How to use network locations on your Mac

The Location feature of Network preferences allows you to quickly switch between different sets of network settings.

The ability to switch between different sets of network settings (locations) can be useful in circumstances such as these:

  • You use the same type of network (such as Ethernet) at work and at home, but the settings you use at work don't allow your Mac to automatically connect to the same type of network at home.
  • Your Mac connects to more than one type of network service (such as both Wi-Fi and Ethernet) at work and at home, but at work you want your Mac to try connecting to the Ethernet network first, and at home you want your Mac to try connecting to the Wi-Fi network first. In other words, you want to set a different service order for each location.
  • Your Mac isn't connecting to your network and you want to quickly reset your network settings for testing purposes, without losing your current network settings.

In each of those examples, the Location feature of Network preferences can help. The following steps apply to Mac computers using OS X v10.6 or later.

How to create a new network location

  1. Choose Apple menu () > System Preferences, then click Network. 
  2. The Location pop-up menu shows the name of your currently selected set of network settings. The default location is named Automatic. Choose Edit Locations from this menu.
  3. A locations dialog opens. Click the Add button below the list of locations, then type a name for the new location, such as Work or Home or Mobile:
  4. Click Done. The Location menu should now show the name of your new location. Any changes you make here to your network settings will be saved to that location when you click Apply. The network settings in your previous location remain as you left them, so you can switch back at any time.
  5. Click Apply to save your settings and switch from the previous location to the new one. Your Mac automatically tries to determine the correct settings for each type of network. If you need to adjust the settings further, remember to click Apply again. If your new settings don't allow you to connect to your network, click Assist Me.

How to switch between network locations

If you have more than one location, you can use either of these methods to switch between them:

  • Use the Location pop-up menu in Network preferences, as described above. Remember to click Apply after choosing a location.
  • Or choose Apple menu > Location from the menu bar, then choose your location from the submenu.

How to change the network service order

If you're using network locations because you want each location to prefer a different network service (such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet) when connecting, follow these steps to change the service order (also known as port priority) in each location.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Network.
  2. Use the Location menu to choose the location you want to modify.
  3. Click the Action menu below the list of services, then choose Set Service Order.
  4. Drag services within the list to change their order. Your Mac will try to connect to the service at the top of the list first, then continue in descending order until a connection is successful.
    Virtual private network (VPN) connections can't be reordered, because they always take priority over other connections.

  5. Click OK, then click Apply to make the updated service order active.

How to prevent a network service from being used

By default, the location named Automatic makes all available network services (also known as ports or network interfaces) active, whether or not they are being used to connect to a network. Your Mac automatically searches these services for a network or Internet connection. For example, you might use a Wi-Fi network at home but an Ethernet network at work. Your Mac automatically detects which of these network services to use when it connects.

If you want to make sure that your Mac doesn't use a particular network service, such as Wi-Fi, you can make that service inactive in any of your network locations:

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Network.
  2. Use the Location menu to choose the location you want to modify.
  3. Click the Action menu below of the list of services, then choose Make Service Inactive.
  4. Click Apply. 
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