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How to Set the Default Wireless (Wi-Fi) Network in macOS

Airport Utility Icon

By default, macOS attempts to join the wireless network it was most recently connected to. However, if you’re like me, you have a Wi-Fi network you use most often. This guide will show how you can set it as the default network in macOS.

The wireless networks your computer has connected to in the past are listed in the Wi-Fi pane of Network preferences. You can view available Wi-Fi networks by clicking the Wireless icon in the menu bar.

  • If it has lines running through it, Wi-Fi is on.
  • If it’s just an empty triangle-ish shape, Wi-Fi is off.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure Wi-Fi is on. 

Wi-Fi dropdown menu
To join a network, make sure your Wi-Fi is turned on

You can use the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac to see the status of your wireless network connection, switch between networks, or turn Wi-Fi on or off. The icon changes depending on the current Wi-Fi status and connection.

You can set up your Mac to join a preferred network when you start your computer, wake it from sleep, or turn Wi-Fi on.

Here’s how to join a preferred wireless network:

Choose “Apple menu > System Preferences…” then click Network.

Network preferences showing the Advanced button highlighted
Clicking the Advanced button will give you more options for your Wi-Fi network

Click Wi-Fi in the list at the left, then click Advanced in the bottom-right corner. You’ll see a list of “Preferred Networks,” which are those you’ve accessed in the past.

If Wi-Fi isn’t on the list of available tabs, make sure your Mac has wireless capability, then:

  1. Click the Add button (a plus “+” sign) at the bottom of the list
  2. Click the Interface pop-up menu
  3. Choose “Wi-Fi”
  4. Give the service a name
  5. Click “Create”

Now select the Wi-Fi tab.

If the network you expect to see isn’t in the preferred networks list

Network preferences showing the "+" button highlighted
Click the “+” to add a new network
  1. Click the Add button (+) at the bottom of the list
  2. Click “Show Networks”
  3. Click the network you want to add to the list
  4. Click “Join”

If the network is protected by a password, enter it in the password field:

Wi-Fi network profile with password box highlighted
You will be prompted for the password when connecting to a secure network

How To Set the Default Wireless Network

Drag the network you want to give the highest priority to the top of the preferred networks list. This is the network your computer will try to join first.

How To Delete a Wireless Network

To delete a network from the list, select it, then click the Remove button (the minus “-” sign).

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Contributing Author
Dennis has over 40 years of journalism experience and has written hundreds of articles. For the past 20-plus years, he's been an online journalist, covering mainly Apple Inc. He's written for MacCentral, MacWorld, MacMinute, Macsimum News, Apple Daily Report, and is now contributing editor at Apple World Today.
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4 Comments

  • I sort of knew this, but your article made it clear. I think I will delete the networks I will not be connecting to again.

  • I followed along til “click on interface “which doesnt show up
    Could you check that please, I am on Catalina and everything else was okey dokey
    Thanks, Chris

  • Funny…this is more about how to join a network…period.

    What I need to know is: How to remove a network from only one of my devices (iPhone), without the removal propagating to my other devices (Macs). It appears there’s a way to lock in the network on MacOS, but not on iOS…