Apple changed the way iPhones and iPads connect to Wi-Fi networks starting with the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. If this is causing problems with the Wi-Fi network, you can disable it for that network. Here’s how.
How Private Wi-Fi Addresses Work
When an iPhone, iPad, or other WI-Fi enabled device connects to a Wi-Fi network, it sends a unique media access control (MAC) address. This identifies the device to the network.
Traditionally, MAC addresses are assigned at the hardware level and are the same for the life of the device. Each network you connect to receives the same MAC address from your device. You can change your MAC address manually on some devices, but few people do.
It’s easy to see how this feature could lead to tracking: If you move around a city connected to different public Wi-Fi access points at coffee shops, airports, and libraries, your devices will use the same MAC address to connect to each one. -Each, enabling organizations operating Wi-Fi hot spots to track the movement of your location and network activity over time.
With a private Wi-Fi address, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch will now provide a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network they connect to. Each Wi-Fi network you connect to receives a different MAC address from your device. Your Wi-Fi sessions from different Wi-Fi networks cannot be easily linked any more easily.
How Private Wi-Fi Can Cause Problems
Most of the time, you won’t see a problem with a private WI-Fi address. This option is enabled by default and will “work.” In some cases, this will cause problems on certain networks.
For example, someone might have set up a Wi-Fi network to use MAC address filtering, allowing only certain devices to connect. Your organization might ask you to turn off your personal Wi-Fi address in this situation. At home, you may have set parental controls for each device on your Wi-Fi network – a feature that uses MAC addresses to identify and enforce restrictions on devices.
If you are having trouble connecting to or accessing the internet on a Wi-Fi network, disabling this option is a great troubleshooting step that will solve your problem in some situations.
How to Disable Private Address for a Wi-Fi Network
The “Private Address” option is controlled separately for each Wi-Fi network. We don’t recommend turning it off for networks unless you need to (or are troubleshooting.)
To find this option, head to Settings> Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad. Find the Wi-Fi network for which you want to change this option – it will be at the top of the screen if you are currently connected to it. Tap the “i” icon to the right of the Wi-Fi network name.
Disable the “Private Address” option by tapping the switch to the right of it.
The “Wi-Fi Address” option here shows you a private MAC address used on a particular network, if you need one – to configure something on the router, for example.
You will be asked to rejoin the network if you are already connected. Tap “Rejoin” and your iPhone or iPad will rejoin its normal MAC address.
On Apple Watch, the process is the same – go to Settings> Wi-Fi, tap the name of the network you’re joining (or swipe left on the network and tap the “…” button if you’re not already connected to it), and disable the “Private Address” slider .