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 tries 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 increases. If you manually disconnect from a network, its score decreases. 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 reconnects to known private networks in order of most recently joined.

  3. A public network

    • Public networks are designed for general access in public places like a hotel, airport, or coffee shop. Some other examples include Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, EAP-SIM, or Wi-Fi connections that are provided by cellular carriers and network access providers.

If macOS Ventura, iOS, or iPadOS finds multiple private or public networks, macOS Ventura, iOS, or iPadOS prioritizes networks by the following criteria, in this order:

  1. Configuration method (iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, and macOS Ventura 13.3 or later): Private networks configured using a mobile device management (MDM) profile are preferred over manually joined networks.

  2. Highest supported Wi-Fi standard: For example, Wi-Fi 6 networks are preferred over Wi-Fi 5 networks.

  3. Frequency band: 6 GHz, then 5 GHz, then 5 GHz (DFS), then 2.4 GHz.

  4. Security: WPA Enterprise, then WPA Personal, then WEP.

  5. Signal strength: Learn more about RSSI and wireless roaming for enterprise.

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

About auto-joining after a restart

After a restart, iOS and iPadOS Wi-Fi credentials are available only after you unlock your device. iOS and iPadOS wait until after the device is unlocked before auto-joining any nearby network.

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