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MacOS Network Locations is a handy feature you should be using

If you connect to different networks with your macOS device, you should take advantage of Network Locations for more flexibility and security.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
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Getty Images

If you use a macOS-powered device (such as a MacBook Pro/Air, or iMac), you might connect to different networks at different times. Even with my iMac, I will switch between one of our three different networks for different purposes. Or, if I'm on the go with my MacBook Pro, I'll have to connect to various networks as I travel.

When that's the case, I will often want to have a bit of control over how things work. For example, on one of my home networks, I can configure a network connection with static addresses and DNS over HTTPS. On a different home network, I might need to configure a proxy.

Also: Comparing the best Macs: Is a MacBook or Mac Studio right for you?

But I don't want to have to manually configure those networks every time I switch. That's where the macOS Network Locations feature comes in handy. With this feature, you can configure different network locations in different ways. For example, you could establish such configurations as "General Purpose Home", "Home Static", and "Coffee". As you move to each network, you simply switch locations and the configuration will automatically apply.

Let me show you how to create a new Network Location and then how to configure the connection for that location.

Creating a new Network Location

What you'll need: The only things you'll need are a macOS-powered laptop or desktop computer and at least one network to connect to.

1. Open Settings

The first thing to do is create a new location. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner of the desktop and select Settings.

2. Open the Edit Locations window

In the Settings window, click Network and then click the drop-down under Other Services. From the drop-down, click Locations > Edit Locations.

The Locations pop out menu in macOS Ventura.

I have two custom locations added, General Purpose Home and Home Static.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Create a new location

In the resulting popup, click +, give the new location a name, and hit Enter on your keyboard. Leave the Settings window open.

The Network Locations create/edit window.

You can add as many locations as you need.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Configure the new location

With the location created, you can now configure it. Here's how.

1. Select the new location

The next thing to be done is to select the new location. To do that, click the Apple menu and select Location > NAME (Where NAME is the name of the location you just created.) Now that you've selected the new location, the network configuration changes you make will apply only to it. If you switch to a different location, that configuration's connection will then apply.

The Locations selector in the Apple menu.

I've added a location named Coffee.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Open Network details

Go back to Settings and click Network. Then select either Wi-Fi or wired connection. In the resulting window, click Details.

The Details button for macOS Wi-Fi.

Make sure you've selected the correct location before making changes.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Configure the network

At this point, you'll configure the network exactly how you need it. You can configure it for either static or DHCP addressing, configure your DNS (such as using DNS over HTTPS with OpenDNS or Cloudflare), set up a proxy, limit IP address traffic, set your NetBIOS name and Workgroup, and more. When you've completed the configuration of the network, click OK. 

The Network configuration window in macOS Ventura.

Configure the network connection for this location exactly how you need.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The configuration you just took care of will only apply to the chosen Network Location. If you switch to a different location, the network configuration will switch to that of the new Location.

Also: Boost your security and productivity with the top Mac apps

And that covers the basics of using macOS Network Location. I've been using this feature for a few years now and have found it to be very helpful when I want to have control over how a particular network connection is configured. Once you start using Network Locations, you'll consider all other networking configurations to be archaic.

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