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Once connected to a Wi-Fi network in Mac OS, the Mac will connect to that network by default when it is in range and available again. This is undeniably useful for joining us home, work, and regular wireless networks, but it can be annoying if your Mac reconnects to a network you no longer want to connect to. While setting the priority of the Wi-Fi network is one option, another option is to make the Mac “forget” the network so it can’t reconnect automatically. This is especially helpful if you live or work in an area with open networks that you don’t want to accidentally join.
Forgetting a Wi-Fi network in Mac OS X is really easy, although the option is a bit more hidden than some users might expect. Luckily, just like its iOS counterpart, you learn to drop a wireless network on the Mac once and don’t have to wonder how to do it again in the future.
Remove a wireless router from the list of preferred networks in Mac OS X
This will forget your chosen Wi-Fi networks, preventing the Mac from automatically reconnecting when in range.
- Pull down the Wi-Fi menu icon and choose “Open Network Preferences”, or go to the “Network” preference pane from the Apple menu and System Preferences
- Select ‘Wi-Fi’ from the sidebar of the network panel, then click ‘Advanced’ button in the corner
- Go to the “Wi-Fi” tab and find the router / network you want to forget under the “Preferred Networks” list
- Select the network and then choose it [-] minus button to delete (forget) the wireless network
- Confirm that you have forgotten the Wi-Fi network by choosing ‘Delete’
- Repeat if necessary to forget other WiFi networks
- Click “OK”, exit System Preferences and choose “Apply” when prompted
Once a wireless network is forgotten, Mac OS X will no longer automatically join it – even if it is the only network available.
If you change your mind, you can reconnect to the forgotten network (s) or remember it again by choosing it from the Wi-Fi menu bar. You can also remove it at any time by repeating the same steps.
This is worth using for dropping public networks without WiFi encryption, forcibly forgetting a dual-band router channel with a bad connection, and it’s also useful for a Mac that needs a lot of bandwidth to join continuously from an iPhone HotSpot with a limited data plan just because it’s nearby. It’s also useful if you find your Mac keeps connecting to a particular WiFi access point that you don’t use anymore, never intended to join, or just don’t want to connect to it in general, maybe a WiFi router from the neighbors or an office or hotel access point that is not needed.
While quite simple, this less obvious approach to forgetting about wireless networks is a fairly common complaint from Windows users who recently transitioned to the Mac platform as it has multiple layers behind preference panels. An easy way to avoid that confusion is to add a menu bar option to drop networks from everywhere, but for now, all versions of Mac OS X work as described above. That includes everything modern and old from macOS Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Snow Leopard, Tiger, just about every release of Mac OS X.
There is also a terminal approach to forgetting about Wi-Fi networks that would come in handy for command line users, but that’s beyond the scope of this particular article.
If you know any other method to forget Wi-Fi routers and access points in MacOS, share with us in the comments.
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