Tips and Tricks for Network Users

Set an alternate IP configuration

If one of the networks you connect to uses static IPs, consider using the Alternate Configuration support natively provided in Windows. You can define the IP settings (including subnet mask, default gateway, DNS, and WINS) that are used when connecting to a network that doesn’t have DHCP.

In other words, if the network doesn’t hand out IP addresses your computer will automatically use the static configuration you defined. This allows you to freely connect to other networks, like your home or Wi-Fi hotspots, without having to change back to automatic configuration. Then it prevents you from having to input all the static settings again when connecting to the non-DHCP network.

To define an Alternate Configuration, open Network Connections, double-click the desired network connection, click the Properties button, and select the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4). Then you select the Alternate Configuration tab and enter the desired settings.

Use an IP configuration utility

If you use multiple networks where you need static IP configuration, the Alternate Configuration feature built into Windows is likely not enough. If you’re a script enthusiast, consider using Netsh commands in batch files to quickly apply IP settings. If you like to stick with a GUI, consider a third-party utility such as NetSetMan, IP Config Tool, or Simple IP Config.

Reveal saved Wi-Fi passwords

Although this one is very simple, it can be overlooked. If you don’t know a wireless network’s PSK password you can usually find it by revealing it in the network settings of a PC already connected if they’re running Windows Vista or later. Perhaps you’re helping a client connect to their Wi-Fi and they don’t know the password.

In Windows Vista, 7, and 8: bring up the list of available wireless networks, right-click the network, and select the connection properties. Then on the Security tab, click the Show characters checkbox and you’ll see the Wi-Fi password.

In Windows 8.1, you have to access the network connection properties via the Network and Sharing Center.

Block certain Wi-Fi networks

Starting with Windows Vista, you can use the Netsh WLAN commands to hide networks (SSIDs) from appearing in the list of nearby networks. For instance, you may want to prevent users from accidentally or intentionally connecting to other networks and compromising the security of the computer.

To see list of enabled filters, enter the following into a Command Prompt: netsh wlan show filters

To add a filter: netsh wlan add filter permission={allow|block|denyall} ssid=NETWORKNAME networktype={infrastructure|adhoc}

If using the denyall permission, omit the SSID attribute. This lets you block all infrastructure or adhoc networks, but you can explicitly allow specific networks.

To remove a filter: netsh wlan delete filter permission={allow|block|denyall} ssid=NETWORKNAME networktype={infrastructure|adhoc}

To either display or hide the blocked networks on the Connect to a Network dialog: netsh wlan setblockednetworksdisplay={show|hide}

Toggle between private and public network locations

As you’re likely aware, in Windows Vista and later there’s a network location classification in Windows. When a network is classified as Public, for instance, file sharing is turned off along with locking down the firewall. However, it may not be so obvious how to toggle between the Public and Private classifications, especially in Windows 8 and later.

To switch the classifications in Windows Vista and 7, simply open the Network and Sharing Center and click the current classification link. In Windows 8, you can open the list of available wireless networks, right-click, and select Turn sharing on or off. In Windows 8.1, you must open the Settings app in the new interface, select the Network settings, and then select the current network connection,

Use 5 GHz Wi-Fi when available

Remember when managing or connecting to wireless networks, the 2.4 GHz frequency band can be very congested and full of interference. Of course, this depends, but most of the time the 5 GHz frequency band will provide much cleaner communications. Thus try to utilize the 5 GHz band as much as you can. Try to ensure your computers and devices support both bands, typically referred to as dual-band capable.

When connecting to wireless routers or access points that are also dual-band capable, you may or may not see separate network names (SSIDs) for each band. If you do see a 5 GHz option for a network, I recommend that one if within acceptable range. Some wireless routers or APs broadcast the same network name for each band, thus you don’t see any difference or indication of the bands and it’s up to the device or network to which you’re connected to.

Play with the new network features in Window 8

Microsoft introduced many new network-related features in Windows 8; give them a try. The most basic addition is the ability to track the data usage of Wi-Fi and mobile broadband network connections. In Windows 8, you can right-click a wireless network on the list of available networks and show the estimated data usage. In Windows 8.1, you have to access the network’s settings via the Settings app in the new interface if you haven’t installed the Windows 8.1 Update.

Starting with Windows 8 you’ll also find a Metered connection feature. You can set certain networks to be metered and then some Windows updates, apps, and other traffic is limited to help reduce data consumption. This is useful for 4G and other data limiting connections. Like with enabling data usage, you can right-click a network on the list of available networks in Windows 8 to enable/disable metering. But again in Windows 8.1, you have to access the network settings via the Settings app in the new interface if you haven’t installed the Windows 8.1 Update.

Windows 8 also introduced many new functionalities on the Task Manager. You can see the amount of data usage of each running process on the Processes tab. On the Performance tab, you can see a throughput graph and other details about each network connection. On the App History tab, you can see the amount of data each app has used. Additionally, on the Users tab you can see the usage of each user.

Check out the advanced settings of your network adapter

Most network adapters, whether Ethernet or wireless, have advanced settings within Windows. Perhaps take a look and play around with them. You might find some neat functionality, such as band and roaming preferences, ability to disable the wireless upon a wired connection, enable proprietary performance boosting, and other miscellaneous settings.

To access these advanced settings, open the Network Connection Properties, click the Configure button, and select the Advanced tab. Of course, try to understand what you’re changing beforehand so you don’t cause negative results.

Summary

I discussed ways to ease the switch between static and dynamic IP networks. If you use or manage just one network with static IPs, consider Alternate Configuration in Windows, otherwise consider a third-party utility to manage multiple static networks.

We found out that toggling a network between Public and Private classification is straightforward in Windows Vista and 7, but gets complicated in Windows 8 and 8.1. Nevertheless, there are some new network features and functions you may want to check out in these newer versions.

I discussed a few Wi-Fi tips as well: Utilize the 5GHz band when possible. Forgotten Wi-Fi passwords can usually be revealed in Windows Vista or later. And if you find it necessary you can block Wi-Fi networks from appearing in the list of nearby networks.

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