One of the numerous changes and enhancements in Windows Vista is
the range of networking features. Microsoft tried to increase
networking performance and security, though users will have to get
used to a new look and interface. Therefore, this series of
tutorials will introduce you to some of the enhancements and
changes in Windows Vista involving networking, compared to its
predecessor, Windows XP, and will show you how to perform common
networking configuration tasks.
Network and Sharing Center
The new Network and Sharing Center (below) provides a one-stop
shop for all your networking and Internet configuration needs.
You can access the Network and Sharing Center via many
- Right-click on the network status icon in the
- Double-click on the network status icon in
the system tray.
- Double-click on the Network and Sharing
Center icon in the Control Panel.
- Click on the Network and Sharing Center
button on the tool bar when viewing your Network.
As you can see, this center provides visual maps of your home or
office network. The full map that’s accessible from this
center provides an easy way to access any shared resources of other
PCs and devices on the network.
Just below the network map on the Network and Sharing Center,
you can view and access your connection information. The Customize
link allows you to change the name of the network connection, the
type (private or public), and the icon given to the network
connection, such as the briefcase you see in figure 1.
Next, you’re provided with the status of all the main
sharing and discovery settings and the ability to make quick
changes, which is a big enhancement from XP.
Another exceptional improvement is the set of links on the
bottom of the window, showing you all the files and folders your
account and computer are sharing on the network.
The integrated task pane on the left side of the window provides
access to familiar connectivity settings and tasks, as well as a
shortcut to the Internet Options and Wireless Firewall
New Network Classification Scheme
In Windows Vista, the first time you connect to a network, you
must classify its location/type: Home, Work, or Public.
This new feature is extremely useful as it automatically
modifies the appropriate network settings based upon the location
type you choose. For example, say you connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot
at your local cafe; you would choose Public location. Then
Vista will automatically disable all network discovery and sharing
to protect your documents and privacy while on the unsecured
network. Then, say you went back home and connected to your home
network, naturally classified as a Home location. Windows Vista
then would allow network discovery and sharing, because you trust
the other users on the network.
Support for Non-Broadcasting Wireless Networks
Windows Vista makes it easier to use wireless networks that do
not broadcast their SSID (define) (also known as the network name). In Windows XP, these
types of networks didn’t appear on the list of available
wireless networks; however, they now appear as unnamed networks in
Instead of having to manually add a non-broadcasting wireless
network to the preferred network list in order to connect, all you
have to do in Vista is select the Unnamed Network, click Connect,
and when prompted, enter the SSID.
You may think that this degrades the security that hidden
networks offer; however, the SSID is still needed in order to
connect to the network. Additionally, not broadcasting your SSID
doesn’t offer a whole lot of security anyway, a fact that
I’ve discussed before.
Where’s My Network Places?
The My Network Places feature that has been in previous versions
of Windows has simply been renamed to Network in Vista. You can
access the Network on Vista’s start menu or when viewing your
computer contents in Windows Explorer. Furthermore, for even
quicker access, you can add the Network icon to your desktop:
- Right-click on your desktop and select Personalize.
- Click the Change desktop icons link, on the left in the
integrated task pane.
- Check the icons you wish to appear on the desktop, then click
OK to exit.
Stay Tuned for more on networking using Windows
Eric Geier is the
founder and president of Sky-Nets, Ltd., which operates a
Wi-Fi hotspot network serving the general aviation community. He
has also been a computing and wireless networking author and
consultant for several years. Eric’s latest book is
Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting
up Public Wireless Internet Access, published by Cisco
Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet