I’m trying to log in to a wifi network at the public library and it isn’t offering me the opportunity to enter their newly changed password. I have the old one stored on my MacBook and can’t seem to get the prompt again! How can I “forget” a wireless network?
Wireless networks used to be pretty basic and straightforward: They either had a password or they didn’t. Further, since people weren’t too worried about security, they used to leave their passwords untouched for years at a time. Heck, there are probably still wireless networks with the same password they had in 2015. Others have gotten a lot more complicated, however, from open networks that have a completely separate login process to sites that change their password on a weekly basis. There are also now multiple protocols too and if you think changing passwords can confuse your computer, wait until the network admin changes from WEP to WPA2!
The trick with all of these situations regardless of what operating system you’re using is to know how to forget and even remove a remembered network connection. Because they’re trying to automatically connect you, these systems can be really stymied if anything on the network changes or you encounter a new network with an already known SSID name. Mac systems seem to be just as susceptible to this as PCs and mobile devices, so it’s a key 21st Century skill to know how to proceed…
HOW TO CONNECT A MAC TO A SPECIFIC WIFI NETWORK
On your Mac system, you probably are used to clicking on the wifi icon on the menubar and getting a list of available local networks. Like this:
There’s a lot to understand in this menu. First off, you can see that “Ziggis Guest” is an already known network, as denoted by it being listed as a “Preferred Network”. More amusingly, “acadia gmc” is a nearby car’s wifi hotspot, and “DIRECT-NNKWDESKTOP1LL25” might actually be a printer or similar office device, not an actual wifi network at all.
In this instance, I’m kind of stuck. It won’t connect to the Ziggi’s Coffee network Ziggis Guest but it won’t prompt me for a new password. The same situation you’re having. To solve it, choose “Network Preferences…“, the very last entry on the menu. This opens up a System Preferences window:
There’s definitely a lot going on with this window but key is to ensure that you’ve chosen “Wi-Fi” on the left. Notice what it says on the upper portion of the main window area though: “Wi-Fi is turned on but is not connected to a network.” This is confirmed by the fact that the pop-up menu shows a greyed out “No network selected”, not a specific network name.
From this point you can actually choose a network name and try to connect – or turn OFF Wi-Fi entirely, then turn it on again to see if a reset helps your connection – but instead, let’s actually forget the remembered network so it’s new and unknown.
That’s done by clicking on the “Advanced…” button on the lower right.
It’ll then show a list of Preferred Networks, also specifying the security protocol of each:
Some networks support more than one protocol, while others indicate that they don’t have any password at all, instead using a separate login screen or window. You can also remember a password but not automatically join it by unchecking the adjacent box in the window.
To remove Ziggis Guest, I select it and click on “-” near the bottom. The tooltip reiterates what will occur: “Remove Wi-Fi network”. A click and… it’s gone.
Now I can connect to “Ziggis Guest” and be prompted for the (new) password as if I’d never seen it before:
Yes, you can see that the wifi password for “Ziggis Guest” is actually “ZiggisGuest”. Not massively secure, but easy to remember!
Now on the System Preferences window it shows that I am indeed connected to the Internet:
At this point I can also uncheck “Automatically join this network”, but since I now know the new password, why not have it auto-connect when this preferred network appears on my list?
As it happens, Ziggi’s then pops up a secondary login window too:
If this doesn’t show up, sometimes you’ll find you have to disconnect and reconnect. Other times open your Web browser and try to go to a Web page and the network connection request will be redirected to the confirmation screen. Either way, a click on “Connect” and I’m fully online and ready to, well, post this article!