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Old Dec 25, 2011, 06:43 AM   #1
Roman2K~
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Join Date: Mar 2011
OS X Lion: Wi-Fi problems? Set the MTU manually

Context:

2011 11" MBA
OS X Lion v10.7.2

Problem:

The last few days, I've been pulling my hair out because throughput via my Wi-Fi connection had become unstable out of the blue. While the signal was strong and stable, download speeds (on my local network) were slow and fluctuating, like ~160 KB/s at the most for one second, then 0 B/s for 5 seconds and cycling. Other computers (two MacBook Pros) connected to the same Wi-Fi router had stable, normal-throughput connections.

It reminded me of an issue I had on Windows over 10 years ago, where I had to play with the MTU to restore throughput stability (100 Mbits/s Ethernet).

Solution:

Set the MTU manually:

1. Determine the maximum MTU following this guide.

2. It's a connection-specific setting. Configure it in System Preferences > Network > [a connection] > Advanced... > Hardware > Configure: {Manually,Automatically}

3. Disable and re-enable Wi-Fi.

Story:

I usually am not comfortable resetting things to "solve" problems, because usually, it's only a temporary patch and the real problem is left unsolved. So the abnormal behaviour will come back sooner or later.

This time, I had a hunch this was MTU-related. Until now, the MTU was configured automatically. The current automatically-determined value must be stored somewhere. Not knowing where, I thought I'd got a try to the famous PRAM- / NVRAM-reset.

After that, download speeds were back to normal.

Then I went a bit further and determined the maximum MTU manually. I found it was the regular 1500, but setting this manually increased the speed from a stable 850 KB/s (far away from a crappy 802.11g router) to 1.9 ~ 2.3 MB/s!

Conclusion:

Automatic MTU setting, at least paired with my crappy-ol' Wi-Fi router, is not optimal, and may lead to extremely poor speeds at some point. So, in case you're encountering instability, try setting it manually.
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iMac (late 2013): 21.5", i5 2.7 GHz, 8 GB, 1 TB FD | MacBook Air (mid 2013): 11", i5 1.3 GHz, 4 GB, 128 GB => rMBP (late 2013): 15", i7 2.0 GHz, 8 GB, 256 GB

Last edited by Roman2K~; Dec 25, 2011 at 06:48 AM.
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Old Dec 26, 2011, 12:34 PM   #2
wilsonhaven
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Useful exercise. I used the very simple suggestion for checking your effective MTU in the link provided.

My MTU was automatically set to 1500. I did a traceroute to my provider and used the address for the first external device that gave me a reply.

My actual capability fragments at 1480. I set it to 1472 and at least speedtest.net thinks I'm getting much closer to what I pay for.

Thanks!
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