When and How to Turn off Wi-Fi

Sometimes, the wireless just needs to be shut down

Turn off your Wi-Fi when you're not using it such as when your devices use Ethernet cables or when you're away from home. Or, turn off Wi-Fi to improve security or save on electricity. Turning Wi-Fi off is fairly simple. Because there are many different devices that use Wi-Fi, make sure you identify what you want to do before turning things off or unplugging power cables.

Decide Why You Want to Turn off Wi-Fi

Before you turn off your Wi-Fi, decide why you want to turn it off. This will determine the best method for disabling Wi-Fi. Reasons to turn off Wi-Fi include the cost and affordability of the service, the need for a Wi-Fi connection, or the security issues with a Wi-Fi connection. You may not need to disable your Wi-Fi, hiding it from others could solve the problem.

Illustration of people using a wireless router and smartphone
Lifewire / Derek Abella 

If You Want to Stop Paying for Your Internet

Disabling Wi-Fi does not reduce the price of your internet bill. If you want to disable your internet service, and not just turn off the Wi-Fi signal on your device or network, contact your internet service provider (ISP). The only way to stop paying for internet service is to contact your ISP and discontinue the service.

You Don't Use Wi-Fi

Turn off or disable the router wireless signal if you're not using it. Some homes don't have any wireless devices and a wireless signal in these cases serves no purpose.

Another reason to disable Wi-Fi is when the network has a slow Wi-Fi connection. When Wi-Fi is slow, turn off the Wi-Fi on your tablet or phone and use your mobile carrier's network for faster speeds.

It's a Security Risk

If you're not using your Wi-Fi, or if you don't need to use it, disable it if you're concerned about security.

If your Wi-Fi is on all the time, and especially if you never changed the default SSID or default router password when you first installed the router, it's not hard for a neighbor (or someone sitting outside your home) to access your network by cracking your wireless password.

To keep your Wi-Fi on and have better security, change the wireless password to something more secure and block unknown devices by setting up MAC address filtering.

Another option for increased security instead of disabling Wi-Fi from the router is to disable it from the device. For example, if you use your phone or tablet in a hotel or coffee shop and are concerned that someone nearby may be snooping on your internet traffic, disable Wi-Fi on the device to make sure that none of your data is transferred through the network.

You Want to Hide the Wi-Fi

If you don't want to disable Wi-Fi from your router but instead want to hide it so that it's hard for someone to connect to your network, hide the SSID, which is the name of your network. When you hide or stop broadcasting the SSID, the Wi-Fi isn't turned off. Hiding the SSID makes it difficult for uninvited guests to find and connect to your network.

How to Turn Wi-Fi off on Phones and Personal Computers

The Wi-Fi settings on some wireless devices are easier to control than others. However, while the options may be slightly different on some devices, the Wi-Fi settings are usually found in a similar place or under similarly named menus.

In Windows, disable Wi-Fi through Control Panel. This stops the computer from connecting to Wi-Fi until you re-enable it. Another option is to disconnect from the Wi-Fi network from the Windows taskbar; look for the network icon, choose the network you're on, then disconnect from it.

Disable Wi-Fi menu item in Windows

Laptops usually have a physical Wi-Fi switch on the front or side that if turned to the off position, physically shuts off the Wi-Fi antenna, which is the same as disabling Wi-Fi through Control Panel. Move the switch to the On position to turn Wi-Fi back on.

To turn off Wi-Fi on macOS, go to the menu bar, click the Wi-Fi icon, then choose Turn Wi-Fi Off.

Turn Wi-Fi Off menu item in macOS

Some computers have the option to turn off Wi-Fi with a key combination, which typically involves a function key on the top row. Look on the keyboard for a key with a wireless icon, then press either the Fn or Shift key and the wireless key to turn the Wi-Fi connection on and off.

Smartphones provide a software switch in the Settings app that turns Wi-Fi off. For example, on the iPhone, this is in Settings > Wi-Fi. If you use a different phone or tablet, look for a similar menu or app, maybe one that says Wireless Networks or Network Connections

How to Turn off Wi-Fi From a Router

Disabling Wi-Fi from a wireless home router may not be as simple as doing so from a phone or computer. Some routers have a physical button that turns off the Wi-Fi. If your router does, press it to immediately shut down the wireless signal. 

If that's not how your router is built, access the administrative console to turn Wi-Fi off. The process isn't the same for every router. For example, on some Comtrend routers, go to Advanced Setup > Wireless > Basic and turn off the Enable Wireless toggle switch. On many Linksys routers, disable Wi-Fi as part of the Wireless Basic Settings by changing the Wireless Network Mode to OFF.

If your router lacks a built-in feature to turn off Wi-Fi, fully powering down the unit will turn off Wi-Fi. Shutting down the router disables any non-Wi-Fi functionality such as the wired connections.

Remove Adapters and Antennas to Disable Wi-Fi

If a computer uses a detachable Wi-Fi adapter (such as a USB stick), removing it disables its Wi-Fi radios. Follow the operating system recommended procedures for detaching these adapters. Improper removal can cause data loss.

Some wireless routers feature external, detachable antennas. Removing these antennas hinders the ability of the router to use Wi-Fi but does not stop Wi-Fi signal transmission.

Turn Down the Wi-Fi Power

Many adapters and some routers have advanced configuration options to control the transmitter power of the Wi-Fi radios. This feature allows administrators to adjust a network's wireless signal range (often used to reduce power and signal strength when installed in small spaces). 

If your router does not support turning off wireless, change the transmit (often called Tx) power to 0 to effectively disable Wi-Fi.

If your wireless router lacks features such as the ability to adjust Tx power or disable Wi-Fi, upgrade the firmware to install new administrative options. Consult the manufacturer documentation for the router model for details.