How to Fix an iPhone That Can't Connect to Wi-Fi

Troubleshooting your iPhone's Wi-Fi connection problem

It's super frustrating when your iPhone won't connect to Wi-Fi (especially if you have a monthly cellular data limit instead of an unlimited data plan on your iPhone). Not having Wi-Fi stops you from doing the things you want, since updating the iOS, downloading large files, and streaming music and video are all best done over a Wi-Fi connection.

Frustrated person unable to connect their iPhone to Wi-Fi
Lifewire / Derek Abella

In most cases, you can connect your phone to a Wi-Fi network after some simple troubleshooting steps. In some cases, more advanced techniques are needed. Check out the many ways you can fix an iPhone that can't connect to Wi-Fi. Try these solutions to reconnect your iPhone to Wi-Fi and get back to high-speed internet access.

This article was written using iOS 12, but it applies to many earlier versions. On earlier versions, the exact steps described below may be slightly different.

01
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Turn On Wi-Fi

Turning on wifi

The first rule of tech support is to confirm the thing you're trying to fix is turned on. In this case, you may simply need to turn on Wi-Fi on your iPhone. Using Control Center to turn on Wi-Fi is easiest.

Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or down from the top right, on the iPhone X, XS, and XR) and tap the Wi-Fi icon to activate it.

While you are in Control Center, look at the Airplane Mode icon near the Wi-Fi icon. If your iPhone is in Airplane Mode (maybe you accidentally left it that way after a recent trip?), your Wi-Fi is disabled. This could be the cause of your problem. Another tap to disable Airplane Mode and you're back on the network.

Turning on Wi-Fi isn't so simple if your Wi-Fi menu is grayed out. Learn how to handle that problem in How to Fix Grayed-Out Wi-Fi on an iPhone.

02
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Is the Wi-Fi Network Password Protected?

Password protected wifi

Not all Wi-Fi networks are available to everyone. Those at businesses and schools are often reserved for use by only certain people. These networks use passwords to prevent unauthorized users from connecting to them. You can tell which networks are password protected because they have lock icons next to them on the Wi-Fi settings screen. 

If you're having trouble connecting to a Wi-Fi network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi to see if the Wi-Fi network has a lock icon next to it. If it does, you can request a password from the network owner (easy if you're at a coffee shop, for example) or look for an unlocked network.

If you have the Wi-Fi password but are still having trouble, tap the name of the network that you can't join and tap Forget This Network on the next screen. Then go back to the main Wi-Fi settings screen and select the network again, enter the password, and tap Join.

03
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Force Restart the iPhone

iPhone stuck at apple screen
You'll see this screen after resetting your iPhone.

You'd be surprised how often restarting your iPhone solves the problems that ail it. It's not a foolproof step, of course, and won't fix deep software or hardware problems. But it's fast and simple, so it's usually worth a shot.

How you restart your iPhone depends on what model you have. If you've got an iPhone 7, 8, or X, XS, or XR, the instructions vary just enough for each model that you need to get out our step-by-step article on how to restart your iPhone.

If you've got an older iPhone model, just hold down the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time. Continue to hold them until the screen goes blank and the Apple logo appears to restart the device.

04
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Update to the Latest Version of iOS

Upgrade software

Mobile devices and operating systems are updated regularly, which can lead to compatibility issues with things like Wi-Fi networks. Apple regularly releases updates to the iOS that are designed address incompatibilities.

If you're having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, check to see if an iOS update is available for your device. If there is, install it (but remember, these updates are really large, so it's best to do them over Wi-Fi or when connected to iTunes, if that's an option). That may solve your problem.

To check for iOS updates:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Software Update.
  4. If the screen indicates an update is available for your iPhone, plug the phone into a power outlet and tap Download and Install.
05
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Reset iPhone Network Settings

Reset network settings

Your phone's Network Settings contain all kinds of information, including connection data and preferences for cellular and Wi-Fi networks. If one of the Wi-Fi settings is corrupted, it could prevent you from getting on Wi-Fi.

In this case, the solution is to reset the network settings. Although this deletes some preferences and stored data related to connectivity, sometimes it's your only option. To reset your settings:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Swipe to the bottom and tap Reset.
  4. Tap Reset Network Settings.
  5. If you're asked to confirm that you want to reset these settings, do so.

With this done, you may have to ask the owner of the Wi-Fi network for the connection data and enter it again.

06
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Turn Off Location Services

Turn off location services

Your iPhone does a lot of things behind the scenes that are supposed to be helpful. One of these involves using nearby Wi-Fi networks to improve the accuracy of mapping and location services. This is a nice bonus, but it can be the cause of your iPhone not being able to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

If none of these suggestions have helped so far, turn off this setting. Doing so doesn't stop you from using Wi-Fi, just from using it to improve location awareness. Follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Privacy.
  3. Tap Location Services.
  4. Swipe to the bottom and tap System Services.
  5. Move the Wi-Fi Networking & Bluetooth (on some older versions, this is just called Wi-Fi Networking) slider to the white/Off position.
07
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Restore iPhone to Factory Settings

Restore iPhone to factory settings

If you're still unable to connect to a Wi-Fi network, you may need to take a drastic measure: restoring your iPhone to its factory settings. This deletes everything from the iPhone and returns it to its out-of-the-box pristine condition.

Before you do this, make a complete backup of all the data on your phone. Then, wipe your iPhone clean by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Swipe to the bottom and tap Reset.
  4. Tap Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. You'll be asked to confirm that you really want to do this. Confirm and proceed with the reset.

When the reset is complete, you'll have a fresh iPhone. You can then either set it up as a new iPhone or restore from your backup. Restoring from backup is faster, but you may restore the bug that prevented you from accessing Wi-Fi in the first place, so setting it up from scratch may be best. 

08
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Contact Apple for Tech Support

Make Genius Bar Appointment
image credit: Artur Debat/Moment Mobile ED/Getty Images

At this point, if your iPhone still can't connect to Wi-Fi, it may have a hardware problem. Hardware problems are best diagnosed and repaired by Apple or an authorized Apple service provider. Take your iPhone to your nearest Apple Store for a checkup or contact Apple support online for alternatives.