If you're a sucker for an early-morning Egg McMuffin or a lunchtime Big Mac, there's good news. You can now catch up on some work while you munch away. At more than 11,500 McDonald's locations, you can access free Wi-Fi connectivity as long as your device is within range of the network. Connecting should be easy, but a few things can cause you to have trouble.
Connect to McDonald’s Wi-Fi
To connect to any public Wi-Fi, you first go to the Wi-Fi icon in the corner of your computer screen. For Mac devices, this icon is in the upper right corner, but on Windows 10, it's in the bottom right corner. It is represented by slightly curved lines gradually getting smaller.
On the drop-down list of available networks, look for something that includes McDonald's in the name. Originally, locations named the networks wayport_access, because McDonald's original network provider was Wayport, which has since been bought by AT&T. For that reason, you may find some locations use a variation of AT&T or wayport_access McDonald's in their network name.
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Terms of Agreement
After you chose the network name, you should see a page pop up with the Terms of Agreement for using McDonald's network. If this doesn't appear automatically, attempt to visit any website and you should be prompted to accept the terms. This statement reduces McDonald's liability for anything you do while you're on its network.
Both during and after agreeing to these terms, carefully watch to ensure you don't check any boxes that approve an opt in to receive text messages, notifications or emails from McDonald's. You should be able to easily opt out of these if you accidentally sign up for one, but part of the terms is agreeing that you may opt in to communications from them. If you subscribe to McDonald's text messaging program, you consent to receive messages even if you end up paying fees to your carrier for the texts.
Troubleshooting Finding Wi-Fi
When you're on public Wi-Fi, you're at the mercy of the location's router. At times, a restaurant could be experiencing problems and not be aware of it. However, if you're having trouble connecting, first make sure the problem is not on your end before walking up to the register to report it.
The first issue many consumers have when trying to access public Wi-Fi is finding the network itself. You could see multiple names with McDonald's name as part of it, including wayport_access, McDonald's Wi-Fi, att-wifi or attwifi. Look for a network name that doesn't have a lock next to it, as those with a lock aren't open to public use. This narrows your choices to the location's public connection.
Connected but No Service
If you click on the appropriate public Wi-Fi name but get an error page, it could be that you're pulling up a page that is marked as secure. Pulling up a basic HTTP page usually is a workaround for this. Example.com is one, but you may find that one of your bookmarked pages also does the trick.
Navigating to an HTTP page prompts the Terms of Service page to come up so you can accept and get in. Once you're logged in, you are able to accept the terms and go to whatever sites you were trying to access before. There are more complicated ways to get around this issue, but typing in a non-HTTPS page is the quickest and easiest.
Getting Help From an Employee
If you've tried and failed, you may have no other choice but to seek the help of an employee. It's important to note that McDonald's employees don't prioritize you being able to work on your report over taking and filling orders. McDonald's is not in the tech support business, after all, but there are a few ways employees may be able to help you.
The first thing to ask an employee is the Wi-Fi name. You could be trying to access the wrong one, even if it's labeled as AT&T or has McDonald's in the name. An employee will likely know if the Wi-Fi is down or if the restaurant has decided to stop offering the service altogether.
Finding Locations With Wi-Fi
If you're planning to work from a McDonald's, you can find out in advance which ones closest to you have free Wi-Fi. Go to the McDonald's website, choose Locate and enter your ZIP code. Select a distance around you and the Show More drop-down box. There you can filter only for locations near you that have Wi-Fi.
You'll see a map that shows all the nearby locations that have the filters you've chosen. When you click on one, you can view the features it offers, including Wi-Fi, mobile ordering and indoor dining. Simply drive to one of these locations with your device, and you should be able to access McDonald's login page.
Table Service While You Browse
One convenience if you plan to work while you dine is table service. McDonald's has gradually begun rolling out this feature at its locations. The plan is to provide this service gradually across the globe, but currently, you'll see it in big cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco.
With table service, food is delivered directly to the table, even though you still order at the front of the restaurant. Employees may offer traditional hospitality by coming back around to pick up your empty cartons and ask if you want refills. If you want another item, you can use McDonald's mobile app to place an order directly from your table and then go to the counter to pick it up.
Accessing From the Parking Lot
You may not realize this, but you don't have to enter a building to use its Wi-Fi. Reception doesn't cut off at the door to the building. If you're in a bind, this means you can pull into the parking lot of a McDonald's or other public Wi-Fi spot and connect using your device.
One problem with accessing Wi-Fi this way is signal strength. You may find the reach is too far, or there are too many obstacles. You should also avoid squatting in the parking lot for hours for free Wi-Fi without making a purchase.
Is McDonald's Wi-Fi Fast?
Once you access McDonald's Wi-Fi, speed is everything. McDonald's has proven in studies to have faster-than-average public Wi-Fi speeds, at more than 6 Mbps. Many McDonald's locations operate on the 2.4 GHz frequency band, although some locations have upgraded to 5 GHz.
As with any Wi-Fi connection, the quality depends on the signal from the router. If you notice sluggishness, it could be that you're in a bad location. There could be interference, or you may be too far away from the router itself. Moving to another table might solve the problem.
Other Public Wi-Fi Options
McDonald's isn't the only free Wi-Fi game in town, as you likely know by now. McDonald's ranks as the best Wi-Fi for a fast food restaurant, but if one isn't nearby, you can also get free Wi-Fi at many Panera Bread, KFC and Shake Shack locations. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts also offer free Wi-Fi to customers.
In addition to restaurants, you can usually find free Wi-Fi at libraries, airports, gyms and some public parks. Many hotels offer free Wi-Fi to guests, although you may find that they lock it down to guests only. Barnes & Noble and Target also offer free Wi-Fi, and you can find a comfortable seat in locations that have Starbucks cafes inside.
Security Concerns With Public Wi-Fi
As with many public networks, McDonald's Wi-Fi network is wide open to the public. From the time you successfully access McDonald's Wi-Fi, your device is visible on the network. If a hacker happens to be on the same network, that person could find a way onto your computer and gather data.
While using public Wi-Fi networks, refrain from accessing sites where you enter sensitive information such as credit card data. In Settings, you can turn off features like file and printer sharing, AirDrop and discoverability by others. This makes it much more difficult for strangers to drop malware or take files from your device.
VPNs for Wi-Fi Access
If you plan to use public Wi-Fi networks regularly, it might be worthwhile to invest in virtual private network software. A VPN creates a tunnel between your device and the VPN provider's server. When you access websites and send data back and forth, it goes through a password-protected tunnel so that nobody on the outside can see what you're doing.
There are quite a few low-cost VPN solutions available to the general public. For a few dollars a month, you can get protection for your laptop and mobile device. Some providers even let you buy mini plans if you are only on public Wi-Fi for a limited time each month.
Hot Spots for Wi-Fi Access
Another option is to use your smartphone or tablet as a Wi-Fi hot spot. This can come in handy as a backup for those instances where you can't get on public Wi-Fi, or it's too slow. You first need to confirm that your monthly cellular plan includes hot spot availability and make sure you have a data plan that can handle the extra usage.
On an iOS device, you activate a hot spot by going to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hot Spot and turn the slider to On. On Android, go to Settings > Wireless and Networks > Connections > Mobile Hot Spot and Tethering. You may have to accept the connection on your mobile device to finalize it.
Avoid Laptop Squatting
Nobody likes a laptop squatter. As with coffee shops, using McDonald's Wi-Fi comes with basic rules of etiquette. Show your appreciation for McDonald's free service by making at least one purchase during your time there. That doesn't mean buying one small soda and taking up a table for six hours.
If you plan to occupy a table for longer than it takes you to eat what you purchased, time your visits during the location's non-busy times. If you're taking up a table at the height of lunch hour but you ate your biscuit three hours earlier, you'll likely be seen as a nuisance.
Know Your Location
Yes, you're trying to get work done, and the children screaming at the next table are making that difficult. However, it's important to remember that you're working in a restaurant, not an office. Bring a pair of earplugs or headphones along if you worry that the noise will be a distraction.
If you plan to speak on the phone while you're using public Wi-Fi, be courteous to those around you. That 9 a.m. conference call on speakerphone will earn you a few dirty looks. Don't be surprised if someone asks you to please keep it down, especially if you're loud while others are trying to enjoy a meal.