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How to find Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi settings in Windows 10 are in a different location than in past versions of Windows, 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.

Microsoft moved many systems options in Windows 10, including System, Devices, Accounts, Privacy and other option groups, into the Settings application. The Network & Internet configuration options are there, too. To access the Wi-Fi settings in Windows 10, users can click the Start button, then Settings, and 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 in the list, and the menu allows users to see a list of all the Wi-Fi networks detected in the immediate vicinity. Users can click the wireless network they want to work on and click Connect. Secured wireless networks will ask for the network security key before establishing the connection.

The Settings app offers access to additional Wi-Fi settings in Windows 10. 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 to watch data usage -- which is handy for limited data use plans. Users can also choose Manage Wi-Fi settings to control how the system connects to networks.

Network & Internet settings
A look at a wireless network's properties

Generally, both menus are most useful for highly mobile devices, such as laptops and tablets. Users working on 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 allows users to make numerous changes to the system's network adapter and configuration. Network users can also manage virtual private networks, dial-up networks and proxy network connections from the Network & Internet menu.

Find wireless connection details in Windows 10

It's better to just forget remote or rarely used networks, such as a distant airport terminal.

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 the connection details, but they can become extremely important when 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 emails by checking the details of an employee's system against similar details included in network traffic packets.

Users can find these details in two steps:

  1. Click Start, Settings, Network & Internet, and then select the Wi-Fi entry on the left list.
  2. Click the Advanced options entry below the last wireless network in the list. The wireless network's Properties will be listed at the bottom of the Wireless Network Connection page.

Properties include information about the wireless network settings, 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. Properties also lists 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.

Network properties
A look at a wireless network's properties

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.

Remove old networks

A computer automatically recognizes new wireless connections by reading the SSID name the network broadcasts. When users access the Wi-Fi settings in Windows 10 by clicking Start, Settings, Network & Internet, and then selecting 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 the worker no longer uses those networks. Over time, the list of SSIDs can become long and unwieldy to navigate, especially for mobile devices with small displays.

The Wi-Fi settings in Windows 10 allow users to delete old or unused wireless network names in two steps.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Every wireless network can broadcast an SSID, but wireless network providers can turn off SSID broadcasts using a configuration option at a wireless access point -- such as a router. Turning off an SSID will effectively hide the wireless network so it 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 the security key if the network is encrypted.

This was last published in January 2019

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