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Using network locations (Mac OS X v10.6 and later)

Learn about using network locations (Mac OS X v10.6 and later).

The Location menu in Network preferences pane in System Preferences allows you to save and quickly switch between multiple internet configurations. This article explains how to use the locations menu to quickly change networking settings when moving from one location to another.

Note: The steps in this article refer to the settings in Mac OS X v10.6 or later. For Mac OS X v10.5 or earlier, please see this article.


What is a "location?" 

In the Network preference pane of System Preferences, a location is a set of network preferences.

The Network pane has a Location menu that you can use for changing or creating locations. Users of portable computers may frequently connect to the Internet or networks in different ways at different places, so "location" reminds you that Mac OS X has the ability to store different sets of network preferences, which you may name for the location in which you use them. 

The "Automatic" location

By default, Mac OS X has a location named Automatic, and all available network ports are set to active status. A port (or "network interface") may be a modem, Ethernet, AirPort / WiFi card, or other device used to connect to the Internet and/or a network. The name Automatic is to remind you that Mac OS X automatically searches all active network ports for your connection to the Internet. For example: You may use a wireless network at home but use an Ethernet (wired) network connection at work. If you set up both of these ports then travel between work and home, Mac OS X automatically detects which port to use to connect to the Internet or your network. 

Adjusting port priority

Mac OS X searches the ports in the order that they are listed in the Service Order list. You can drag a port configuration up or down the list to change its priority.

To access the Port Configurations list in 10.6 or later:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu.
  2. Choose Network from the View menu.
  3. Unlock the Preference pane (if needed) by clicking the lock icon and entering an admin account password.
  4. Click the Gear icon next to the + and - signs.
  5. Choose Set Service Order. 


Making new locations

Instead of just using the "Automatic" location, you can also create different "locations" in which different ports are active. A "Mobile" location could make only your AirPort connection active, and a "Desk" location could make only your Ethernet port active. 

 Follow these steps to make a new location: 

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu.
  2. Choose Network from the View menu.
  3. Choose Edit Locations... from the Location menu.
  4. Click the + icon to add a new location.  
  5. Type a name for your new location, such as Mobile, then click Done. The name of your new location appears in the Location menu. Any changes you make to the Network pane now apply to this location. The previous location ("Automatic" by default) will remain as you left it.
  6. If you want to disable a specific network port for this location, highlight the port, then click the Action Gear. Then, select "Make Service Inactive." Repeat this step for each port you want to disable in the new location. 
  7. Select the port(s) you want to configure in the new location, and set them up as desired. Each port is set up as its own Internet or network connection. If you need any help setting up for the Internet, see these articles:
  8. When finished, click Apply Now.
  9. Close the System Preferences window.

Switching between locations

Once you have created locations, you may quickly switch between them by using the Location submenu of the Apple menu. Or, you can change the Location menu in the Network pane of System Preferences and then click Apply Now.

Setting up the same interface for two networks

The default Automatic location does not accommodate having two configurations for using the same network interface in two different locations. For example, if you used your Ethernet port configured manually at work but via DHCP at home, the Automatic location will not let you avoid switching locations in its default state--you would need to switch locations.

Last Modified: Jul 18, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Jul 18, 2012
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