I have a Netgear wireless router in one room, and a TP-Link powerline adaptor with wifi in another room. I'm using a 2014 MacBook Pro with Yosemite 10.10.1

Previously I had separate SSIDs for each of the wireless access points, which meant that I needed to manually change the wifi network when moving around the house.

The advice at How can I get the same SSID for multiple access points? is to set the same SSID on both wifi APs, and the laptop should automatically pick the one with the strongest signal:

Give both APs the same SSID, security type and wireless security passphrase... A client will scan all channels looking for APs publishing the SSID it wants, and will pick whichever one suits its needs best (usually that means whichever one shows the highest signal strength).

So I set identical SSID, security and password on both wifi APs. Unfortunately, OSX Mavericks isn't automatically switching between the networks when moving around the house.

While located near the TP-Link powerline adaptor, I connect to the network, as shown by the bolded first line in the Wifi Explorer window (this is the expected behaviour as that is the strongest network):

enter image description here

But when moving closer to the Netgear wifi router, Yosemite doesn't disconnect from the TP-Link access point and connect to the Netgear access point (even though that network is much stronger):

enter image description here

(I left the laptop on overnight and it hadn't changed after 12 hours, so it's not related to timing)

  • Is there anything I need to do in Mavericks to select the strongest network automatically?
  • Do I need to ensure that all properties are identical between the access points? eg Channel, Width and Mode are different - does that matter?

Edit: as per an answer at https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/144832/84752 I changed:

sudo /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/A/Resources/airport prefs joinMode=Strongest

but this has no effect when moving between rooms. I'm not sure whether that suggestion only applies to Airport products (given the name of the command).

  • 1
    You do not have such control with OS X. In my office we employ access points that allow several SSIDs (Unifi APs), so I have one SSID for roaming purposes (set on every AP) and one SSID when I want to force the connection to a specific one. Also I have separate SSIDs for 2.4 and 5gHz networks. – mspasov Mar 31 '15 at 8:36
  • This turned out to be an XY problem - my real question was "how can I improve the wifi coverage of my house?". Instead of trying to replicate the wifi network using a powerline adaptor, the real solution was to buy a more powerful wireless router, which removes the need for the powerline – Stephen Lead Apr 7 '16 at 23:21

I know this thread is old, but I'd like to leave here what solved the problem for me. You need to check if you have the same security in both access points. For example, I had one access point secured with WPA/WPA2 and another with WPA2 only. After changing both to the same, everything was fine.

To check your access points' security, you can do this:

  • While holding the option (alt) key, click the WiFi icon in the menu bar
  • Click "Open Wireless Diagnostics…"
  • Go to "Window" > "Scan" (or press CMD-4)
  • Check if the security is the same for both your access points

Solution source: http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/wifi-roaming-issues-two-aps-with-same-ssid.1208584/

  • 2
    6 months later, I finally found the time to test this - and it appears that you're right. I had set the Powerline adaptor's security to "automatic" - after I forced it to use WPA2-PSK [AES] my MBP is doing a much better job of switching automatically between the wireless APs. Many thanks! – Stephen Lead Jan 9 '16 at 3:22
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    This didn't work for me as both security values are already the same. i.imgur.com/2UQWfmL.png – Pieter Dec 24 '18 at 8:20
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    This worked for me, but I had to remove ("forget") the network in the OSX networking settings, and then re-add it. Once I did that, it started connecting to the higher signal, closer AP immediately. – dbellizzi Feb 5 '19 at 6:01
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    In addition to this, I had to also make sure that both APs are on the same width - 20MHz. When the width was different, I had switching problems. – Yohan Liyanage Apr 4 '19 at 10:26
  • In addition to this, I think the WAP's "max rate" also affects this. I'm sitting next to a WAP with 100% signal, but 1300 Mbps max rate. OSX will only connect to the distant 61% signal WAP with max rate 2402 Mbps. I even tried the forget network and re-add thing and it immediately connects to the higher rate WAP. Kinda annoying. – Nathan Beach Apr 15 at 13:30

Your issue is being caused by OS X's handling of a wi-fi parameter commonly referred to as roaming threshold. This parameter dictates the point at which an OS will switch to a stronger signal. Windows gives easy access to this parameter, example here, but no simple option exists in OS X.

This document from NYU suggests OS X has "aggressive" roaming characteristics and shows the command line to disable aggressive roaming. However, our experience on campus with OS X clients shows OS X to be anything but aggressive, insead preferring to "stick" to an AP it has associated with in spite of being in range of closer/stronger signals - like your situation.

So, there you go, there's not a lot you can do to alter OS X's roaming behaviour. What you can do though is alter your wireless environment in an attempt to force OS X to switch between APs. Options that you may have, depending on your wi-fi hardware, include setting your APs to strict 5GHz-only mode (if they are dual-band devices) - this will reduce the transmission range and therefore reduce overlap between APs. You may also have a setting on your APs for wireless transmission signal strength - this is another method for reducing overlap between APs, potentially forcing OS X to switch to a stronger signal sooner. Finally, you could try moving your APs to the extremities of your house, again to reduce their overlap.

  • Per @dbellizzi's comment above, apple.stackexchange.com/questions/178985/… , there seems to be some interaction with 'forget this network' and the aggressiveness of roaming. After you modify your networks, try forgetting and reconfiguring your device--it worked for me --I'd stick to a -82dB vs a closer -45dB, only switching w turning off the wifi and back on, until I forgot and reloaded the SSID. – Dave X Oct 20 '20 at 4:53

fixed it by making the security identical


I've been trying to figure out the pattern here as well. I found this doc by Apple to be very helpful: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT206207

It explains pretty plainly:

macOS clients monitor and maintain the current BSSID’s connection until the RSSI crosses the -75 dBm threshold. After RSSI crosses that threshold, macOS scans for roam candidate BSSIDs for the current ESSID.

And regarding selection criteria:

macOS always defaults to the 5 GHz band over the 2.4 GHz band. This happens as long as the RSSI for a 5 GHz network is -68 dBm or better.

If multiple 5 GHz SSIDs meet this level, macOS chooses a network based on these criteria:

  • 802.11ax is preferred over 802.11ac.
  • 802.11ac is preferred over 802.11n or 802.11a.
  • 802.11n is preferred over 802.11a.
  • 80 MHz channel width is preferred over 40 MHz or 20 MHz.
  • 40 MHz channel width is preferred over 20 MHz.

In my case, it turned out to be because one WAP only supported 802.11ac, even though all other settings were the same as the WAP supporting 802.11ax.

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  • thanks for the formatting help, @nohillside – Nathan Beach 3 hours ago

For everyone else stumbling on this problem: try giving your APs different channels!


As seen in the screen captures, the BSSID is different because the WiFi settings are different. Make all the settings identical on each AP as far as security settings etc and it should work.

  • 3
    BSSID is a hardware address that will always be different. – slhck Sep 14 '19 at 20:19

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