scanner

I can attest to this because I have had this problem at my own house. We used to live with no one around us, but when new neighbors moved it, all of a sudden I started having network connectivity problems. The connection would drop and I would have to restart my router often. Changing the channel fixed all of my issues.

Method 3 – Router Security Settings

Another big one was security settings on the router. Not sure why, but WPA2 with AES encryption can causes problems with certain MacBook Pro’s. The best way to figure out if this is causing problems is to simply turn off all security on your router and then restart your MacBook Pro and see if your connection keeps dropping or not. I would also suggest removing other security like MAC Address Filtering and hiding your SSID.

If the issue goes away, then you can try a few things. First, update the firmware on your router to the latest and try the security settings again.

Method 4 – Update Mac OS

On your MacBook Pro, if you’re running an older version of the OS like Leopard or Snow Leopard, try updating to the latest Lion. Sometimes the bug fixes in the newer releases will fix this issue.

Method 5 – Faulty Wireless Card

Though not as common, you may simply have a faulty wireless card on your Mac. Considering how many machines there are, some are bound to come with faulty hardware and you might just be the unlucky one to have one of those machines. The best thing to do if nothing else is working is to take it into an Apple retail store and ask the Genius bar to look at it.

If they believe it is hardware, then if you are still under warranty, you’ll get it replaced for free. If you have to pay, then you can order the part on eBay and do it yourself. Or you can just spend the $50 to $100 and get it fixed by Apple.

Method 5 – Delete plist Files

Some have had luck with deleting some of the preference files related to Airport and Networking. In case something has become corrupt, deleting these might fix the problem. They will be recreated automatically when you start your computer.

com.apple.airport.preferences.plist
com.apple.network.identification.plist
NetworkInterfaces.plist
preferences.plist

These are located in Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration.

Method 6 – Hard/Full Erase

One of the other things you can do is take your MacBook Pro to an Apple Retail store and tell them to do a hard/full erase and reload of Lion. This takes about 15 minutes and really erases your hard drive. When you do it yourself, the hard drive is not fully erased. They have a way to completely erase it and it seems to have fixed the problem for a decent number of people.

Method 7 – Try a New User Account

Just like profiles in Windows becomes corrupted sometimes, the same is true for OS X. Go ahead and create a new account and log into that account. Then try connecting to the wireless network and see how long it stays connected. If your problem is gone, then you know there is something wrong with your normal user account. You’ll probably have to switch accounts to solve this issue permanently.

Method 8 – Uninstall Software

After seeing this issue for so long, it’s fairly clear that unless you have some bad hardware, the issue is caused by some software issue, either the OS or some third-party interference. Users have reported that they can connect to a wireless network from their Mac running Windows via bootcamp just fine, but when they switch to OS X, they connection drops.

If you’re running Lion and you know it’s not a hardware problem, try removing any unnecessary software that could be interfering. For example, anti-virus apps or scanning apps or networking monitoring apps, etc. Clear out your system one by one and see if the problem goes away. Not an ideal solution, but better than nothing.

Method 9 – Static IP Address

Though not a common solution, some people have reported that changing over to a static IP address has fixed the problem. Probably not a long term solution, but it may let you work on the Internet for a few days!

Method 10 – Clear Out Preferred Networks

Go to System Preferences, Network, Advanced and Airport and minus out everything under preferred networks. Of course, not everyone will have this option, but if you do, then give it a try. Sometimes if you have a bunch of networks stored there, the problem can occur.

Method 11 – Create a New Location

Go to System Preferences, Network, click on the Location drop down at the top and choose Edit Locations. Add a new location and give it any name you want.

new location

Method 12 – Lower Wireless Speed

If you have an N router, try dropping down to B/G and see if the problem persists. Again, the problem is so random and the fixes that have worked for some are also very random!

I’m sure there are a ton more solutions people have come up with over the years, so feel free to throw in your comments and let us know what worked for you! Enjoy!

 

 

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Comments [7]

  1. Mariano says:

    Hi, this site relates to the very problem I have with both my Macbook Pro 15″ (mid2010) and my Macbook Air (2008). Both connect to the same network and there are strange periods of time when they cannot connect, but an old 2004-5 Dell Notebook or Sony VAIO can connect. Same goes for my iPad or iPod touch and any apple device I have. I don’t know what the problem is and none of the solutions help.

    • oscar says:

      thanks for this. i just bought two macbook pros and the wireless connectivity problems are driving me nuts. i am thinking of returning both of them because i can’t get a solid internet connection, yet my old lenovos work fine. you’d think with all the hype about apple, they’d have figured this out by now.

  2. jamie says:

    Hi,
    Same here, although not tried these solutions as yet, will do later. Not sure if this is significant but things started to go wrong when a new flatmate arrived and another old macbook and iphone were added to the network. In my case its almost as if there is some interference or conflict now these new IP addresses are around… I have a very old airport which may be the issue, or perhaps this channel interference thing… will let you know

  3. Paco H says:

    Hey thanks for this. I have been trying for months to solve a problem my with wife’s MBP. Every time it was brought out of sleep mode, all our iDevices lost internet connectivity, even with Airport turned off and ethernet unplugged! I could find nothing about this anywhere and just happened upon this page in yet another attempt to find the solution. I had read in another forum that deleting a corrupted plist file in the System Preferences directory could help some Airport problems but it was for an older version of OS X and he didn’t specify which plist file. So I searched for “airport corrupted plist” and found this page. Though the problems you address are not exactly the problem we had, “Method 5 Delete plist Files” worked! I can’t believe it. I also can’t believe that a corrupted preferences file can wreak such havoc with a turned-off service like that. The engineers responsible should be fired. This has caused a lot of anguish and my often having to ask my wife to turn her Mac off so I could use the network. That is pathetic engineering.

  4. Alex says:

    Thanks so much! I changed the channel on my router and it solved the problem. This article was incredibly helpful!!

  5. joseph anthony says:

    thank you for the tips it worked. i am definitely coming back to your website for help.

  6. kara says:

    My Macbook Pro dropped wireless as soon as I took it home from the store. As I was in the throes of grad school, I had no time to resolve the issue, and applecare phone support did not help, nor did forum suggestions. My old apple laptop and a friend’s Dell laptop worked just fine with the internet setup I had.

    I eventually bought a new airport extreme, and the problem went away. HOWEVER, it is ridiculous for apple to expect that the entire world upgrade to airport extreme. The MBP is a laptop. It’s meant to be portable. It is potentially unusable in hotels, cafes, other homes, etc. If you visit the apple user support community forums, you will see this problem extends as far back as 2008, and there are new complaints every day, from users of new MBPs. https://discussions.apple.com/thread/1352518?start=0&tstart=0

    Not a good sign. If you also have this problem, tweet #macwifiloss

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