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Connecting to a Wireless Network

Wired networks can be great for high speeds and reliability, but if your computer is a laptop or a tablet, you will likely find wireless networks more convenient. Windows enables you to connect to wireless networks easily and quickly.

To connect to a wireless network, you need to know its name (so that you can identify the network) and its security mechanism, such as a password.

Connecting to a Wireless Network That Broadcasts Its Name

Follow these steps to connect to a wireless network that broadcasts its name:

  1. Click the Network icon in the notification area to display the Network fly-out.
  2. If Wi-Fi is turned off (the Wi-Fi button is gray, and no networks appear), click Wi-Fi to turn Wi-Fi on. The list of available networks appears (see Figure 3.1).

    FIGURE 3.1

    FIGURE 3.1 To start connecting to a wireless network, click the Network icon in the notification area, and then click the network name.

  3. Click the network to which you want to connect your computer. If the list of networks is long, you may need to scroll down to find the network. The connection controls appear (see Figure 3.2).

    FIGURE 3.2

    FIGURE 3.2 With the connection controls displayed in the Network fly-out, check the Connect Automatically check box if necessary and then click the Connect button.

  4. Check the Connect Automatically check box if you want your computer to connect automatically to this network in the future when the network is available. You’d want to do this for your main wireless networks at home, work, and other regular locations.
  5. Click Connect. Windows prompts you to enter the network security key (see Figure 3.3).

    FIGURE 3.3

    FIGURE 3.3 Type the password in the Enter the Network Security Key box and click Next.

  6. Type the password.

  7. Check the Share Network with My Contacts check box if you want Windows to share the network with your contacts via Wi-Fi Sense.
  8. Click Next. Windows prompts you to decide whether to find PCs, devices, and content on the network and to connect automatically to devices like printers and TVs.

  9. Click Yes or No, as appropriate. Normally, you’d want to click Yes if this is your home network or a work network that you use regularly, and click No if this is a public network or a network you don’t use regularly.

When Windows connects successfully to the network, it automatically determines and applies the IP settings needed for your computer to communicate through the network. The network appears at the top of the Network fly-out and Connected appears underneath it.

When your computer is connected to the network, check that the connection is working. If the network has an Internet connection, you can check easily by opening Microsoft Edge or another web browser and making sure that it can load web pages.

If the connection isn’t working, you will need to configure it manually. See the section “Configuring IP Settings Manually,” later in this chapter, for instructions.

Connecting to a Hidden Wireless Network

A hidden wireless network doesn’t broadcast its name, so you need to tell Windows the network name as well as the network security key. Windows enables you to connect to a hidden wireless network by using either the Network fly-out or the Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard. The Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard offers an extra setting, so it’s worth knowing both techniques.

After you specify the details of the hidden wireless network, you can connect to it from the Network fly-out in the same way you connect to other wireless networks.

Adding a Hidden Wireless Network via the Network Fly-Out

To connect to a hidden wireless network via the Network fly-out, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Network icon in the notification area to display the Network fly-out.
  2. Click the Hidden Network item at the bottom of the fly-out.
  3. Check the Connect Automatically check box if you want your computer to connect to this network automatically.
  4. Click Connect. Windows prompts you to enter the name (the SSID) for the network.
  5. Click Next. Windows prompts you to enter the network security key.
  6. Type the network security key.
  7. Check the Share Network with My Contacts check box if you want Windows to share the network with your contacts via Wi-Fi Sense.
  8. Click Next. Windows prompts you to decide whether to find PCs, devices, and content on the network and to connect automatically to devices like printers and TVs.
  9. Click Yes or No, as appropriate.

Adding a Hidden Wireless Network via the Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard

Follow these steps to add a hidden wireless network using the Wireless Network Wizard:

  1. Right-click or long-press the Network icon in the notification area to open the shortcut menu.
  2. Click Open Network and Sharing Center to open the Network and Sharing Center window.
  3. In the Change Your Networking Settings list, click Set Up a New Connection or Network to launch the Set Up a New Connection or Network Wizard. The Choose a Connection Option screen appears.
  4. Click Manually Connect to a Wireless Network.
  5. Click Next. The Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard starts and displays the Enter Information for the Wireless Network You Want to Add screen (see Figure 3.4).

    FIGURE 3.4

    FIGURE 3.4 To connect to a hidden wireless network, enter its name and connection information in the Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard.

  6. Type the network’s SSID in the Network Name box.

  7. Open the Security Type drop-down menu and choose the security type, such as WPA2-Personal.
  8. If the Encryption Type drop-down menu is available, open it and choose the appropriate encryption type.
  9. Check the Hide Characters check box if you need to hide the password from shoulder-surfers.
  10. Type the password in the Security Key box.
  11. Check the Start This Connection Automatically check box if you want Windows to connect automatically to this network. You may want to do this if this is a network you use regularly.

  12. Check the Connect Even If the Network Is Not Broadcasting check box only if it’s essential to connect your computer to this network. See the nearby Caution.

  13. Click the Next button. The Manually Connect to a Wireless Network Wizard displays the Successfully Added screen, letting you know that it has added the network.
  14. Click Close to close the Wizard.

Connecting to the Hidden Network You Added

After you’ve added the hidden network, it appears in the list of networks in the Network fly-out when your computer is within range of it. To connect to the hidden network, click the Network icon in the notification area, and then click the network’s name on the Network fly-out, as for a non-hidden wireless network.

Disconnecting from and Reconnecting to Wireless Networks

When you’re ready to stop using a wireless network, disconnect from it. Click the Network icon in the notification area to display the Network fly-out, click the network’s name, and then click Disconnect.

To reconnect to a network you’ve used before, click the Network icon in the notification area to open the network fly-out, click the network’s name, and then click Connect.

Whitelisting Your Device on a Wi-Fi Network

Some Wi-Fi networks use whitelists to determine which devices are allowed to connect to them. A whitelist is a list of approved MAC addresses on devices.

Here’s how to find your computer’s MAC address:

  1. Choose Start, Settings to open the Settings window.
  2. Choose Network & Internet to display the Network & Internet screen.
  3. Click Wi-Fi in the left column if it’s not already selected.
  4. Click Advanced Options below the list of Wi-Fi networks. (You may need to scroll down.)
  5. Look at the Physical Address readout on the Wi-Fi screen.
  6. If necessary, click Copy to copy all the information shown.

You can then give the address to your network’s administrator to add to the MAC whitelist—or, if the network is your own, add the address yourself.

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