Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 brought many new network-related features and GUI changes: data usage tracking, metered connections, NIC teaming, SMB improvements, and more. And Microsoft introduced more network features and GUI changes in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. Here we’ll take a look at the wireless-related changes, including the GUI differences, 802.11ac support, wireless display or projection, single sign-on for 802.1X, and Wi-Fi Direct printing.
Wireless GUI Changes
Although the Wi-Fi connection process remains similar to previous versions of Windows, there have been some noticeable GUI functionality changes. In Windows 8 you could right-click a network name to access the connection properties, turn sharing on or off, forget the network, and enable or disable the new metering and data usage features. But now in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 you can’t right-click networks and must access those properties and settings elsewhere.
To access the basic connection and wireless properties in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 you still have the Network and Sharing Center. But you must use the PC Settings app in the metro-style interface to manage the new network metering and data usage features introduced in Windows 8 and to enable or disable sharing for a network. To do this open the Settings charm (slide along right of screen or press Win + I), click Change PC Settings, click Network, and select the network name.
Like in previous versions of Windows, you’re promoted about sharing and network discovery of the computer or device when connecting to new networks in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. However, the prompt has been rephrased again.
Starting with Windows 8, when connecting to a network with WPA/WPA2-Enterprise (802.1X) security the prompts are integrated into the network pane or charm instead of on the traditional pop-up dialog boxes. And there have been slight changes to the server certificate validation prompt. If the server certificate of the RADIUS server hasn’t already been trusted by the computer/device you’re connecting, a prompt will be shown verifying if you want to connect and allows you to view only the certificate’s thumbprint.
Though in Windows 8 Microsoft removed the ability to prioritize wireless networks you could at least right-click a name on the network list and click Forget this Network. However in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 you can’t forget or remove network profiles via the GUI since you can’t right-click network names. You must use the CLI.
In Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2, to delete wireless network profiles or to make changes to network profiles when that particular network isn’t within range you must use the Netsh commands. To get started open a PowerShell or Command Prompt window and use the following examples:
Show all wireless profiles on the PC: netsh wlan show profiles
Stop automatically connecting to a network that’s out of range: netsh wlan set profileparameter name=”ProfileName” connectionmode=manual
Show security key for a profile that’s out of range: netsh wlan show profile name=“ProfileName” key=clear
Delete a profile: netsh wlan delete profile name=”ProfileName”
Export a profile: netsh lan export profile folder=PATH_TO_FOLDER interface=”INTERFACE_NAME”
Import a profile: netsh lan add profile filename=”PATH_AND_FILENAME.xml” interface=”INTERFACE_NAME”
Support for 802.11ac
Though you can use the newer 802.11ac wireless adapters with previous versions of Windows, now Windows will recognize and identify 802.11ac support within the OS. For instance when using the Netsh commands show drivers, show networks, or show profiles you’ll now see 802.11ac listed as a radio type in the output results, that is if you’re using an 802.11ac adapter.
Wireless Display or Projection
In Windows 8.1 and RT 8.1 you can quickly and easily wirelessly project to screens, TVs, projectors, and other devices that support Miracast via Bluetooth or NFC.
Once within close proximity of a Miracast-compatible display or device, you can press the Windows key and K simultaneously (Win+K) to bring up the Devices and then press Project or Add a Wireless Display.
Single Sign-on for 802.1X
By default, the login credentials supplied during 802.1X authentication on a non-domain joined computer or device running Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 will be saved and reused for any other network authentication. So if a user connects to your Wi-Fi that’s protected by WPA-Enterprise or WPA2-Enterprise, they shouldn’t be prompted to login when using other network resources like the Intranet, network printers, or file shares that are protected by the use username and password used by 802.1X.
This password reusing is enabled by default and works with the following types of 802.1X implementations:
- EAP with Microsoft Challenge Handshake Protocol version 2 (EAP-MS-CHAP v2)
- PEAP-EAP-MS-CHAP v2
- EAP-TTLS with EAP-MS-CHAP v2
For security reasons, when the user’s computer or device disconnects from the network, the stored credentials are discarded.
If you for some reason don’t want this feature you can disable it via the following registry key:
Mobile Broadband Tethering
In Windows 8.1 you can create a Wi-Fi hotspot, much like the hosted wireless network feature but with your mobile broadband (3G/4G) connection serving the Internet access. It’s similar to the tethering or Wi-Fi hotspot functionality of some smartphones and tablets; it broadcasts a Wi-Fi singal and allows you to connect other Wi-Fi devices to access the Internet. However keep in mind that Windows will allow mobile operators to disable or limit tethering usage based upon your mobile subscription.
You can enable the Wi-Fi hotspot functionality via the PC Settings in the metro-style interface: open the Settings charm (slide along right of screen or press Win + I), select Change PC Settings, select Network, select Connections, and select the mobile broadband connection. Once enabled you’ll see the SSID (network name) and password of the tethered network, which you can change by selecting Edit.
Wi-Fi Direct Printing
You can now quickly and easily wirelessly print to Wi-Fi Direct-enabled printers. Unlike some other wireless printing options, this doesn’t require the user to install any print drivers or software. It forms a peer-to-peer network between the device and the printer.