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Importing and Exporting Windows Network Settings

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Need to back up or distribute your network settings? Eric Geier shows how to work with your wireless profiles, TCP/IP configuration, and 802.1X authentication settings.

This tutorial covers how to back up and/or transfer your network settings. We'll address these main network settings:

  • Wireless profiles. Encryption and authentication settings.
  • TCP/IP configuration. Static IP addresses and DNS details.
  • Wired profiles. 802.1X authentication settings.

The chief method we'll use is the network shell (Netsh) command-line tool, which works at the command prompt. Although Netsh has been included in Windows since Windows 2000, support for working with wireless and wired network profiles wasn't added until Windows Vista.

We'll also work with Windows Connect Now (WCN), available in Windows XP SP2 and later. Microsoft developed this feature to make it easier to set up and configure smaller networks.

Importing and Exporting Wi-Fi Settings with Netsh (Windows Vista and Windows 7 Only)

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft includes wireless commands for the Netsh command-line tool. This feature gives you the ability to export the profiles of wireless networks you've saved in Windows; it also lets you import the profiles into other Vista or Windows 7 machines.

To get started with Netsh, open a command window. Since it's nice to know the profile name, you can first review a list of the saved profile names:

netsh wlan show profiles

If you want to see the details of your profiles, use this command:

netsh wlan show all

When you're ready to export a profile, use the following syntax:

netsh wlan export profile folder="PATH_TO_FOLDER" name=PROFILENAME

This command creates an XML file (Figure 1 shows an example) in the folder you specify, and using the name of the interface and the profile you enter (for example, Wireless Network Connection-mynetworkname.xml).

Figure 1 Example of a wireless profile exported in the XML format.

Keep in mind that you don't have to specify any parameters; you can simply enter the command:

netsh wlan export profile

If you don't provide a folder name, Windows will automatically choose the main directory of the user's personal folders. If you don't identify a profile name, Windows will export all the profiles.

After exporting a profile, you can import it into another Vista or Windows 7 machine:

netsh wlan add profile filename="PATH_AND_FILENAME.xml"

You can specify an interface to import the profile; this option is useful if the computer has multiple wireless adapters. You can also specify that you want to apply the profile to all users of the computer, or just to the current user. Here's an example using both parameters:

netsh wlan add profile filename="PATH_AND_FILENAME.xml" Interface="Wireless Network Connection" user=current

If you don't specify an interface, Windows adds it for all interfaces by default. Also, if you don't specify the user parameter, Windows adds the profile for all users.

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