How to Set Network Connection Priority on a Mac

With different networking options available (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, iPhone connection, etc.), you may find yourself in a situation where you want your Mac to automatically select one type of connection over another. A macworld reader finds himself in this exact situation.

I would like to connect to my grandmother’s wifi so I can use her printer. However, its internet connection is as slow as molasses, so I want to simultaneously use my iPhone’s connection capability (via USB or Bluetooth, of course) to browse the internet.

macOS allows you to prioritize network connections, so you can choose which adapter is used first when your system tries to connect to local network and internet-connected resources.

  1. Open the Network System Preferences pane.
  2. Click the settings (gear) icon at the bottom of the list of adapters.
  3. To select Define service order.
  4. Drag the items into your preferred order.
  5. Click OK.
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You can drag your available network connections into the order you want macOS to use them.

In the case of the reader question, the iPhone connection item should be placed above the Wi-Fi item. This should retain the ability to access locally available resources, like the printer.

In this situation, to get the best possible speed without monkeying around, turn off Wi-Fi completely unless the printer is needed. You can use the Wi-Fi system menu and choose Disable Wi-Fi until you need to print. Or, you can create a location via the Network preference:

  1. Click it Location context menu at the top of the pane.
  2. Choose Change locations.
  3. Click + to add a location.
  4. Click on OKAY.
  5. Choose this new location in the Location menu.
  6. Make changes, such as turning off Wi-Fi (select Wireless in the list of adapters, click on the gear and choose Make the service inactive).
  7. Click on Apply.

Repeat for as many types of network configurations as you want. You can name one “cell only” and another “grandmother plus cell”.

You can easily switch between locations from the  > Locations menu available throughout the system.

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