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Where to find Wi-Fi connectivity settings in Windows 10

In Windows 10, the Wi-Fi (and wired) connectivity settings are in a new spot, but they're as easy to access and configure as ever. You just have to know where to look.

The configuration options for Wi-Fi connectivity have moved in Windows 10, which can confuse laptop and mobile device users who rely on connecting to and switching between wireless and Internet networks. Luckily, all users need to straighten things out are a few quick pointers.

Windows 10 has moved many system options -- such as System, Devices, Accounts, Privacy and other option groups -- into the Settings application. The Network & Internet configuration options are there, too. To access them, users should click the Start button, then Settings, then Network & Internet. A menu of options will appear on the left.

For PCs that rely on wireless network connections, a Wi-Fi entry will be included on the left list. Wi-Fi is typically listed first, and the menu allows users to see a list of all the detected Wi-Fi networks in the immediate vicinity. Users should click the desired wireless network and click Connect. Secured wireless networks will ask for the network security key before establishing the connection.

The Settings app offers access to additional wireless connection options. Click the Advanced options entry just below the last wireless network in the list. For example, users can decide whether to make the system discoverable (this should be off in any public network venue) or watch data usage (handy for limited data use plans). Users can also choose Manage Wi-Fi settings to control how the system connects to networks. Generally, both options menus are most useful for highly mobile PCs such as laptops, tablets and Windows devices. PCs with wireless connections rarely need to adjust these options once the system is initially configured.

If a PC relies on cabled Ethernet networks, there will be an Ethernet entry in the left list. Clicking on the Ethernet entry displays details about the current Ethernet network connection, and makes numerous changes to the system's network adapter and configuration. Network users can also manage virtual private networks, dial-up and proxy network connections from the Network & Internet menu.

Finding wireless connection details in Windows 10

Both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections are denoted by a series of technical details that all work together to uniquely identify a particular system. Most everyday users don't need to know connection details but they can become extremely important for troubleshooting connectivity problems or verifying the source or destination of network traffic. For example, a company might investigate the source of unwanted or inappropriate corporate email by checking the details of an employee's system against similar details included in network traffic packets.

To find these details, click Start, Settings, Network & Internet, select the Wi-Fi entry on the left list, and then click the Advanced options entry below the last wireless network in the list. The wireless network's Properties are listed at the bottom of the Wireless Network Connection page.

Properties include information about the wireless network such as the network's name, its service set identifier (SSID), the wireless protocol used in the connection and the security applied to the connection. The Properties also list the system's IP address, as well as the IP address of the local domain name service server, which is normally the router in a home or small business.

Next, the wireless adapter manufacturer and model are listed with the driver version. Communication or Wi-Fi connectivity problems are often traced to incorrect IP address settings or troublesome driver versions which IT can usually update or roll back to fix most driver issues. Finally, the physical address -- the media access control or MAC address -- identifies the precise network adapter unique to the computer. The MAC and IP address typically identify the system with absolute certainty.

Removing old networks

A computer automatically recognizes new wireless connections by reading the SSID name the network broadcasts. When users click Start, Settings, Network & Internet, then select the Wi-Fi entry, the SSID appears in the list of available wireless network connections. But previous SSIDs remain in the list even when they're out of range and worker no longer use those networks. Over time, the list of SSIDs can become long and unwieldy to navigate, especially for mobile devices with small displays.

Windows 10 makes it easy for users to delete old or unused wireless network names. When looking at the list of Wi-Fi networks, click the Manage Wi-Fi settings entry below the last wireless network name, and then locate the "Manage known networks" list. Users should then click the network name that they no longer need, then click Forget. This should delete the entry from the wireless network list. If users are still in the vicinity of the deleted wireless network, it may reappear in the list of available local Wi-Fi networks. It's better to just "forget" remote or rarely used networks, such as a distant airport terminal.

Note that every wireless network can broadcast an SSID, but wireless network providers can turn off SSID broadcasts through a configuration option at a wireless access point (such as a router). Turning off an SSID will effectively "hide" the wireless network, and won't show up on the SSID list. But users can still connect to and use the wireless network if they know the SSID (and security key for encrypted networks).

Next Steps

How to troubleshoot wireless network connectivity problems

Compare handsets and data cards for wireless connectivity

Approach wireless connectivity troubleshooting systematically

This was last published in February 2016

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