Registering Mac on College Networks

If you’re in (or going into) a modern college, your college probably gives you Internet access.  And if that’s the case, most colleges have some form of monitoring service (such as the Bradford Persistent Agent).  These agents run in the background of your computer, and register your computer’s MAC address (physical internet address that identifies your computer on a network, not related to Apple of Macs at all) and link it with your school account.  While these agents can have the ability to look up your Internet history on that network, their general purpose is to make sure your computer is up-to-date, virus free, and not doing anything illegal, like peer-to-peer file sharing, pirating, etc.  It’s a good idea to go ahead and prep your Mac before attempting to log on to the network, it will generally make things easier.

  1. UPDATE:  This can be the major difference between instant access to the college’s network or hours sitting and waiting (trust me, I have seen it too many times).  Click on the Apple icon in the upper left hand corner, and hit Software Update and see if you have any necessary updates, specifically in the line of “Security Updates” and numerical patches (e.g. updating OS 10.7 to OS 10.7.1).  It’s best to go ahead and do all of them, but getting all the updates done in the Software Update list is generally a good idea.
  2. CHECK FOR VIRUSES: Yeah, Macs don’t have malware problems anywhere near the extent of Windows, though they are not without them.  That doesn’t mean that Macs can’t harbor Windows viruses.  Macs can be part of what is called the downstream effect, basically passing malware along.  However, since Windows viruses can’t effect Macs, a Mac user may not understand that they are transferring malware to their Windows using counterparts.  Simply put, you could have a Windows virus on your Mac, and it could be resent through you via a hacked Facebook post, a bad email, or even sharing a flash drive among friends.  If you’re not using a Mac antivirus, then download one and run a quick scan to make sure your Mac is free of infections.  I recommend Sophos Antivirus for Mac or ClamXAV, both of which are free.
  3. STOP THE PIRATING:  Yeah, it’s easy to download “free” music and movies, or to get expensive software free.  Yeah, you can use things torrent sites, Pirate Bay, and more to get these things.  Here’s the thing, it’s illegal, and some of these tools can catch it.  What’s more, If the school looks at the apps record and sees such activity, they have a legal right to report it to the proper authorities.  Those 99¢-a-pop songs you could have downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, or some other legal source, can end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars each.  So buy it legally, or just turn to a free legal alternative (like Spotify for music, or LibreOffice for your papers).
Occasionally someone will have all of this in the clear and still not be able to fix it.  At this point, it’s the school’s issue to fix.  But the likelihood of getting stuck waiting for hours to get on your university’s network goes down so very dramatically.  Some other things to keep in mind though:
  • Firewalls can cause problems because they may block the agent from connecting your computer to the network.  I’ve found temporarily disabling your firewall while the process is running will allow everything to run properly, and then you can re-enable the firewall with no problems.
  • Try renewing the DHCP.  For some reason this seems to fix the problem when connecting.  To do so, make sure your connected to the college’s network (we’ll just say wi-fi, but this works for ethernet too).  Go into Network in System Preferences and click on wi-fi in the sidebar.  Hit Advanced in the bottom-right hand corner of Preferences window and go to the TCP/IP tab.  Hit the “Renew DHCP Lease” button.  Once it is done, you should be able to connect to the network fine.
Now all should be happy and bright as you update your status from your college’s network.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  Thanks.


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