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Untangling iOS Wireless Problems

Not long ago, the wireless authentication system at the college where I worked was having issues. It wasn’t a “secure” network per se, but you did need to enter a student or staff login to use it. With the rapid proliferation of handheld devices, it was getting, to say the least, temperamental. Adding to the confusion was a spate of traveling I did that brought my iPhone and me through a variety of airports and hotels that required some form of login to gain access to their public wireless system.

When I returned, I found that my iPhone would absolutely refuse to join my college wireless network, often not even getting to their login screen. This was even happening on weekends and off-hours, when I could normally breeze right in. Even more baffling, my iPad could connect without a problem.

First, Try the Easy Fixes

The first fix I always try is going into the Settings and turning Wireless off and back on. Sometimes the wireless connection gets a little confused and this is all it needs.

If this was happening to somebody else, I’d then suggest simply shutting the phone down and turning it on again. It’s amazing how long people go without rebooting their iPhone - I’d recommend doing it at least once a week. A reboot, in fact, cures a lot of iPhone and iPad “mystery glitches” that crop up from time to time.

Reset the Network

Apple slipped a new feature into the latest version of its iOS that received very little attention: the ability to clean up and reset all the network settings. This will also clear any stored network passwords, VPN (virtual private network) and APN (access point name) settings you may have, which may be an issue for people with heavily secured remote connections to their home or workplace.

To get to the reset, open Settings, select General, and then scroll all the way down to Reset at the bottom. After making sure you know any passwords you may need for your secure connections, tap Reset Network Settings near the middle of the screen.

That should do the trick. If not, you may need to erase and restore your device, a process that Apple explains at The process is rather time-consuming and is usually considered the “nuclear option,” but Apple support people will invariably ask if you’ve tried this last resort.

Meet Your Macinstructor

Ric Getter is a frequent contributor to MacDirectory. He started out working in media in the early 70's when nothing could out-gun a motor drive Nikon and a bandolier of Tri-X film. Life in Silicon Valley paid off in early 1984 when a Mac 128 landed on his desk and he's been in love with the platform from that day on. He has since retreated to Portland, Oregon with his Mac-loving wife where he writes about computers, works in education technology and still obstinately refuses to completely leave the television business.


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