How iOS, iPadOS and macOS decide which wireless network to auto-join

When auto-joining networks, macOS Ventura, iOS and iPadOS start with the most preferred network, followed by private networks, then public networks.

When your iOS or iPadOS device, or your Mac with macOS Ventura or later, evaluates service set identifiers (SSIDs) and determines which network to auto-join, it will try to connect to networks in this order:

  1. Your "most preferred" network
    Known networks are scored based on your actions. If you manually switch to a network, its score will increase. If you manually disconnect from a network, its score will decrease. The "most preferred" network is the network with the highest score.
  2. A private network
    Private networks are those set up in homes and offices and can include the Personal Hotspot on your iOS or iPadOS device or your Mac with macOS Ventura or later. macOS Ventura, iOS or iPadOS will reconnect to known private networks in order of most recently joined.
  3. A public network
    Public networks are designed for general access in public places, such as a hotel, airport or coffee shop. Some other examples include Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, EAP-SIM or Wi-Fi connections that are provided by mobile service providers and network access providers.

If macOS Ventura, iOS or iPadOS finds multiple private or public networks, macOS Ventura, iOS or iPadOS will prioritise networks by security level and choose one based on the following order:

  1. EAP
  2. WPA3
  3. WPA2/WPA
  4. WEP
  5. Unsecured/Open

If macOS Ventura, iOS or iPadOS finds multiple networks of identical category and security level, it will choose the SSID with the strongest received signal strength indication (RSSI). Find out more about RSSI and wireless roaming for enterprise.

Unsecured/Open networks will not be auto-joined unless the network has been connected to within the past two weeks.


About auto-joining after a restart

After a restart, iOS and iPadOS Wi-Fi credentials will only become available after you've unlocked your device. iOS and iPadOS will wait until after the device has been unlocked before auto-joining any nearby network. This is also true for macOS Ventura when FileVault is enabled.

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