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University Technology Services

McMaster Wireless - Frequently Asked Questions

Common terminology:
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a technology for wireless local area networks based on the IEEE 802.11 standards

Access Point (AP):  a device that allows computers, notebooks, phone, etc. to connect  to a network using Wi-Fi.

RF: Radio Frequency usually designated as 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz for Wi-Fi.

What WiFi networks are managed by McMaster central IT (UTS)?

Mac-WiFi – preferred WiFi network for all Staff, Faculty and Students
MacSecure – for all Staff, Faculty and Students running legacy devices
Eduroam – for visitors to McMaster University only!
Rez-WiFi – for students and guests staying in one of the 12 student Residences
Mohawk-WiFi – for Mohawk Staff and Students in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences (IAHS or MoMac) Building

What are the differences between the wireless networks Mac-WiFi and MacSecure?

Mac-WiFi operates in the less congested 5GHz RF spectrum whereas MacSecure operates in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum. Rather than letting your device decide, connecting to Mac-WiFi ensures you are in the optimal network for McMaster University.

What is the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies?

The primary differences between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies are range and bandwidth. 5GHz provides faster data rates at a shorter distance, whereas 2.4GHz offers coverage for farther distances, but may perform at slower speeds.

2.4Ghz is considered legacy frequency because it is limited to 3 non overlapping channels and is only suitable for low density of users. It’s also prone to interference by Microwave ovens, some cordless phones and Bluetooth.

Despite the shorter range, 5GHz has 23 non overlapping channels and is recommended for areas with a high density of users which is why Mac-WiFi has been configured this way.

What if I can’t see Mac-WiFi in my available networks list but I can see MacSecure?

If you can’t see Mac-WiFi at all, it’s likely you have an older device that lacks a 5GHz radio.

Note: 802.11n does not necessarily mean it supports 5 GHz. Your WiFi performance at McMaster will suffer without this.

Note: 802.11agn supports 5GHz, 802.11bgn is 2.4GHz only.

Can I upgrade my device to 5GHz?

Some devices such as Windows based laptops can benefit from a wireless USB adapter supporting both RF bands. Consult with your computing vendor for options.

Is Mac-WiFi secure?

Mac-WiFi uses the same security and encryption as MacSecure. Authentication is done using the Enterprise variant of WPA2, also known as 802.1x and uses the strongest encryption available for wireless networks.

Should I use the VPN with any of the wireless networks?

No, the VPN is not needed when using WiFi and does not improve security. VPN for WiFi may be discontinued in the near future.

What are Rogues and why are they undesirable?

A rogue access point is a wireless access point that has been installed within the same vicinity as the wireless network the university operates. These rogue APs compete for the same RF spectrum as the University wireless network and often operate on channels already allocated to University WiFi devices. The result is more interference and slower speeds. In extreme cases complete wireless failure can occur.

Are wireless networks slower than wired networks?

Usually, yes. Most wired networks continue to offer better, more reliable, speed and consistency over wireless networks. We recommend you use the wired network for performance and consistency (i.e. for servers and systems requiring high availability) and WiFi for convenience. Both types of networks will co-exist for some time.

How do I ensure the best WiFi performance at McMaster University?

a. Use Mac-WiFi instead of MacSecure where possible.

b. Ensure you have at least 3 bars of signal strength (4-5 is best).

c. Make sure you are on the best AP possible by disconnecting and reconnecting when you arrive at your usage destination. Client devices control when they change Access Points and tend to hold on to a connection that is poor even when a better one is available.

d. Ensure that your WLAN drivers are up-to-date from the manufacturer web site.

e. If possible, avoid highly congested areas. Crowded areas are naturally going to decrease WiFi performance.

Why isn’t WiFi available everywhere at McMaster?

There are many locations on campus without adequate WiFi coverage. The University is adding to the coverage areas as funding permits.

Are there Wi-Fi Bandwidth quotas?

McMaster Wireless networks support speeds of up to 50 Mb/s down (from the Internet) and 10 Mb/s up (to the Internet). It helps set priorities and smooth out usage in busy locations to be more even for all users. This is typical of what many commercial home Internet Services providers offer to their customers. There are currently no data usage caps otherwise.

Service Bulletins

  • MAC ID Password Expiry

    Beginning in May 2016, MAC ID passwords at McMaster expire annually. Learn more at

Service Desk

Hours: Monday - Friday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Phone: 905-525-9140 x24357 (2HELP)
Location: Main Campus BSB Rm. 245
Service Catalogue:

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