WiFi (Airport) Solutions for the Mac

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New as of:
July 17, 2007: Added routers known to be compatible with Apple's Airport, Macfixit's wireless dropout page solution, solution for installing Sony Vaio PCWA-C150S wireless card in iBook, and which cards are compatible with which Macs. Renamed page as issues not relating to 10.4.8 are also covered here. Added table below.

It seems to be a growing problem, which Apple has addressed with at least one knowledgebase article, but other issues seem to have emerged to cause this problem. Many of the issues seem to crop up with . I strongly recommend if none of these solutions work, to post a new topic thread on Apple Discussions with your configuration, and what you have tried, or sign my guestbook below, but even more important, please call AppleCare. They need to be made aware of what issues you are having, especially if the solutions below don't seem to help. Before assuming your router or airport card is broke, take your machine to a JiWire listed access point with Firefox installed. Firefox may be able to log on when the airport menu is not able to connct you. If you can access the WiFi through an access point other than your own, you know your card is good, otherwise, troubleshoot reasons why your connection might not work below.

I started a thread on Apple Discussions which attempts to cover all the solutions posted. They are mirrored below, and a more up to date version is below:

1. Migration Assistant between PowerPC and Intel
2. Combo Update solution.
3. Titanium Powerbook issues. (Titanium Powerbooks are silvery and have ports on back of the machine).
4. Non Apple WiFi router Upgrade firmware.
5. Apple Airport Software Updates.
6. Lack of reconnect after sleep.
7. Wireless Grapher Widget issue.
8. Coconut WiFi issue.
9. WPA versus Windows and TSN, versus TKIP versus AES.
10. com.apple.systempreferences.plist solution.
11. Media Access Control solves issue on some situations.
12. Network Port Configuration shifting together with PRAM zap solution.
13. Downgrade firmware.
14. Syncing channels of router and airport software.
15. Distance of access point can be both too narrow and too far.
16. Detecting non-Airport related hardware issues that may contribute to issue.
17. Sources for external antenna.
18. VPN/PTPP solution.
19. Using Firefox instead of a menu with three curved lines on the upper right hand corner of the screen Airport menu.
20. Coiling of wire.

21. Compatible Routers with 802.11n and 10.5.1.
22. Macfixit guide.
23. Third party wireless card for iBook.
24. Airport Original versus Airport Extreme cards.
25. Kernel cache issues.
26. Setting up WEP keys.
27. Setting the MTU value
28. Logging in router slowdown
29. DNS and IPv6
30. MacBook and MacBook Pro update
31. Wireless network speed
32. 10.7.3 iMac Update
33. USB 3 - Macs with USB 3
34. Airplay Macs and 10.9.2
35. Interference by Wake for network access<
36. Contact me.


1. If you recently migrated your data using the Migration Assistant to an Intel Mac from a PowerPC Mac, chances are your settings that got transferred for Airport are not Intel native, and will cause problems for the Airport Card on your Intel Mac. This means backing up any data you already wrote to the Intel Mac, and restoring the software that came with the Intel Mac using its restore disks and individually transferring data over with Target Disk Mode data that are user documents such as Mail, Bookmarks, Calendar, Music, Photos, Movies, Addressbook. Other data such as passwords and registration codes will not transfer properly from PowerPC to Intel Mac. So be sure to write those down with the aide of the Keychain Access Utility to find those passwords. If you still have trouble finding data on your PowerPC Mac when you need to migrate the data, please write me, and I'll find out where your PowerPC data files are stored for the specific application. But do not use the Migration Assistant as this causes the wrong drivers and plugins to get migrated over.

2. Try downloading and installing the combo update for your specific model. See my FAQ: Jaguar through Tiger updates to get the one right for you. Use my Identify your Mac model to make sure you are downloading the correct Intel vs. PowerPC version.
Sometimes running the combo update over the existing update of the same version solves the problem!
3. If you have a Titanium Powerbook (with Firewire and USB ports in the back and silvery color), see Arstechnica's forum on optimizing Wireless reception.

4. If you have a non-Apple WiFi router, see Apple's article 304817, made by a company other than Apple Computer, check that company's website for a firmware update, and verify you there isn't one newer than 10.4.8, which was released on September 29th, 2006.

5. Before updating, be sure to backup your data. Once that is done, look for firmware and software updates for your Airport base station on Apple's Software Updates. website. Especially those who have MacBooks and MacBook Pros with Core2Duo (not CoreDuo), can download the Airport 2007-002 update to improve performance.

6. Read Apple Knowledgebase article 304482 if your airport does not autoreconnect after sleep (energy saver, reopening the notebook lid).
7. If you have a Widget called Wireless Grapher, it has a feature which automatically disconnects wireless connections which if you didn't know about may surprise you even more under 10.4.8.

8. Also Coconut WiFi older versions are problematic.
9. If you use WPA on your router, it has been found that WPA2 works better. Similiarly, if you use TKIP, it has been found that AES works better. Unfortunately some of these methods are less secure than others. It has been found that other routers support WPA better, and you should attempt to get one that does. AppleCare Knowledgebase Article 305029 discusses issues of Windows Clients with TSN security with 802.11n networks which may interfere with WPA. Later in this FAQ, I've listed a few routers which users have reported no compatibility issues with Mac OS X 10.4.10. However, they may not been tested with the security you desire.

10. Special thanks to Craydoh finding from AppleCare on another thread the following solution:
http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=672212
"Here is the solution: Drag your System Configuration folder out of your library onto the desktop.
Go to your user file, drag your com.apple.systempreferences.plist onto the desktop.
Go into System Preferences and reconfigure your network settings as you normally
would so that you join your wirless network. Reboot. Problem solved."


An alternative solution posted on the same thread:
"- Pull these to your desktop:
/library/Preferences/system configuration folder
~homefolder/library/preferences/com.apple.systemprefereces.plist
- Restart the computer
- Once up, go into System Preferences > Click Assist me at the bottom > choose Assistant.
- Walk thru the setup to join your network
- Once done, in network preferences goto the airport settings, Make sure you choose your network as the prefered.
- Restart the computer
- If it works you can feel free to trash the stuff on the desktop, the OS recreated the files from scratch and they are not needed. "

Special thanks to PR0X for the alternative solution.
11. It has been found that for some people the only solution was to turn off WiFi encryption and enable only specific MAC (Media Access Control) addresses to connect. This is with an ActionTec DSL modem.

12. Recently it has been found changing your Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Network -> Show menu's (under the Location menu) -> Network Port configuration to have Airport as the first network type, clicking on Apply Now, and then restarting and zapping the PRAM solves the issue for some.

13. People using Apple's Airport Extreme base station may find downgrading the airport firmware to version 5.5.1 works better. Other downlodads for Airport may be found on Apple's Airport support page. Note, downgrading your firmware may not work well with specific updates, and should only be done if you already have a copy of the latest firmware to update back to, in case it fails. Cause if it fails, you may have no connectivity.
14. It has been found making sure the channels on your wireless router and computer match via both machine's settings works better than not monitoring the same channel on both.

15. Distance from the WIFI router (airport base station) seems to matter when it is too close to the router. It is possible to be too close when not in direct line of sight of the antenna. I've found if you are within 5 feet (1.5 meters) it can be a problem, whereas 10 feet (3 meters) it is less of a problem. Naturally some routers also have a range of 150 feet, while others up to 1500 feet!

16. Other hardware problems which are only repairable by Apple may cause issues with wireless, including a loose wireless card. Some of these are detectable with the hardware test that came with your machine. If you have an Intel Mac, use Apple Knowledgebase Article 303081 to run the hardware test. If you have a PowerPC Mac, use the original installation discs that came with your machine if they include a hardware test CD, or Apple Knowledgebase Article 86287 if the restore CDs included a hardware test on them. Upon finding any hardware problem, contact AppleCare.

17. Third party wireless solutions include antenna by QuickerTek and Macwireless.

18. VPN users should try to switch their Applications -> Utilities -> Internet Access to PPTP. Someone else found toggling that setting helped.

19. Some WiFi networks won't let you connect via the a menu with three curved lines on the upper right hand corner of the screen Airport menu, and require Firefox to make the connection.

20. Coiling any wires which are straight near the source or destination may help, if the wire has the slack to do so. Don't bend wires too much as they may fray. Straight wires appear to act as better antennas than coiled ones.

21. Known compatible routers with Apple's 802.11n:
Apple's new Airport Extreme Base station that has 802.11n (note early versions only have 10/100 ethernet, which is slower on LAN than 802.11n, but faster than 802.11g. Regardless of the method 802.11g and 100 base-T are fast enough for AppleTV). D-Link Xtreme N (tm) Gigabit Router (DIR655) DLK DIR655.
And two non-802.11n routers known to work well are:
Linksys WRTSL54GS
Netgear FVG318
Netgear DG834GT 108Mbps Wireless ADSL Router Model: DG834GT
D-Link Model DI-624 (1 antenna version) Using WPA-TKIP-PSK security with 802.11g. Firmware Version: 2.76

Additionally, Apple has listed compatible routers with 10.5.1's Back to Mac on knowledgebase article 306803.

Note: I have not verified if all of these are compatible with TKIP/WPA or AES or 802.11n. Check with the manufacturer if they have tested these with the security level you want to attain.
E-mail me if you have further info on the compatibility of these routers with the latest Apple notebooks and the latest versions of Mac OS X so that I may put that info here.

22. Macfixit, a Mac troubleshooting website, has this link explaining how to fix wireless dropouts: http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10331876-263.html?tag=mfiredir
23. iBooks normally can only have an internal Apple WiFi card. But at least for one series of WiFi cards from Sony, the Vaio PCWA-C150S card, it has been found you can install a third party card inside an iBook.
24. Apple has written two good articles on which Apple Airport card are compatible with which Macs: Apple knowledgebase article 106777 and Apple knowledgebase article 107440. PowerMac G5s with the PowerMac 11,2 in the System Profiler and later model numbers of Mac Pros do not accept the separate extreme card, and require a special Bluetooth/Airport card that is hard to find, if it wasn't build to order.

If you find that the Airport Extreme card is not compatible and not included with your Mac and only the Original Airport Card is compatible, Apple no longer sells the Original card. These places do sell the Original card:
http://www.macwireless.com/
http://www.expercom.com/product_detail.html?PRODUCT_ID=305851
http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Apple/M7600LLE/
25. Kextcache - Remove the /System/Library/Extensions.kextcache, and Extensions.mcache file after holding down the shift key sometimes fixes boot issues. If it gets corrupted it can also affect the wireless connection. Note cache clearing is something which some third party utilities such as Cocktail, Jaguar/Panther/Tiger Cache Cleaner, Macaroni, Applejack, Onyx do as a benefit for troubleshooters. Unfortunately some websites and manuals have wrongly considered these "maintenance" utilities. Use of these utilities without a backup is unwise. If your cache gets really corrupted, you may be forced to erase and install, or face multiple applications which can't launch, and software which can't install. Be very careful which cache you remove, and only do so when you have a backup and know what you are doing.
26. According to Apple Discussions user "Retired Engineer", the key set in WEP is best a HEX key. He says:

When using WEP do yourself a favor and specify the key in hexadecimal. That will be exactly 10 or 26 hexadecimal digits depending on which security level you are using. 5 or 13 character ascii keys usually only work when both ends of the wireless connection were made by the same manufacturer. The problem is that ascii characters are 7 bits plus a parity bit. There are 4 possibilities for the parity bit. Odd, even, one, or zero. There is no standard and each manufacturer picks the one that they like. There is no ambiguity in a hexadecimal key.


I would add, that when configuring an Apple Airport Base station, or connecting to a WiFi hotspot you won't typically see that key, and will only need to enter in a password. Third party routers and PCs notice that hex key a lot more often.

27. MTU = also known as the minimum transmission unit is controled at the system and router level and can affect the stability of your connection. Assuming your data you are transferring is regularly of a certain size the MTU may cause a bit of a lag in what gets transferred. Changing the MTU, whether by editing the router control panel or going to the command line can frequently solve dropped connection issues. One user named mreckhof on Apple Discussions found that changing the MTU by going to Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal and typing:

sudo ifconfig en1 mtu 1400

And quitting the Terminal application solved a lot. You may find that 1400 is not a good value for you, but it will require some testing. Note that your machine will remain in sudo mode for 5 minutes. Which could conceivably allow you to delete files you don't want to delete. so be careful for the next five minutes after using this command and don't do anything which requires secure transactions. Once those 5 minutes are up, you should be OK.

28. Many routers slow down their internet connections simply by using the built-in logging mechanism for errors. If this logging mechanism fills the router it may slow down to a crawl. Learn how to setup your router and change the logging mechanism built-in. You may find that this causes all your internet connections to slow down.

29. DNS and IPv6 are customery settings in your Network System Preferences, and your router setup which may get messed up or need refreshing with new settings, as internet service providers address these settings differently. Some will not understand an IPv6 network, some will not understand if you force your DNS settings to receive their DNS numbers, whereas others understand some of both. Check your help documents on how to set these up with your router, and your Network System Preferences under Airport. Sometimes forcing a third party Open DNS set of numbers in your settings works better. If you still have trouble finding these, ask on Apple Discussions, or contact me.

30. If you have a MacBook, or MacBook Pro, go to your Apple menu -> About This Mac -> More Info -> Hardware -> Model Identifier. If it says, MacBook3,1 or MacBook4,1 or MacBookPro4,1 Apple has an update for you on their website to address certain wireless issues with those models.

31. Mac OS X 10.6 Network Utility has network speed meter that gives you the exact wireless network speed of your wireless network. Go to Applications -> Utilities -> Network Utility, and select the Info section of the Network Utility. The link speed is your wireless network speed. A network speed of 270 Mbps is standard for 802.11n. 33 Mbps is for 802.11g. And 11 Mbps is 802.11b. Previous versions of Mac OS X may have a similar meter, though I don't know which do.

32. If you have an iMac Late 2009 with 10.7.3, you may need this update from Apple


33. USB 3.0 which is now available on Macs is known to interfere with WiFi signals. However, the industry is working on fixing this issue. If you have an older router, or older USB 3 equipment, and your WiFi signals have decreased since you started using USB 3, read this article and mention it to the USB 3 device manufacturer you are using to make sure they can give you the appropriate firmware update to avoid issues, or replace the device with one that does not have interference issues. A bad or damaged connector on the machine or device can also be problematic, and using a USB 2 device you can eliminate which part of the chain is causing problems. USB as a whole is very sensitive to how users pull or push cables into the port, as my Power cable fraying guide on the 10th tip of the guide.

34.. Airplay capable Macs, which are outlined on 10.8 updating user tip I wrote, may lose Airplay upon updating to 10.9.2. Unfortunately for 10.9 users, this is the only safe version of 10.9, due to a security flaw in the earlier versions of 10.9. The reasons are currently unknown, and this tip explains what to do if you experience this problem.

35.. Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Energy Saver wake on network access appears to cause problems for Mac OS X 10.9.3's Airport connections on certain Macs. 10.9.4 addresses this issue at least to some degree according to Apple's update page.

36.. If you know of any other solutions, please sign my guestbook.
Return to my Upgrade FAQ.