iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

Summary: Persistent problems with iMac wifi is driving a lot of people nuts. Is there a solution in sight? It doesn't look like it.


Last fall I started having problems with wifi on my 24 inch iMac. For no apparent reason I would find that I could not gain access to the Internet. At first I thought it was the DSL provider and/or router. But no. That wasn't the case because I could access the internet from other devices.

Turning to Google I find there are several Apple forum threads on the topic going back to 2006. Lately, the topic has moved on to include the 27 inch iMac running Lion. It's something I've been tracking for a while in the hope that a fix would turn up from Apple but so far nothing has worked with any degree of certainty. It doesn't seem to matter whether you're running Snow Leopard or Lion, the same or similar symptoms can be replicated across different iMacs.

Looking at the lastest thread I see it has been viewed more than 77,600 times with 180 replies. I take that to mean an awful lot of people are either having the same issue or are at least interested in the topic.

Most people believe the problem is software related rather than a hardware fault. One of the more common suggested solutions is to downgrade the wifi. Another suggestion is an SMC reset. Other suggested solutions are more convoluted requiring the user to alter network settings. Yet other solutions suggest using an AirPort Extreme. Then there is the 'don't use wireless, use ethernet' suggestion. All represent valiant efforts to solve this long standing problem yet none seems guaranteed to work for more than a short while.

One of the difficulties is that the issue appears to be intermittent. Access will be fine for a period and then inexplicably fail. That happened to me this week over several days. It is frustrating when it happens.

Apple has made various statements to those willing to go through the grind of calling technical support and running the gamut of official solutions. One suggestion Another was that it is Lion specific and would be fixed in a patch release 10.7.3. If a fix was included then it doesn't seem to have had the desired effect. Some users have ended up returning their machines for refund. It is that bad.

Apple gets plenty of kudos for its inventiveness across a number of dimensions but this is one problem Apple doesn't seem able to resolve. Pixtonr puts it succinctly:

the update has made my Wifi connection worse.

Now whenever the Mac goes into sleep mode when it wakes i have to manually connect to the Wifi to get it to work.

sort it out Apple.

That kind of says it all.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • It's your imagination

    as "Apple products just work".
    William Farrel
    • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

      @William Farrel Give em credit for a wonderful marketing team. They have brainwashed so many into thinking Mac's are better. They are more attractive but better? Nope. Having owned plenty of my share of Mac's and worked on them through my career. I can vouch that their hardware is about as good as a cheap Acer PC. Apple fans can dream otherwise. But its true.
      • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?


        The one thing I will give Apple is they do seem to make their computers assembled pretty solid and there were and still are many low end model computers that are cheap pieces of plastic. I find that trend is shifting though as many of the more recent OEM computers I have seen (especially laptops) seem to be built very solid.

        As far as the insides go they are all pretty much the same and the only difference is that Apple uses a more limited hardware range of products.
      • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

        @jscott418 <br><br>Hey don't trash my cheap Acer netbook, it works fine, especially it's wireless functions. We did have a Mac with dual processors and when we updated OS 10, the Pioneer DVD quite working. Many others had the same problem and the solutions provided by Apple did not work, replacement of the Pioneer DVD was Apple specific and very expensive like 5x what a PC replacement DVD cost<br><br>So we replaced that 3 year old Mac with a windows machine and sold the Mac, no more problems and as it was a new PC, home built by myself, it would run Photoshop processes in seconds instead of minutes. It cost about 1/3 of what a Mac with similar specs cost. Also I spent as much time troubleshooting the Mac's DVD problems as it took to build and install the software on the new PC, just a few hours. Last Apple product I owned.<br><br>In my experience this is a common Apple issue, they just pretend it is not a problem and move on the next model. <br><br>BTW I love my 11.1" Acer Timeline Netbook.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    Are you kidding me? Research the MacBooks as well... You will find this was a chronic problem with the plastic models!

    My Air has dropped connection a fee times but nothing major. It is just odd with the air because it is sitting in the same location and the router as well. My desktop never does that (It is a PC with an Atheros based Wireless N Card installed).
    • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

      @Peter Perry Have never had this issue with my iMac or the wife's Air though that is only a couple of months old so maybe the issue just hasn't come up. I did have a dropped connect issue on my MBP for a short time after Lion came up but no longer a problem.
  • Apple uses crap chips for WiFi

    Until Apple fans start realizing that Apple uses crap chips for WiFi and that combining that with BlueTooth causes issues. I think Mac users will continue to deal with WiFi issues. I have yet to have a single WiFi issue with any of my PC's in the last decade. Yet I have had multiple issues with White Macbook, Macbook Air, Mac Mini's and yes a older iMac. If this was not a hardware issue but a OS or driver issue. It should have been solved long ago. The problem I believe is Apple rarely addresses any issues with users who have issues that include using third party hardware. Such as routers. What's funny about this is that I used a AirPort Extreme for years while having my problems. It was not until I switched to Netgear and Cisco that my WiFi issues started getting better. All I know is I can take my Dell laptop anywhere and have no issues with WiFi and I cannot say that with my Macbook Air.
    • RE: Until Apple fans start realizing that Apple uses crap chips for WiFi


      You can't talk that way. I am constantly told by Apple Fanboys that the hardware they use is hand-picked and custom made for Apple. They use pretty low end if you ask me. My Macbook has an Atheros Wifi card and a Marvell wired NIC. Not exactly top of the line.
    • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?


      "Until Apple fans start realizing that Apple uses crap chips for WiFi and that combining that with BlueTooth causes issues. "

      Hadn't thought of the BlueTooth connection. I am "blue toothed" only. Are people reporting that wired solves the problem?
      pk de cville
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    Our iMacs on WiFi in our schools are horrible. We had to put them on WiFi because they decided to move the labs at the last minute to an old art room that had no network drops other than the one slated for the Teacher Workstation. It was so bad we had to put an old cisco switch in there to get them wired. Hopefully this summer we can wire the rooms properly, that is if they do not decide to flip the rooms around again.

    I have similar issues on my Macbook purchased in 2007 on home and work WiFi. Funny thing is that it does not happen when I boot into the Windows 7 Partition that same Macbook. I think the WiFi card is an Atheros.
  • Apple's solution:

    Disable the 40MHz band (or the Auto 20/40MHz mode). It isn't compatible with AirPort stuff, which includes wireless controllers built into iOS devices and Mac computers.

    I've tried numerous routers from Netgear, D-Link, SMC, and Linksys, and this resolves every problem I've ever had with wireless dropping out. 5GHz still work fine with this too.

    If you have a Wireless-N router, it should probably be out of draft-N by now, otherwise you might want to consider a hardware upgrade if the hardware vendor hasn't offered a firmware update yet. This is just a general suggestion for in-range dropouts, not specific to Apple compatibility. Also, some routers are just poorly made and aren't always broadcasting the SSID. On every computer or device, I always make sure the option to "connect even if the SSID isn't broadcasted" is checked. On an iOS device, setting up a manual wireless profile is the way to accomplish this.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    for the first time, I had an issue with my mac wireless. I recently bought an iMac 27" fully loaded. I love the way it works, but I was getting dropped by my wireless intermittently, but somewhat frequently. I did a little research. Phase 1: I upgraded my router firmware...that seemed to help some. Phase 2: Apple Care ... they had me clean up some permissions and do a few other things and reboot a couple of is better now. I rarely drop out.

    And by the way, I never let my iMac CPU sleep...I keep it running so that my scheduled scripts will run, even when I'm away or sleeping myself.

    This is the only Mac that I have owned, and I've been using them a long time, that has had any kind of ongoing wireless issues. Lucky? maybe, or maybe using Cisco routers helps...who knows?
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    My iMac worked fine UNTIL 10.7.3 then wi-fi would not connect upon wake after sleep unless waking by pressing the power button.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    @Joe_Raby I already tried this and some other suggestion 2 years ago and still up to now I have the same issue but not with my other laptop sitting on the same table as my MBP.

    I just don't get other people still trying to blame the issue to other device like router (that you should ONLY use apple products to make it work). How ironic "It just work!!!"

    I have an older HP running vista and very old Dell running XP and they don't have this issue and I live in a BACHELOR suite!
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    I have 3 Macs, an iPad and 2 iPhones in addition to an XP machine and Linux server. I have an Airport Extreme, Express and Time Capsule on the same network providing my wireless dual band along with an AT&T u-verse router also providing wifi. Lion and Snow Leopard in the mix but the iMac, a 2006 vintage, rarely has a problem. On rare occasions it too has lost its wifi for no apparent reason, but so has the Windows machine running off the u-verse router. Those kinds of problems are very difficult to trace.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    I bet the problem you are having relates to other wi fi s being used in the area sharing the same frequency that you are using. This can be changed in the airport utlities but is not obvious upfront where and how to do so but this was a problem that I had for a year until I found out this was the case. The other user of that frequency would use his wifi randomly and thus I never knew why suddenly I could not connect or would lose the connexion or have a low signal strength...but that was exactly the problem. One can change some aspect of the carrier using the utilities and is similar to what one used to have to do with cordless phones choosing on of several alternative channels...Try this and see if it helps.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    My 24" 4+ year old iMac running 10.5.8 has never had a wifi problem. Maybe its the newer OS versions many users feel necessary to use?
    Bob Forsberg
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    The problem on my 27" 2010 iMac is new in the last few weeks (10.7.3?), and involves the wifi not connecting after the computer wakes from sleep. (When booted up, everything is fine). On waking from sleep, the wifi attempts to find the base (a Time Capsule with built-in wifi router), but they don't connect. What's odd is that if I wake the computer by pressing the power button the problem doesn't appear. Only when I wake it by pressing a key or the track pad is there a problem. The Time Machine backups at night aren't waking it to a wifi connection either, so no backups are happening at night. As I said, this is all within the last few weeks. My iPod Touch does a better job with wifi than a $2000+ computer.
  • Mains Networking...

    I've never like Wi-Fi and the iMac made me like it even less. The Windows laptop next to the iMac never had problems with the signal, but it wasn't particularly fast.

    In the end, I bought a mains (AC) network kit and have the laptop and iMac connected to a gigabit switch, along with the NAS, and the switch connected via AC to my router upstairs in the hall. It is much faster and more reliable.
  • RE: iMac wifi- fit for purpose?

    I have a late 2007 model Macbook Pro that came with Leopard but was upgraded to Snow Leopard. I've never had the wifi problems you guys are having. That must be really frustrating. I've been thinking of trying out an iMac, because I want to move to a real desktop now after almost 5 years of a laptop. I hope they resolve this problem or can anyone confirm they've tried changing frequencies and not failed even at that? I don't want to be stuck with a faulty wifi.