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Managing Your Network Connections

If your computer is a laptop or a tablet, chances are that you’ll use multiple network connections rather than just one. This section shows you how to use Airplane mode to turn off communications, how to configure network settings manually when necessary, and how to connect through a proxy server. You also learn how to prioritize network connections, how to bridge multiple connections, how to improve wireless speed and reliability, and how to forget a wireless network you no longer want to use.

Using Airplane Mode and Turning Off Wireless Devices

When you need to shut down communications, you can switch on Airplane mode. As its name suggests, Airplane mode is mainly designed for air travel, but you can use it any other time you need it.

The quick way to turn Airplane mode on or off is to click the Network icon in the notification area and then click Airplane Mode on the Network fly-out.

Alternatively, choose Start, Settings, choose Network & Internet, click Airplane Mode in the left column, and then set the Airplane Mode switch to On or Off, as needed.

Configuring IP Settings Manually

As discussed earlier in this chapter, Windows tries to automatically detect and apply suitable network settings when you connect to a wired network or wireless network. But if the network doesn’t use DHCP, or if your computer needs a static IP address for other reasons, you can configure IP settings manually.

Normally, you’ll just need to configure the essential settings, which we cover in the first subsection. But there are also more advanced settings you may need sometimes; we cover those in the second subsection.

Configuring the IP Address, Gateway, and DNS Servers

Follow these steps to configure IP settings:

  1. Click the Network icon in the notification area to open the Network fly-out.
  2. Click the Network Settings link to display the appropriate pane on the Network & Internet screen in the Settings app. For a wireless network, the Wi-Fi pane appears; for a wired network, the Ethernet pane appears.
  3. Click Change Adapter Options to display the Network Connections window.

  4. Right-click the entry for the adapter you want to configure, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu. For example, right-click Ethernet and click Properties to open the Ethernet Properties dialog box (see Figure 3.5).

    FIGURE 3.5

    FIGURE 3.5 In the Properties dialog box for the connection, click the appropriate Internet Protocol item, and then click Properties.

  5. Click the appropriate Internet Protocol item. For most networks, you’d click Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4).
  6. Click Properties to display the Properties dialog box—for example, the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) Properties dialog box (see Figure 3.6).

    FIGURE 3.6

    FIGURE 3.6 In the Properties dialog box for the protocol, such as the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) Properties dialog box, specify the IP settings the connection needs.

  7. Check the Use the Following IP Address option button. When you do this, Windows automatically selects the Use the Following DNS Server Addresses option button in the lower part of the dialog box.
  8. Type the static IP address in the IP Address box.

  9. Type the subnet mask in the Subnet Mask box.

  10. Type the IP address of the network router or gateway in the Default Gateway box. If you administer your network, this is the address of your router; if you’re on someone else’s network, ask the network’s administrator for this information and for the DNS server addresses.
  11. Type the IP address of the first DNS server your administrator or ISP has given you in the Preferred DNS Server box.

  12. Type the IP address of the second DNS server in the Alternate DNS Server box.
  13. Check the Validate Settings upon Exit check box if you want Windows to check the configuration when you close the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) Properties dialog box. This is normally a good idea.
  14. Click OK.

If you selected the Validate Settings upon Exit check box, Windows checks for obvious problems with the connection. If the settings seem valid, Windows closes the dialog box without comment. But if there’s a problem, Windows displays a Microsoft TCP/IP dialog box such as that shown in Figure 3.7 to warn you of the problem. Normally, you’ll want to click No, which returns you to the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) Properties dialog box so that you can fix the problem.

FIGURE 3.7

FIGURE 3.7 The Microsoft TCP/IP dialog box opens if Windows detects a problem with the IP settings you have chosen. Click No to go back and make changes to fix the problem.

When the settings are okay, you can close the Properties dialog box for the connection, the Network Connections window, and the Settings window.

Configuring Advanced Settings

For some networks, you may need to configure advanced settings in order to give your computer the connectivity it needs. For example, you may need to assign further IP addresses, configure default gateways, or specify DNS suffixes.

Click the Advanced button in the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) Properties dialog box or the Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) dialog box to display the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog box. For IPv4, this dialog box has three tabs: the IP Settings tab, the DNS tab, and the WINS tab. For IPv6, this dialog box has only the IP Settings tab and the DNS tab.

On the IP Settings tab of the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog box (see Figure 3.8), you can take the following actions:

FIGURE 3.8

FIGURE 3.8 On the IP Settings tab of the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog box, you can add, edit, and remove IP addresses and default gateways.

  • Add, edit, and remove IP addresses. Use the Add, Edit, and Remove buttons below the IP Addresses box to add new IP addresses or to edit or remove existing ones. The adapter must have at least one IP address.
  • Add, edit, and remove default gateways. Use the Add, Edit, and Remove buttons below the Default Gateways box to add new default gateways or to edit or remove existing ones. For each default gateway, you can either assign a specific interface metric or allow Windows to assign the metric automatically. The adapter must have at least one default gateway.
  • Choose between automatic metric and a specific interface metric for this network adapter. Check the Automatic Metric check box at the bottom of the IP Settings tab to let Windows choose which adapter to use when multiple adapters have connections. Clear this check box and enter a value (an integer in the range 1–9999) if you want to weight this adapter against other adapters manually.

On the DNS tab of the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog box (see Figure 3.9), you can take the following actions:

FIGURE 3.9

FIGURE 3.9 You can configure additional DNS settings on the DNS tab of the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog box.

  • Add, edit, and remove DNS servers. Use the Add, Edit, and Remove buttons below the DNS Server Addresses, in Order of Use box to add new DNS servers or to edit or remove existing ones.
  • Change the order in which to use DNS servers. Use the Move Up button and Move Down button on the right side to shuffle the DNS servers into the order in which you want Windows to use them.
  • Specify how to resolve unqualified DNS names. For unqualified DNS names (see the nearby note), you normally want to select the Append Primary and Connection Specific DNS Suffixes option button. You then can check the Append Parent Suffixes of the Primary DNS Suffix check box to append parent suffixes as well. (For example, with the primary DNS suffix of test.surrealpcs.com, Windows appends .surrealpcs.com and .com to queries.) Alternatively, you can check the Append These DNS Suffixes (in Order) check box and then build the list of suffixes in the list box.

  • Specify the DNS suffix for this connection. Type the appropriate suffix in the DNS Suffix for This Connection box.
  • Register this connection’s addresses in DNS. Check the Register This Connection’s Addresses in DNS check box if you want your computer to try to dynamically create DNS records in this DNS zone. Creating the records may help other computers to locate this computer.
  • Use this connection’s DNS suffix in DNS registration. If you check the Register This Connection’s Addresses in DNS check box, you can check the Use This Connection’s DNS Suffix in DNS Registration check box to make your computer try to register its DNS suffix in this DNS zone. You don’t usually need to do this, because Windows automatically registers the full computer name in the DNS zone.

Connecting Through a Proxy Server

Instead of connecting to websites directly, your computer can connect through a proxy server. This is a server that fulfills network requests for your computer, either by providing data that the server has previously cached or by relaying the requests to a suitable server. For example, instead of requesting a web page directly from the web server, your computer requests it from the proxy server. The proxy server either delivers the web page from its cache, providing the data more quickly and reducing Internet use, or requests the web page from the web server and passes it along to your computer.

Windows can use a proxy server in three ways:

  • Automatically. Depending on the network setup, Windows may be able to detect the proxy server and automatically select settings to use the server. You can control whether Windows does this by setting the Automatically Detect Settings switch to On or Off, as needed.
  • Using a configuration script. Windows can use the configuration script you specify to select settings for using the proxy server. You can control this feature by setting the Use Setup Script switch to On or Off, as needed.
  • Manually. You set the details of the proxy server.

To set up a network connection to use a proxy server, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Start, Settings to open the Settings window.
  2. Choose Network & Internet to display the Network & Internet screen.
  3. Choose Proxy in the left pane to display the Proxy pane. Figure 3.10 shows the top part of the Proxy pane.

    FIGURE 3.10

    FIGURE 3.10 At the top of the Proxy pane, choose whether to use the Automatically Detect Settings feature or the Use Setup Script feature.

  4. Set the Automatically Detect Settings switch to On if you want Windows to detect the proxy server automatically. Otherwise, set this switch to Off.
  5. Set the Use Setup Script switch to On if you need to use a script, and then enter the script’s location in the Script Address box and click Save. Otherwise, set the Use Setup Script switch to Off.
  6. Assuming you haven’t chosen either of the automatic options, go to the Manual Proxy Setup section and set the Use a Proxy Server switch to On.
  7. Type the proxy server’s address in the Address box (see Figure 3.11). This can be either a hostname, such as proxy.surrealpcs.com, or an IP address, such as 10.0.0.254.

    FIGURE 3.11

    FIGURE 3.11 In the lower part of the Proxy pane, set the Use a Proxy Server switch to On, enter the address and port, and specify any exceptions.

  8. Type the port number in the Port box. The port depends on how the server is configured, but ports 3128 and 8080 are widely used.
  9. Enter any proxy exceptions in the Use the Proxy Server Except for Addresses That Start with the Following Entries box, separating them with semicolons. A proxy exception is an address for which you don’t want Windows to use the proxy server. You enter the first part of the address. For example, to create a proxy exception for the surrealpcs.com site, you would enter surrealpcs.com; to create an exception just for FTP traffic on surrealpcs.com, you would enter ftp://surrealpcs.com.
  10. Check the Don’t Use the Proxy Server for Local (Intranet) Addresses check box if you want to create an exception for all local addresses.
  11. Click Save. Windows saves the proxy configuration.

Prioritizing One Network Connection over Another

If your computer has two or more network connections at any given time, you should tell Windows which connection to use first. Otherwise, you may be stuck using a slow wireless connection when a fast wired connection is available.

To set the priority for connections, follow these steps:

  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 a Network and Sharing Center window.
  3. Click Change Adapter Settings in the left column to open a Network Connections window.
  4. Press Alt to display the menu bar.
  5. Click the Advanced menu and then click Advanced Settings to display the Advanced Settings dialog box. The Adapters and Bindings tab appears at the front (see Figure 3.12).

    FIGURE 3.12

    FIGURE 3.12 Set the priority for your computer’s network connections by working in the Connections box on the Adapters and Bindings tab of the Advanced Settings dialog box.

  6. In the Connections box, click a connection, and then click Move Up or Move Down, as appropriate.
  7. When you finish, click OK to close the Advanced Settings dialog box.

Bridging Two or More Network Connections

If your computer connects to two separate networks, you can create a network bridge to enable the computers and devices on each of those networks to communicate with computers and devices on the other network.

Follow these steps to bridge network connections:

  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 a Network and Sharing Center window.
  3. Click Change Adapter Settings in the left column to open a Network Connections window.
  4. Click the first connection you want to bridge, and then Ctrl+click each of the other connections.
  5. Right-click or long-press one of the selected connections, and then click Bridge Connections on the shortcut menu.

The Network Bridge dialog box appears while Windows sets up the bridge, and then disappears automatically when the Network Bridge item appears in the Network Connections window. You’ve now connected the two networks, and the computers and devices can communicate across the bridge.

After creating a bridge, you can manipulate it as follows:

  • Add a connection to the bridge. Right-click or long-press the connection in the Network Connections window, and then click Add to Bridge on the shortcut menu.
  • Remove a connection from the bridge. Right-click or long-press the connection in the Network Connections window, and then click Remove from Bridge on the shortcut menu.
  • Remove the bridge. Remove each connection from the bridge. After you remove the last connection, Windows removes the bridge automatically.

Improving Wireless Speed and Reliability

Wi-Fi connections can be great for convenience and flexibility but can suffer from dropped connections and slowdowns. In this section, we look briefly at what you can do to improve the speed and reliability of your wireless connections.

First, if your computer keeps dropping the connection and then having to reestablish it, try turning Wi-Fi off and back on again. The easiest way to do this is to click the Network icon in the notification area and then click the Wi-Fi button at the bottom of the Network fly-out to turn off Wi-Fi temporarily. Repeat the move to turn Wi-Fi back on. If the connection is still problematic, and it’s a network that you administer, restart the wireless router.

Second, look at the connection’s status to see whether there’s anything obviously wrong. The Network icon in the notification area gives you a rough indication of signal strength—the more white bars, the better—but to see the details, you need to look in the Wi-Fi Status dialog box.

Follow these steps to open the Wi-Fi Status dialog box:

  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 a Network and Sharing Center window.
  3. In the Access Type section of the View Your Active Networks box, click the link for the Wi-Fi connection to display the Wi-Fi Status dialog box (see Figure 3.13).

    FIGURE 3.13

    FIGURE 3.13 Look at the Speed readout and Signal Quality readout in the Wi-Fi Status dialog box to try to identify problems with the connection.

These are the main things you can do from the Wi-Fi Status dialog box:

  • Check that the connection has Internet access. Look at the IPv4 Connectivity readout and the IPv6 Connectivity readout. Make sure that at least one of these says Internet rather than No Internet Access.
  • Check the connection speed. Look at the speed readout to see whether it’s reasonable. (See the nearby sidebar about wireless speeds.) If it’s not, you may be able to get a higher speed by disconnecting from the network and then connecting to it again.
  • Check the signal quality. Look at the Signal Quality readout, which shows from one to five green bars—as usual, the more the merrier.
  • View more details about the wireless connection. Click Details to display the Network Connection Details dialog box. This includes a wealth of detail, of which the following items are usually most useful: the hardware (MAC) address; whether the connection uses DHCP; the IP address and the subnet mask; and the addresses of the default gateway, the DHCP server, and the DNS server.
  • Change the wireless network’s properties. If you need to control whether Windows connects automatically to this network, click Wireless Properties to display the Wireless Network Properties dialog box. On the Connection tab, you can check or clear the Connect Automatically When This Network Is in Range check box, as needed.

  • Diagnose problems with the connection. If the connection isn’t working correctly, click Diagnose to launch the Windows Network Diagnostics Wizard.

Third, you may need to change channels to get a decent connection. A wireless network can use any of a variety of channels, which the administrator can choose using whatever configuration utility the wireless access point provides. If many of the wireless networks in your immediate vicinity use the same channels, you may get lower throughput.

To see which network is using which channels, you can install a Wi-Fi analyzer app or Wi-Fi stumbler app such as InSSIDer or Kismet. Many are available with different features, but most show you the available networks, their relative signal strength, and the channels they are using. Armed with this information, you can set your wireless network to avoid the channels your neighbors are using.

Forgetting a Wireless Network

When you no longer want to use a particular wireless network, tell your computer to forget it. Follow these steps:

  1. Click the Network icon in the notification area to open the Network fly-out.
  2. Click Network Settings to display the Network & Internet screen in Settings.
  3. Click Manage Wi-Fi Settings (below the list of Wi-Fi networks) to display the Manage Wi-Fi Settings screen.
  4. Click the appropriate network in the Manage Known Networks list. The Forget button appears.
  5. Click Forget. Windows removes the network from the list and deletes the saved password and settings for it.
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