How to prioritize your Mac's network interfaces

If your Mac has multiple network connections, you can tell it what order you'd like it to use them. What's more, you can also reprioritize the order in which your Mac will connect to Wi-Fi networks. When it sees more than one Wi-Fi network, you can tell it which ones you'd like to use first.

I have a Mac that uses multiple network interfaces: It's connected to our Wi-Fi network and also uses Ethernet. Can I prioritize which network interface gets used?

Yes you can. You can do the same for Wi-Fi networks, too.

How to prioritize your Mac's network interfaces

Bear in mind that the services listed are only the ones that your Mac recognizes as connected at that time. So make sure to be using all applicable networks when you're setting this up.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Network.

  1. The sidebar on the left lists all recognized network interfaces. Click the gear symbol underneath the sidebar and select Set service order...

  1. Drag the name of the network service up or down depending on what order you'd like it to connect.

  1. Click the Apply button to save changes.

By default, the Mac remembers Wi-Fi networks it has joined. This prevents you from having to type in the password for each Wi-Fi network your Mac connects to each time you connect.

Sometimes you may find yourself where there are multiple, competing Wi-Fi networks. I use Comcast as an Internet service provider, for example, and they have a network of open "xfinitywifi" Wi-Fi hotspots. I'd often rather connect to another network than theirs, but I can still like to have theirs available if all else fails.

By reprioritizing your Wi-Fi network connections, you can tell your Mac which Wi-Fi networks you'd prefer it to connect to first, to prevent connectivity problems. Here's how.

To reprioritize your Mac's Wi-Fi network settings

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Network.

  1. Click the Advanced button.
  2. The first tab is called Wi-Fi, and it lists preferred networks. Drag the names of the Wi-Fi networks in the order you'd like your Mac to connect to them.

  1. Click the OK button when you're done.
  2. Click the Apply button to save changes, then close the Network system preference.

Bonus tip: If there are networks you'd no longer like to automatically connect to — hotel Wi-Fi networks you've only used once, for example — just select the name of the Wi-Fi network and click the - button. You'll be asked to verify you want to remove the network.

Peter Cohen
  • I wonder if this priority will be repeated on the iPhone.
  • Unfortunately not, iOS sorts the available networks alphabetically and connects to the first known network in that list. However, there is an app which halps you to prioritize your networks on an iPhone or iPad: WiFi Priority
  • WiFi Priority simply disables auto-join on specific networks. It doesn't prioritize.
  • Great tip! Thanks Peter ;)
  • Hi Peter - I've got a followup question. I have a 13" rMBP which I connect to both the WiFi network at work and the wired network via the Thunderbolt - GigE adaptor. Now typically if I'm connected to GigE that's what I want to use for the speed, so I followed your tip and put that first on the priority list. Unfortunately, it has one negative side-effect ... our printer is *only* on the WiFi network and now I can't print! Do you know of any way to effectively say, "Use GigE for everything except printing???" Thanks...
  • Is it the same gateway on both networks? Likely a bonjour issue. Most IS admins don't like bonjour on LAN, but don't mind it on Wi-Fi for some reason. Maybe plug in and connect via Wi-Fi at the same time, as you described, delete the printer, then try to find it again while both connections are established. Worth a shot. Good luck! Sent from the iMore App
  • I have my iMac hard wired for the speed especially for TimeMachine backups (AFP) to my NAS, and bc SMB on Mac is unstable enough, it's basically unusable over Wi-Fi. But I HAVE to have Wi-Fi enabled to use AirDrop. I have my Ethernet set as top priority, so it seems okay with this setup. Does anyone have any suggestions or cautions when using two connections with the same gateway? I know it's usually more of an issue with Windows. Sent from the iMore App