How to Add Wi-Fi Network to Any Device

Whether it's Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS, you can connect to a Wi-Fi network

Getting Connected to a Wi-Fi Network is Crucial on Any Platform

Kittichai Boonpong/EyeEm

While a wired connection is still a tried-and-true way to get your device online, it's becoming much more common to connect wirelessly. Wi-Fi is the fastest form of wireless connectivity, and in most cases, the cheapest as well. Learn how to get hooked up to Wi-Fi networks in the major operating systems including iOS, Android, Windows 10, and macOS.

Prerequisites for Wi-Fi Connectivity

To get connected via Wi-Fi, you'll need the following:

  • A device with a Wi-Fi radio, and make sure the radio is turned on
  • The password to the network, if any
  • To be within 150 feet or so of the access point

This last one can vary a great deal, depending on whether the access point is indoors or outdoors, where you are, how many walls are between you and the access point, and whether the signal's been boosted. However, by and large, once you get more than about 150 feet away, you'll either lose the network entirely, or experience poor performance.

How to Connect to a Wi-Fi Network on iOS

Since mobile devices are wireless by nature, it's no surprise that getting on a Wi-Fi network on iOS is a snap.

The below instructions are valid for iOS 12.1.

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap Wi-Fi.

  3. You'll see a list of any networks broadcasting their names. If the network isn't secured, you'll get connected straight away.

    If you don't see your network, tap Other.

  4. If it is secured, you'll be prompted to enter the Password. Do so.

    Wi-Fi, Network name, Password field on iOS
  5. Tap Join to get connected.

How to Add Wi-Fi Network on Android

Unlike iOS, the precise look and feel of your Wi-Fi settings may differ on Android since Android can be customized by device manufacturers. However, the basic process is the same.

The precise steps differs to varying degrees amongst the various versions of Android across manufacturers. The below instructions are valid for Android 7.0 on a Note 5, although other Android versions/manufacturer models will likely be similar.

  1. First, pull down the notification bar. If Wi-Fi is one of your quick controls there (it most likely is), tap Wi-Fi.

    Wi-Fi Quick Controls in the Android Notification Drawer

    You may see a network name rather than the word "Wi-Fi."

  2. Tap Details.

    Wi-Fi in the Android Notificaitons Panel

    Alternatively, tap Settings > Connections > WiFi to go to this settings screen directly.

  3. If Wi-Fi is off on your device, tap the toggle switch to enable it.

  4. Now, your device will search for networks. If you see the one you want, tap it. If not, you may need to enter the network's name; tap Add Network.

    Android Wi-Fi Settings Screen
  5. If you do have to set up your network automatically, make sure you use the right Security setting. Tap the security dropdown menu, then tap WPA/WPA2/FT PSK.

    Enter the SSID field, plus WPA/WPA2 PSK Security option for Wi-Fi on Android
  6. If the network is secured, you'll be prompted by Android for a password, in which case a dialog will appear.

    If the network is unsecured, you'll see a couple of messages go by, such as one about getting an IP address, then you should be connected.

  7. Once you provide this password, you should get connected.

How to Connect to a Wi-Fi Network on Windows

Connecting your Windows machine to a wireless network is much easier than it used to be, thanks to the new Settings app.

The below instructions are valid for Windows 10.

  1. In the bottom-right of your screen, select the network icon in the System Tray. It may look like a wireless signal, or, if you have Ethernet cable attached, it might look like a monitor with a cable.

    Wi-Fi connection icon in Windows 10

    If you don't see anything, check to make sure your wireless network card is turned on.

  2. Select the network you want to join from the displayed networks.

  3. If the network isn't secured with a password, it will connect right away. Otherwise, enter the required password.

    Enter the network security key on Windows 10
  4. You're now connected to the Wi-Fi network.

Finding a Missing Network

If the network you're looking for doesn't appear in the list, it's possible it's not broadcasting its name. In this case, you'll need to take a couple extra steps from the network panel.

  1. Select the network icon in the System Tray, then select Network and Internet Settings at the bottom of the panel.

    Alternatively, press Windows key, then select Settings > Network & Internet.

  2. Select Wi-Fi.

    Wi-Fi in Windows 10 Settings
  3. Select Manage known networks.

    Manage known networks
  4. Select Add a new network.

    Add a new network to Windows 10
  5. In the new dialog box, enter the Network name.

    Network name field in Windows 10 Settings
  6. If the network requires a password, select the appropriate Security type.

    Most modern networks will use WPA-Personal AES or WPA-Enterprise AES, but choose the one as appropriate for your network.

  7. Enter the Security key/password.

  8. Optionally, select Connect automatically and/or Connect even if this network is not broadcasting. The first will automatically connect you to the network whenever the it's in range; the second will attempt to connect even if the network isn't broadcasting its name.

  9. Finally, select OK.

How to Add a Wi-Fi Network on macOS

Like most things on a Mac, connecting to a Wi-Fi network is pretty intuitive.

The below instructions are valid for macOS 10.14 (Mojave).

  1. Click the network icon in the menu bar.

  2. If you see the name of your network, click it. If not, click Join Other Network, and enter the network's name.

    Wi-Fi menu in macOS
  3. If you're prompted for a password, enter it in the window and click OK to join.

Common Issues When Connecting to Wi-Fi Networks

As mentioned above, things are typically smooth sailing when you're connecting to fully open networks. However, things can get trickier when connecting to more secured Wi-Fi. If you find you're having trouble getting on, check some of the following before calling for tech support.

  • Is your Wi-Fi card turned on/working properly? The above operating systems tend to hide all the networking stuff when it's turned off, but sometimes even software can get confused. Laptops usually have a little LED light letting you know your wireless is operating.
  • Try to get closer the access point and/or a clearer line-of-sight to it.
  • If the network is secured, did you select the right security type when you set it up? Even a perfect network name and security key won't help you when you're trying to send WEP encryption to a WPA2 network.
  • Double check the spelling of the network name correctly and the password.
  • It's also possible your connection will look like it's succeeded, but you can't reach anything on the web. You may need to click around until you're directed to a web page where you'll need to sign in. Sometimes this just means selecting a confirmation button, or it requires an actual password.
  • If you notice your connection drops when your device's battery gets low, there may be a power management function that's turning it off. Wi-Fi adapters consume a lot of power, and shutting them down can help your device last longer.