Windows 10 Guide Updated: 07/19/18

Network

About Networking

Networking covers a great number of settings and options, related to the network adapter (the equipment through which you connect to a network) , the network itself (private or public; wi-fi, wired, or cellular), your router and Internet connection, and your device's firewall. In addition, your network enables sharing of resources - files, data, images, music - among the people on the network.

The starting point for any actions relating to your home/small business network, or your internet connectivity, is Settings, Network & Internet.

Among the things you can do there:

  • Set up or make changes to network connections. A connection is simply a way to connect to a network (e.g., wired Ethernet, wi-fi, cellular, dial-up). Your computer may be capable of several of these methods.
  • Change or modify your IP address
  • Verify or change your network profile (this has to do with whether you are connecting to a private or public network).
  • View which networks are available
  • Review the firewall settings of your computer and make changes to them.
  • Configure sharing on your network (see Sharing below).
  • Perform a network reset.
  • Find information useful for troubleshooting network connection problems
  • Besides discussing network settings, this page also serves as an introduction to two related topics: Sharing; and Microsoft's recent removal of the SMBv1 component, which was a crucial part of the network browsing capability.

    Network Settings - Details on Each Section

    Network & Internet is broken up into the following sections:

  • Status
  • Wi-fi
  • Ethernet
  • Cellular
  • Dial-up
  • VPN
  • Airplane mode
  • Mobile hotspot
  • Data usage
  • Proxy
  • You may not see all of these entries when you first look at the Network and Internet section. The Wi-fi and Airplane mode options appear only if your computer or device has wi-fi capability. Similarly, Ethernet and Cellular appear only if the device has a (wired) Ethernet adapter or SIM card slot installed.

    Note that Bluetooth settings are located elsewhere: Settings, Devices.

    Homegroup: This feature was removed from Windows 10 with the publishing of Windows 1803, the update to Windows 10 that was released as of April 30 2018. It is therefore no longer available to users who have updated to that version. Homegroup was a method of allowing users on a small network, such as a home network, to share files.

    Status:

    Status shows a small graphic indicating your network status and whether you are connected through to the internet:

    There are also links to other network-related settings:

  • Change connection properties. (Allows you to change how your network connection behaves, as well as your "network profile". Follow the link for more information.)
  • Show available networks (this will generate a pop-up that shows all networks you can be reached from your current location)
  • Under Change your network settings:

  • Change adapter options. Takes you to the Network Connections page. Follow this link for a more detailed discussion.
  • Sharing options. You can have different levels of sharing depending on whether the network to which you are connecting is private (i.e., home or workplace) or public (e.g., at an airport, mall, or coffee shop). Follow this link for a more detailed discussion
  • Network troubleshooter (starts an interactive "wizard" that will attempt to diagnose network connection problems that are internal to your computer or device)
  • View your network properties. Find useful technical information about your network connection and your networking equipment.
  • Windows Firewall. Information regarding the firewall built into your computer.
  • Network and Sharing Center. Opens the older Control Panel center for networking.
  • Network reset Caution! Per Microsoft, this will "remove, then reinstall all your network adapters". This would normally be used only where your network hardware and software seems to be seriously malfunctioning. Follow the link for further details.

  • Wi-fi:

    This section serves a critical function: it's the place where you make changes necessary to join your computer to a wi-fi network, either at home, at a friend's house, at work, or while traveling. Its sub-areas are:

    Wi-fi On/Off - a one-click way to turn off networking if desirable (for example, to conserve battery power when you know you will (or can) only work offline for a while). Also displays your current network name (SSID) and connection status:

  • Show available networks: displays the list of wi-fi networks available from your current location (same as clicking the wi-fi icon in the notification area of the taskbar).
  • Hardware properties: displays important networking properties of your active connection, including SSID, wi-fi security type, network band and channel, IP address, network adapter info, and MAC address. Also has a Copy button to copy the info for pasting into a document or email.
  • Manage known networks: manage certain features for "remembered" networks. Follow the link for details.
  • Random hardware addresses: this is a further safety measure for use when you are "mobile". Follow the link for details. This feature is hardware-dependent - it appears only if your network adapter supports it, so you may not see it.

    Hotspot 2.0 networks: Hotspot 2.0 is a set of technologies that enables a device to switch rapidly from one network to another, without specifically authenticating (supply credentials such as email address and password) to each one. Hotspot 2.0 was created not by Microsoft but by the Wi-fi Alliance.

    Under Related settings:

  • Change adapter options: change IP Address, network protocols, and similar settings
  • Change advanced sharing options: this is where you can configure sharing of files within a home or small business network
  • Network and Sharing Center - Manage the various types of networks you may connect to.
  • Windows Firewall: view or modify the network communication security center
  • Note that the feature known as Homegroup was removed from Windows 10 and is no longer available.


    Ethernet:

    This section largely repeats the entries listed above under Wi-fi, with reference to wired network connections.


    Cellular:

    This section appears if your device has the capability to connect via a cellular network.

    Since your device may also have the ability to connect via wi-fi, you may wish to specify whether which capability you prefer to use, when both are available. If the box marked Let Windows manage this connection is checked, your device will prefer cellular over wi-fi, if not, your device will default to wi-fi when available, and you will need to manually choose to connect over cellular.

    There are also settings to:

  • select between using a SIM or an eSIM (if your device has both)
  • set roaming policies
  • add an APN (Access Point Name)
  • display and copy a list of your cellular connection's properties
  • use a SIM PIN
  • You can get more detailed explanations of all cellular settings on the Microsoft website at:

  • Windows 10 Cellular Settings

    and

  • Windows 10 Mobile Cellular SIM settings

  • Dial-up:

    This section largely repeats the entries listed above under Wi-fi, with reference to dial-up connections.


    VPN:

    This section is largely job-related: it serves "road warriors" and other people who need to connect securely to a remote network at their workplace. The available settings here guide you in setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) between your computer and such a remote network. Needless to say, you would need to have a valid account, valid credentials, and authorization from the managers of that remote network to successfully form a VPN connection.

    A VPN connection generally provides end-to-end encryption - meaning that even though your transmitted data is passing over public communication lines (a wi-fi hotspot and a publicly-available ISP), the data is encrypted before it leaves your computer, so that, even if intercepted, it cannot easily be deciphered (software at the other end of the VPN can enable the recipient to decipher the encrypted message).

    There are also VPN services to which anyone can subscribe (monthly or yearly fee). These services do not provide the same end-to-end encryption, but they do encrypt data as it leaves your computer and until it is on the Internet - thereby protecting you from eavesdroppers at your location - e.g., in a public place such as a coffee shop, mall or airport.

    For further details on setting up and configuring a VPN, including a VPN service, visit the Virtual Private Network page on this site.


    Airplane mode:

    This section serves the same purpose as the Airplane mode toggle on most cell phones: it allows you to quickly turn off all communications (as you are still frequently requested to do during take-offs and landings).

    You can also selectively turn off a single type of communication: e.g., Bluetooth but not Wi-fi, or vice versa.


    Mobile hotspot:

    This feature simplifies the process of using your computer or other device as a local hotspot for other devices (up to 8). Visit the mobile hotspot page for a detailed discussion and a step-by-step set up procedure.


    Data usage:

    This section helps you track data usage, and also gives you some basic tools for managing data usage.

    Overview: This section shows data usage overall from the past 30 days:

    It will display entries for each type of connection available on the device in the example shown, the device has both a wi-fi adapter and an Ethernet adapter.

    Using the Show settings for section you can change the displayed data to reflect only one type of connection.

    The View usage per app link gives you just that: a table listing how much network traffic was generated through use of a particular app.

    Data limit: Clicking the Set limit button leads you to a dialog box offering several ways to constrain your use of a data plan:

    Background data: Background data means data being processed by apps which are not actively running. For example, the Mail app may be checking for incoming emails even when its minimized. Note that this option applies only to Universal Windows Platform apps - i.e., built-in apps or apps purchased from the Store.

    Your choice here is very blunt: you can have a limit applied to all such apps, or not at all on any. The latter case is the default:


    Proxy:

    This section offers some useful settings for those who access the Internet through a proxy server. Such situations arise chiefly in large organizations and enterprises, which use a proxy server to control both incoming and outgoing Internet access.

    Among the available settings are: (1) Automatically Detect Settings; (2) the ability to include a start-up script; (3) the ability to manually configure your connection to the proxy server (IP Address, port number, address exceptions).

    Much of the information needed to use these settings would normally need to be supplied by the IT staff of the enterprise.


    Sharing

    You can allow other people on your network to access files and data on your computer. You can also limit their access to specific files or folders, allowing you to mark off some folders on your hard drive with an electronic Private Property sign, while making other folders available to other people on the network.

    There is even a special set of folders, called the Public folders, that are tailor-made for allowing you to share files with others in your family or other network, and if your goal is to have a means to quickly share files on a sporadic basis, this is possibly the simplest way to accomplish that.

    You can similarly share other resources: a printer or other peripheral device attached to your computer; your computer's DVD drive (useful if another family member can't use theirs because it's broken); or even share your Internet or cellular connection.

    Some types of sharing are simple while others are complicated. Sharing also affects the security of your computer, so it must be done right.

    Visit the Sharing page on this site for a detailed discussion of all of these items.


    Removal of SMBv1 and the Effect on Network Browsing

    With the publishing of Windows 1709 (fall of 2017), Microsoft set the stage for removal of a component called SMBv1 (Server Message Block version 1) from Windows. This component had long been recognized as a security risk, and has been replaced with later, more secure versions.

    One of the immediate effects of the removal of SMBv1 was the loss of the Network Browsing capability, which required SMBv1. This capability enabled your computer to detect and list the active computers on your network. The names of such computers showed up in the Network category in File Explorer. It was useful in the process of mapping a drive to another computer on your network.

    Because of the manner in which Microsoft planned its removal of SMBv1, not every Windows 10 computer lost the feature. In addition, the software can be manually deleted, and also manually re-installed, if there is a reason to do so (this is not recommended). You can get a detailed discussion of all of these issues on the SMBv1 page on this site.