How to Disable Google Location Wi-Fi Scanning on Android

There are some important advanced options buried in your Android’s Wi-Fi settings. Chief among these is the ability to disable Wi-Fi scanning for Google’s location service.

In a nutshell, when enabled, Wi-Fi scanning means that location and other apps will be able to scan for Wi-Fi networks even when your device’s Wi-Fi radio is off. Thus, your phone or tablet can still gather location data and assemble a general idea of your comings and goings. We had a frank examination of location tracking history in a previous article, just in case you’re interested in learning more.

The purpose of Wi-Fi scanning is to help Google locate your phone or tablet more accurately than if it were simply going by cellular networks. If you enable GPS location tracking, then everything is a fairly moot point, but GPS is very battery-intensive, and having the Wi-Fi radio enabled when you’re out and about is as well.

Wi-Fi scanning is thus meant to be a low-power alternative in between all and nothing.

The fact is, however, some of you may not want this feature, so you can disable it by opening Android’s Wi-Fi settings and tapping on the “Advanced” option.

Now, in the Wi-Fi advanced options, disable “scanning always available.”

We want to stress, this does not turn off Google location reporting. Moreover, you don’t necessarily want to completely disable the location feature completely, because you lose a lot of functionality.

The best compromise then is to leave location on “battery saving,” turn off Wi-Fi scanning, and disable location reporting. Again, you should read our article on how to do that.

Let’s turn our focus now to the other options in the advanced Wi-Fi settings.

The Other Advanced Wi-Fi Settings

Notice the first advanced option allows you to disable notifications when your device finds an open network. There’s not much to explain here. Basically, if you get annoyed when your device announces an open Wi-Fi network, disabling this option will prevent that from happening.

If you are interested in saving battery life, but you want to leave Wi-Fi (not Wi-Fi scanning) enabled, you can tap the “keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” option and select “never” or “only when plugged in.”

If you choose “never,” then Wi-Fi will reenable itself when you wake your device up. We urge you to read this article if you’re interested in knowing more about how to prolong battery life when you’re not using your device.

If you want to constrain your device to only scan for 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi networks or 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks, then “Wi-Fi frequency band” gives you that option.

Selecting “5 Ghz only,” for example, will just display networks in your vicinity broadcasting at 5Ghz frequency.

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Let’s check out the remaining options in the advanced Wi-Fi settings.

First, there’s the “install certificates” option, which according to Google’s help page: “You can use digital certificates to identify your device for a variety of purposes, including VPN or Wi-Fi network access as well as authentication to servers by apps such as Email or Chrome.” Bottom line, you’re likely to never use this feature.

Wi-Fi Direct is also another unheralded feature you may never use. Wi-Fi Direct is akin to an ad-hoc setup, which allows you to connect your device to other Wi-Fi Direct devices without an Internet connection. For example, if you want to print something to a Wi-Fi Direct printer, you could do that without connecting to a Wi-Fi network first.

The final two options have to do with Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS. WPS lets you connect a device to a router without entering a password. You enable this feature by tapping on it and then push the WPS button on your router.

Alternatively, if your router allows it, you can enter a WPS PIN on your router’s administrative interface and connect that way, kind of like pairing some Bluetooth devices.

The last item you can find on the advanced Wi-Fi options are your device’s MAC address and IP address. If you’re wondering what these are and where to find them, now you know.

While the focus of this article is to tell you how to disable Wi-Fi scanning, Android packs a lot of other options into this area. So, if you ever want to make those open Wi-Fi network notifications go away, or see which access points are broadcasting at 5Ghz, you can do so from the advanced options.

At this point, we’ll open things up to your comments and questions. Our discussion forum is open and we welcome your feedback.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.