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Windows 10 tips and tricks for Wi-Fi and networking

By Eric Geier (Our Owner & Lead Wi-Fi Consultant)

Originally published on NetworkWorld

There have been many changes in Windows 10, especially since the first anniversary update last August, officially called version 1607. Here are some of the most important changes related to the Wi-Fi and networking aspects of Windows 10, along with some tips and tricks on using the new and improved features and navigating the revamped GUI.

1. Get to network properties quicker

With Windows 7 you could easily access your Wi-Fi properties and status by right-clicking its name on the network list. With every Windows release since then, Microsoft has changed exactly what appears when you right-click a network, or if anything appears at all.

As of Windows 10 Version 1607, you can now click (a regular left-click, or quick tap) a Wi-Fi name from the network list and click or tap Properties. Then the newly redesigned properties window from the Settings app will appear. There, you can change the automatic connection, discovery, and metering settings. In addition, you can view the connection properties.

Microsoft also added a new page to the Settings app in Windows 10 Version 1607 that lists the connection properties of all adapters. This could be convenient when you need to work with multiple network adapters or connections. To get there, go to the main Network & Internet page of the Settings app and on the Status tab, click or tap the View your network properties link near the bottom.

2. Toggle between the private or public network classifications

With Windows 7 you could toggle a network connection’s location classification (Private/Work or Public) by clicking the current location on the Network and Sharing Center. However, since then Microsoft has moved where you change the location classification a few times.

As of Windows 10 Version 1607, you can quickly change it by clicking or tapping the Wi-Fi name from the network list, selecting Properties, and changing the Make this PC discoverable setting.

As in previous Windows editions, you can also switch from public network classification to private/work quickly by trying to browse the Network. If the current network classification is public, you’ll see an alert near the top of the window. You can click or tap that alert and then you’ll be asked if you’d like to turn on sharing for all public networks. In most cases, you’d want to say no so the current network is changed to private. Then the Network will load.

3. Create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot

Although Microsoft added a Wi-Fi hotspot feature with Windows 8.1, it was only available on devices with a cellular 3G/4G wireless connection. Starting with Windows 10 Version 1607, all users will have this feature. So you can now share your Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection as well. Maybe use it to temporarily repeat or extend a Wi-Fi signal or use as an access point when no other Wi-Fi is around.

This mobile hotspot feature is similar to the wireless hosted network functionality that’s been included in prior Windows editions, but doesn’t require using the CLI nor a third-party tool like Connectify or Virtual Router Manager.

Simply open the Settings app, select Network & Internet, choose Mobile hotspot, and click or tap the On/Off switch. If you have multiple internet connections, you can choose which to share. Though Windows creates a random SSID and Wi-Fi password, you can customize them if you like by hitting the Edit button. If the laptop or PC has Bluetooth, you can even use a paired Bluetooth device to remotely turn the hotspot on or off.

4. Check your current Wi-Fi channel

In prior Windows editions, you had to use a Wi-Fi stumbler or analyzer in order to check Wi-Fi channels. However, you can now see what Wi-Fi channel you’re currently connected to. Though it doesn’t show the channels of other networks, it could still be useful. When there’s multiple access points around, for instance, it could help you verify which you’re connected to, if you know the channels of the access points. Or it could help when setting up another router or access point, so you can avoid overlapping the channels and causing interference.

To check your current Wi-Fi channel, simply select the SSID from the network list, click or tap Properties, and then on the Settings app that appears, refer to the Network Channel shown in the Properties list. There you also will see the protocol (such as 802.11n or 802.11ac), network band (2.4 or 5 GHz), and security type (such as WPA2-Personal or WPA2-Enterprise). Additionally, you’ll find the Wi-Fi adapter’s IP and MAC address, manufacturer, description, and driver version. You can also hit the Copy button to copy/paste the details.

5. Utilize the network troubleshooter when in trouble

Although prior Windows editions included troubleshooting tools, the Network Troubleshooter is now more accessible. Open the Settings app and go to the Network & Internet settings and you’ll see a shortcut for it on the Status page. Click or tap the Network troubleshooter and a wizard pops up. It analyzes the network and internet components, and helps resolve any detected issues.

If you’re not connected to a network, you’ll alternatively see an alert up top and a Troubleshoot button.

6. Quickly reset all networking adapters and settings

If you or a user are having network issues, you can utilize the new network reset feature that debuted with Windows 10 Version 1607. It will remove and then re-install all the network adapters and restore factory defaults for networking components. Like the troubleshooter, this is on the renovated network status page: open the Settings app and go to the Network & Internet settings and you’ll see a shortcut for it near the bottom of the Status page.

7. Stop Windows from managing your default printer

By default, Windows 10 manages your printer’s default setting. It keeps changing the default printer to the last printer you use at each location. This might be useful for some users, but a pain for other users who print to multiple printers at one location but prefer one more often than the other. If you don’t like the idea of Windows changing your default printer setting, you can disable this functionality: open the Settings app, select Devices, and turn Let Windows manage my default printer off.

8. View the saved Wi-Fi passwords

The pre-shared key (PSK) passwords you enter into Windows when connecting to Wi-Fi networks are by default saved and then can later be viewed or retrieved. This of course could be a security risk if someone else gets their hands on your computer, which is one reason you should use enterprise security with 802.1X authentication. However, it might also come in handy if you ever forget a password and want to use it on another device.

With Windows 7, you could easily view the passwords by opening the saved Wi-Fi network profiles. However, starting with Windows 8, Microsoft limited the ability to open the network profiles to the Wi-Fi network you’re currently connected to.

In Windows 10, here’s how you can view the saved password for your current network: right-click the network icon in the system tray, select the Network and Sharing Center, click the connection name, select Wireless Properties, choose the Security tab, and then press Show characters.

If you’d like to see the Wi-Fi passwords for networks you’re currently not connected to, you can download a third-party tool like NirSoft’s WirelessKeyView.

9. Change the network name

Windows automatically names network connections, which is typically derived from the router or access point on the network you’re connected to. Although this could be the same as the Wi-Fi name (SSID) it is a separate name that could differ as well. With Windows 7, you could change this name, but not with Windows 8 and later. However, if you don’t like the name given to your network connection, there are two ways you can change it.

You can modify the network connection name via the Windows Registry at the following location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\NetworkList\Profiles

Alternatively, you can change the network connection name via the Local Security Policy, under the Network List Manager.

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