The Anatomy Of Network Preferences 1

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The Anatomy Of Network Preferences

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Networks can be complicated and for anyone that isn’t a computer geek may find the Network Preference Pane a bit complicated. Although there is an assistant this post is designed to give people who are less confident with playing with preferences a bit better of an idea of what everything means. It may also help you figure out solutions to when things go wrong. The preference pane shown below is the Leopard version. The Tiger and earlier versions differ slightly but they are essentially the same.

This first shot is the main screen. It will probably look differently on your computer, but essentially the things are the same. The number are referenced below.


1) Location

Pretty self explanatory. The location is used to set up different settings for different places (or the same place). You can click the drop down to add edit or delete a place. Most of the time it will say “Automatic” although I have deleted that version and can’t get it back.

2) Adapter Selector

The sidebar selector is, you guessed it, a selector for the different ways to connect. This list will display only the ways you can select to a network on your computer. For example if you don’t have bluetooth, bluetooth will not appear.

3) Selector Settings

This is a selection I don’t really use much, you can add and delete selcetors using the plus and minus buttons. This is in case you have different ways to connect to hardware interfaces. I have never used these options so I can’t really comment.

The little wheel gives you a lot of extra options which are very useful. Duplicate Service means you can copy it, making changes and adding it to the list. Rename, means you can rename the service. Deactivate means you can make a service inactive. This means that if you have a service that connects to a network and you don’t want it to, you can stop it from there.


Service order, is a great little tool to let you drag the services to connecting to networks into different orders in which they connect. For example I like to connect over ethernet than Wi-Fi so I have changed the order here. Most of the time your Mac will automatically use the fastest connection, but this is very useful it you want to reinforce a particular connection.

Finally you have Import Configurations and Export Configurations. For importing & exporting the settings. Although I don’t see how you can export the options, since it is greyed out. Hidden in the screenshot is the Virtual Interface options for creating VLAN’s. I haven’t used these options so I can’t comment.

4 & 5) Configuration

This is the business end of the network pane. Here you select the way you connect to the network in question. Over ethernet (as shown) you have more settings. DHCP, is a way for the router to automatically give out IP addresses, but your router needs to have DHCP. There is also the manual way where you input a certain IP address. DCHP is quicker but the manual method is more secure.

The extra stuff like subnet mask you should leave as default, usually 255.255.255.255 (or the end number 0). It is the way the router or any network device can use to broadcast to other computers. Its a complicated subject and not needed for the purpose of this article. You can also enter DNS addresses, these are usually given out by your IP.

Wireless options looks different and only has a drop down box. All of the configuration settings are done through the advance options.

6) Advance Options

The advance options button to access advance options, explained below.

7) Assist Me

A wizard which helps you through the steps of configuring your network. It is usually presented when you first set up your computer or have troubles connecting to any network.

The advance options pane is usually an extension of the main page. You usually need to access the advance options to fine tune the settings, or tune something very specific on or off.

8) Options Tabs

These are the options tabs for changing the specific parts of the network connections. All you really need to worry about is TCP/IP and DNS. The TCP/IP is the way to change the IP addresses etc. DNS is used to convert IP address into text address and vice-versa. For more information a general search on wikipedia should reveal the answer.

9) The Settings

This is the setting section. As you can see it does include slightly more options which you can change and edit.


Thats pretty much it as an overview of Network Preference Pane anatomy. I hope this helps for anyone who is new to networking. One final tip you can change the location of the network through the Apple in the menu bar then to location menu item. You can also quickly access the preference pane from the menu.


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