Section 7.4. Wired and Wireless Connections, Management, and Configuration

Windows Vista includes many tools, screens, and features for setting up, connecting to, managing, and configuring networks. This section covers all of Windows Vista's features for doing that, and it includes basic information for setting up and connecting to networks and network connections.

Change Workgroup or Domain

Change the workgroup or domain to which a PC is attached.

To open

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] System Change Settings Computer Name tab


The Networking and Internet Control Panel and the Network and Sharing Center both have one surprising shortcoming: they do not offer a way to change the workgroup or domain to which your PC is currently attached, or to easily connect to a new domain or workgroup. So you may think that there is no way to perform both tasks.

In fact, though, they're both easy to do, as long as you know where to look. And you'll have to look in a surprising placeon the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box (Figure 7-8). You can also reach it via Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Network Discovery Change Settings.

Figure 7-8. The System Properties dialog box, which lets you connect to a domain or workgroup and change your domain or workgroup

Click Network ID to launch a wizard that will allow you to join an existing domain or workgroup. Click Change and the dialog box shown in Figure 7-9 appears. Select either Domain or Workgroup, and enter the name of the domain or workgroup to switch to a new one.

Figure 7-9. Switching to a new domain or workgroup

Connect to a Network

Connect to a network or the Internet.

To open

Click the network icon in the System Tray Connect or disconnect

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Connect to a network

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Connect to a network


Once you've set up a network connection (see "Set Up a Connection or Network," later in this chapter), use the "Connect to a network" screen (Figure 7-10) to connect to any networkwired, wireless, VPN, or dial-up.

Figure 7-10. Choosing a network to which you want to connect

Connecting is straightforward: double-click the network to which you want to connect, or highlight it and click Connect. When you're connected to a network, disconnect from it by clicking Disconnect.

This screen is primarily designed for wireless, dial-up, and VPN connections. If your only connection to a network is via an Ethernet cable, you won't even get to the screen shown in Figure 7-10 when you choose to connect. Instead, you'll be told that you're already connected to the network. Want to disconnect? There's a simple, physical solution for youunplug your Ethernet cable.

Making the wireless connection

The "Connect to a network" screen has really been designed for wireless connections, not wired ones. It's a way to quickly and easily make a connection to a wireless network, not only when you're at home or work, but also when you're at a public hotspot.

To connect to a wireless network, click the network icon in the System Tray and you'll see the screen shown in Figure 7-11.

Figure 7-11. Screen indicating that wireless networks are available

Click "Connect to a network," and a list of all nearby wireless networks will appear, as shown in Figure 7-12. You may see multiple networks on the "Connect to a network" screen that are unfamiliar to you. That's because Windows Vista finds any wireless networks within range. For each wireless network, in addition to seeing the name of the network, you'll also see whether it is secure and protected by encryption, or unsecured. At the far right of the listing for each network, you'll also see the strength of the network's wireless signal. For more details about any network, hover your mouse over it. You'll be shown, for example, whether the network is 802.11b, 802.11g, or some other WiFi standard.

Figure 7-12. Browsing through the list of available networks

To connect to a network, highlight it and click Connect. If it's not protected by encryption, you'll see a warning. If you want to connect anyway, click Connect Anyway. Once you make the connection, you'll be asked whether you want to save the network, and if so, whether you want to connect to it automatically whenever you're in range (Figure 7-13). If it's a network to which you often connect, it's a good idea to save it and connect to it automatically. Later on, you'll also be able to manage this wireless network, if you save it now. (For details, see "Manage Wireless Networks," later in this chapter.)

Figure 7-13. Configuring the network to connect automatically

Next, a screen appears, asking you what type of settings should be applied to the networkwhether it is a home, work, or public location (see Figure 7-14). This will determine the kind of security that will be applied to the network; home and work network connections require less security than public connections.

Figure 7-14. Choosing the type of network

Choose which type of network it is (you can always change this later; see the upcoming section, "Manage Wireless Networks"). You're now connected, and you can use the network.

Manage Network Connections: \windows\system\ncpa.cpl

Configure and manage your network connections.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Manage network connections

Command prompt ncpa.cpl


Manage Network Connections (Figure 7-15) is actually a specialized folder that lists and provides details about all of your network connections, and lets you configure and manage them. Click any network connection and a toolbar appears that lets you take a variety of actions on the connection, including connecting it, disabling the network device, renaming the connection, viewing the status of the connection, changing the connection's settings, and diagnosing problems with the connection.

Figure 7-15. Manage Network Connections, a specialized folder that lets you configure and manage all your network connections

You can also right-click any connection to perform several of those tasks, or delete the connection, rename it, and create a shortcut to it.

The folder is also useful for bridging separate networks. When you do this, you allow data to be transferred between two (or more) different networks. In effect, a bridge turns your computer into a hub of sorts, but with the advantage of allowing you to combine two otherwise incompatible networks. Select at least two connection icons, right-click, and select Bridge Connections to create a network bridge between the connections.


  • You can't bridge any network connection that Internet Connection Sharing is using to share an Internet connection with several PCs.

  • You can create only one network bridge on your PC, but you can add multiple networks to a single bridge.

See also

"Manage Wireless Networks"

Manage Wireless Networks

Configure and manage wireless networks.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Manage wireless networks


Many people regularly connect to more than one wireless networkone at home, one at work, and possibly more than one public hotspot. When you create a wireless connection, you have the option of saving that network as a connection; any networks that you've saved will show up on the Manage Wireless Networks screen (Figure 7-16).

Figure 7-16. Managing multiple wireless networks

Manage and configure your networks using the toolbar. Clicking Add will let you add a new networkeither within or outside your wireless range. If it's inside your wireless range, follow the usual steps for adding a wireless connection. (See "Connect to a network," earlier in this chapter, for details.) If it's outside your wireless range, you can manually create a network profile so that the next time you're near that network, you can automatically connect to it. To do this, you'll need to know the network name (SSID), and its security key if it uses security. You can also create an ad hoc network, a temporary direct connection with another nearby wirelessly equipped PC, rather than with an access-point-based network.

The network list shows you the order in which Windows Vista will attempt to connect. So if you have two or more networks within range of each other, move your preferred network to the top of the list, your least preferred network to the bottom, and so on. To move a network up and down the list, highlight it and choose either "Move up" or "Move down."

Click "Adapter properties" to launch the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog box, which lists all the services and protocols associated with a network and lets you add, configure, or remove more protocols and services. (See the next section, "Network Connection Properties (Includes Wired and Wireless Connections)," for details.)

Profile Types lets you choose whether the networks can be accessed by anyone using the PC, or whether you want to allow each user to create her own connections. By default, all accounts can access the networks. If you change that to a per-user basis, the PC may lose network connectivity when users log off or when switching user accounts.

See also

"Manage Network Connections"

Network Connection Properties (Includes Wired and Wireless Connections)

Configure network services associated with a network connection.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center View Status Properties


The Network Connection Properties screen (Figure 7-17) lists all the installed protocols and services associated with a network connection (both wired and wireless). It provides you with basic information about your wireless connection to help with troubleshooting, and it helps you configure your network and its connection. You can selectively choose which protocols and services are supported by any specific connection by using the checkboxes in the list.

Figure 7-17. The Network Connection Properties screen, which lists all the services and protocols associated with a network connection

If you need to add support for a protocol or service not shown on the list, click Install to add it. If a protocol or service is shown but you're certain it's not used by any of your connections, you can uninstall it by clicking Uninstall. If you install or uninstall a protocol or service, the change will take effect for all existing connections.

Probably the most useful button, however, is Properties. Depending on the service or protocol currently selected, Properties allows you to set many of the advanced options for a connection. The following list shows common services and protocols available in Windows Vista:

Client for Microsoft Networks

This is an essential component for connecting to a Microsoft Network. This entry should always be present and enabled, unless you specifically need to connect to a non-Microsoft network (such as an older NetWare network). Most users will have no need to modify it via its Properties window.

QoS Packet Scheduler

This protocol allows network traffic to be optimized and controlled, including prioritizing certain services over others.

File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks

This service is responsible for sharing files and printers over a Microsoft Network; see "Sharing Resources and Files," later in this chapter, for more information. The Properties window is unavailable for this entry.

Internet Protocol (TCP/IPv4)

TCP/IP, introduced in the beginning of this chapter, is the protocol used by all Internet connections, as well as most LAN connections. Unless you specifically don't want TCP/IP support for some reason, the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) entry should be enabled for all of your connections.

Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click Properties to view and change the connection's TCP/IP settings. The Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties window, shown in Figure 7-18, is where you set the IP address of your connection (if you have a static IP address), as well as the subnet mask, gateway, and DNS server addresses. If the connection has a dynamic IP address (assigned by your router/gateway every time you connect), choose the "Obtain an IP address automatically" option.

Figure 7-18. The Internet Protocol Properties window

Click Advanced to configure multiple IP addresses and multiple gateways, use more than two DNS servers, and set up WINS. Choose the Alternate Configuration tab to configure your computer to use more than one network. For example, if you bring a laptop back and forth between home and work, and you use one network at home and another at work, you can use this tab to configure a second network. If your home network uses DHCP to be assigned an IP address, but you have a static IP address at your work network, you could configure your laptop for both networks.

Internet Protocol (TCP/IPv6)

These settings are similar to those for IPv4. Unless your enterprise uses IPv6 (and most enterprises do not), you won't need to touch this setting.

Link-Layer Topology Discovery Mapper I/O Driver

This discovers and locates other PCs, devices, and network hardware. You can also use it to measure network bandwidth, and the Network and Sharing Center uses it to map your network (see "Network Map," later in this chapter). The Properties window is unavailable for this entry.

Link-Layer Topology Discovery Responder

This allows the PC to be discovered by other PCs and devices on the network. The Properties window is unavailable for this entry.

Some connections may have a Sharing tab in addition to the Networking tab. The Sharing tab lets you use the connection for ICS (see "Sharing an Internet Connection with Internet Connection Sharing," earlier in this chapter) to share a single Internet connection with multiple PCs.

Dial-up connections and VPN connections have additional tabs for dialing options and, in the case of a VPN connection, for security settings.

Network and Internet Control Panel

Quick access to Windows Vista's networking and Internet features.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet]


This control panel (Figure 7-19) gives you access to all of the networking and Internet features in Windows. As with other control panels, you can drill down to further subcategories or click links to perform common tasks, such as adding a device to the network or allowing a program through the Windows Firewall.

Figure 7-19. The Network and Internet Control Panel

See also

"Network and Sharing Center"

Network Map

Display a "live" map of your network.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center View full map


The Network Map feature (Figure 7-20) shows a detailed schematic of your network and all the devices connected to it. The map is "live"that is, the icons are not merely representations, but also perform actions and provide information. Hover your mouse over a device and you'll get information about that device; for example, hover your mouse over a gateway to see its IP address and MAC address (a MAC address is a unique identifier for network hardware, a kind of serial number). Click a PC, and you'll connect to it and see all the shared network files and folders in Windows Explorer. Click the Internet icon, and you'll launch your default browser to your home page.

Figure 7-20. Network Map displaying all the devices on a network

The Network Map may not display all of the devices on your network, or if it does display them, it may not be able to place them on the map and may instead place them at the bottom of the screen. PCs with older versions of Windows will not be able to be placed on the map and may not be recognized at all. Printers and devices attached to those PCs may not be recognized as well.


  • Windows Vista introduced a new technology to make it easier to recognize network devicesLink Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD). With LLTD Windows Vista can automatically obtain and display information about devices and diagnose problems with them. But hardware has to be LLTD-compliant. Older hardware may be upgradeable via firmware, and many new devices include built-in LLTD support. Older versions of Windows do not include LLTD, which is why they might not be able to be placed on the Network Map. As of this writing, Microsoft is working to create a patch that will add LLTD capabilities to Windows XP PCs. But it currently has no plans to add LLTD to earlier versions of Windows.

See also

"Network and Sharing Center"

Network and Sharing Center

Configure, customize, and access network and collaboration tools.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center


The Network and Sharing Center (Figure 7-21) lets you configure, access, and troubleshoot a wide variety of network features. You'll most likely find that it's the primary place you'll turn for handling network issues, configuring networks, troubleshooting networks, and performing other network-related tasks.

Figure 7-21. The Network and Sharing Center

Front and center is a brief diagram of your network, showing your computer name and how it connects to your local network, and then to the Internet. Think of it as a kind of "you-are-here" diagram, because you'll see the words "This computer" underneath your computer. The diagram is so basic that at first it appears it may be useless, but in fact, you'll find it surprisingly useful. The diagram is "live" so that if there's a problem with your network or Internet connection, you'll be notified here. In addition, you can click on the icons representing the different portions of your network and connect to them. For example, click your computer's icon, and you'll open Windows Explorer to your Computer folder. Click the Network icon to open Windows Explorer to the Network folder, which lists all of the computers on your network. Click Internet to open Internet Explorer to your home page.

To see a fuller diagram of your network, including all the computers and devices attached to it, such as routers, switches, and gateways, click "View full map." That diagram will be live as well, and it allows you to get more detail about any device by hovering your mouse over it. For more details, see the preceding section, "Network Map."

The screen is divided into the following areas:


You'll find this area just beneath the diagram of your network. It displays your network's name and whether it is private or public. (For details about private and public networks, see "Connect to a network," earlier in this chapter.) To customize your network's name, whether it's private or public, and similar details, click Customize. The "Customize network settings" screen appears (Figure 7-22). Here you can change your network's name and icon, as well as change the network from private to public, and vice versa. If your PC is connected to several networks and you want to merge them into a larger, single network, click "Merge or delete network location." The screen that appears lets you delete the network location, as well as merge networks.

Figure 7-22. The "Customize network settings" screen, where you can change your network's name and whether it's private or public

Next to Access, you'll see displayed the current status of your network connectivitywhether you have local access, Internet access, or both. Next to Connection, you'll see your connection typefor example, "Wireless Network Connection." Click the "View status" link for details about the connection, including the connection speed, how long you've been connected, and more. (For more information, see "Network Connection Status," later in this chapter.)

Sharing and Discovery

This section lets you share files, folders, printers, and media among computers, and it allows you to control sharing settings. For more details, see the upcoming section, "Sharing Resources and Files."


The links listed here let you perform common and useful network-related tasks. Click "View computers and devices" to open Windows Explorer to the Network folder, Desktop\Network (Figure 7-23), which lists all the computers and devices attached to your network.

Figure 7-23. The Network folder, a Windows Explorer folder with network-specific features

This is more than just an ordinary Windows Explorer folder. For each device, it lists not only the name, but also its category (computer or printer, for example), as well as its workgroup within your network and the network to which it is attached. In addition, the toolbar includes icons for adding a printer, adding a wireless device, and opening the Network and Sharing Center.

The tasks also let you do the following:

  • Connect to a wired or wireless network. The Connect to a Network Wizard launches and walks you through connecting to a network. (See "Connect to a network," earlier in this chapter, for details.)

  • Set up a connection or network. The Set Up a Connection or Network Wizard launches and walks you through setting up a network. (See "Set Up a Connection or Network," later in this chapter, for details.)

  • Manage your network connections. The Network Connection folder launches. (See "Manage Network Connections," earlier in this chapter, for details.)

  • Diagnose and repair problems with your network or Internet connection. (See "Network Connection Status," later in this chapter, for details.)


  • If you have a mixed network of PCs with Windows Vista and other versions of Windows, you may run into some anomalies. Non-Windows Vista PCs might show up properly on the network, or they may show up at some points and not others. For example, they may not show up on the Network Map, but they may show up in the Network folder. Microsoft is working on software that can be installed on Windows XP that will make it work better with networks that have Windows Vista PCs.

  • Devices such as printers attached to Windows XP computers may not show up on the Network Map, in the Network folder, or anywhere else in Windows Vista networking.

  • The screens and options you see in the Network and Sharing Center and throughout Windows Vista networking may differ depending on whether you are connected to a workgroup (a peer-to-peer network) or to a domain (a server-based network in use at corporations).

See also

"Network Map," "Connect to a network," and "Manage Network Connections"

Phone Dialer: \Windows \System32\dialer.exe

Make voice calls, video calls, and conference calls using a phone line or Internet connection.

To open

Command Prompt dialer


Few people know that this simple dialing program (Figure 7-24) exists. Use it to make calls through your modem. Dial a number by typing it into the input box or clicking numbers on the on-screen number pad and then clicking "dial." Choose from past numbers using the drop-down list. You can put numbers on the speed-dial list by clicking any number on the list and filling out a form.

Figure 7-24. The Phone Dialer, which lets you dial a phone using a modem

See also

"Phone and Modem Options"

Phone and Modem Options: \windows\system32\telephon.cpl

Configure your modem and telephony devices, and choose dialing preferences.

To open

Control Panel [Hardware and Sound] Phone and Modem Options

Command Prompt telephon.cpl

Command Prompt control telephony


Although DSL and cable Internet access is rapidly making dial-up modems obsolete, a good number of people still use traditional modems to connect to the Internet. And if you get online through your cell phone or a cellular data card, you may need to use Phone and Modem Options to make some configuration changes.

When you first run Phone and Modem Options, you'll have to answer a series of questions, including the country you're dialing from, your area code, whether you use tone dialing or pulse dialing, and similar information. Once you've done that, your modem will be set up to work. You can change your phone and modem configuration by running Phone and Modem Options again, using the following tabs:

Dialing Rules

Assuming your modem is properly installed (see the Modems tab), Windows will use these settings to determine how to dial. Click Edit to change the dialing rules for the selected location (see Figure 7-25). You can configure multiple locations if you have a portable computer and need to dial out from within different area codes or from varying phone numbers with different dialing requirements.

Figure 7-25. Configuring multiple locations for dialing

As you undoubtedly know, if you dial a phone number in your own area code, you usually don't need to include the area code. For this reason, Windows needs to know which area code it's in, as well as any special numbers that are required to dial outside lines, place international calls, place calling-card calls, or disable call waiting (so that you won't be interrupted by incoming calls).


Before you can use a modem with Network Connections or with Microsoft's fax service, you must configure it here. The items listed here are the same as those listed in the Modems branch in Device Manager (discussed earlier in this chapter), so if Windows has detected your modem through Plug and Play, there's probably nothing left to do here. If your modem doesn't show up in the list, it's probably not Plug and Play-compliant; you'll have to click Add to start the Add Hardware Wizard (discussed in Chapter 9) to scan your system and install the appropriate drivers.

Select your modem from the list and click Properties to view the device's Properties sheet, which is the same as the one in Device Manager. Of special interest here is the Diagnostics tab, which will communicate with your modem and provide troubleshooting data, and the Advanced tab, which allows you to specify a modem initialization string (refer to your modem's documentation). Don't waste your time trying to get an old modem to work with Windows Vista; brand-new Plug and Play PCI modems are ridiculously cheap and extremely easy to install.


The Advanced tab lists the telephony drivers currently installed on your system. You can add, remove, or configure drivers here. Note that unless you use a telephony application, you'll never need to touch these settings.


  • All of the settings in this dialog are also covered in Chapter 9.

See also

"Phone Dialer," earlier in this chapter, and "Windows Fax and Scan," in Chapter 10

Set Up a Connection or Network

Set up a new network or Internet connection.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Set up a connection or network


One of the reasons that networking in Windows Vista is so much easier than working in previous Windows versions is this wizard (Figure 7-26). Answer a series of questions, and you can set up a new network or connection in minutes.

Figure 7-26. The Network Connections window, which allows you to connect your computer to a local network or to the Internet

You have six choices for creating a new connection or network:

Connect to the Internet

Choose this option to set up a direct connection to the Internet, via a cable modem, DSL modem, or dial-up modem. If you are already connected to a home network, small-business network, or corporate network, you shouldn't make this choice, because your network already provides you with Internet connectivity.

If you choose to connect via a DSL or cable modem that requires you to enter a username and password, select Broadband (PPPoE). You'll see a screen like that pictured in Figure 7-27. Fill out the information and click Connect. If you're going to allow other PCs on the network to share the Internet connection, check the box next to "Allow other people to use this connection." If later on, you decide you want others to share the connection, you can set that up; see "Sharing an Internet Connection with Internet Connection Sharing," earlier in this chapter, for details.

You most likely will not need to use the Set Up a Connection Wizard if you're connecting via a cable modem, and you may not need it if you connect via a DSL modem, either. Connect your PC to your cable or DSL modem; after a few minutes, the connection may be made automatically. You'll mainly need to use the Connect to the Internet Wizard if your ISP requires that you enter a username and password in order to connect. PPPoE generally requires that a username and password be used, and DSL connections often use PPPoE, so use the wizard if you use PPPoE and your ISP requires a username and password.

Figure 7-27. Making a connection using a broadband modem that requires a password and username

If you instead connect via dial-up modem or ISDN, make that selection from the wizard. The screen is very similar to that shown in Figure 7-27, except that you also have to fill in a phone number, and you can create a set of dialing rules that includes information such as whether you need to dial a prefix to reach an outside line.

Set up a wireless router or access point

This wizard will find and configure your wireless router or access point, set up file and printer sharing, make the network a private one (this controls what services Vista offers over the network; it doesn't have any effect on the security or configuration of the network itself), and offer instructions for how to connect other devices to the network. In some cases, it will be able to do the router or access point configuration automatically, but often it will not. When it can't do automatic configuration, it will open the device's configuration page, and you'll have to do the configuration yourself, based on the hardware's documentation.

You don't necessarily have to run the wizard in order to set up a wireless network. Usually, you can do it yourself relatively easily by following the manufacturer's advice or by using the setup program or wizard provided by the manufacturer.

If you have a wireless router that supports configuration via USB flash drives, you can instead have the wizard create the settings and save them to a USB flash drive, which you can then plug into the wireless router for automatic configuration.

Manually connect to a wireless network

Use this option if you are going to connect to a hidden wireless network, or you want to create a connection to a wireless network even if you are not within range of the network at the moment. A hidden network is one in which SSID broadcast is turned off for security reasons. Turning off SSID broadcast is a way of hiding a network from would-be intruders; if they can't see a network SSID, they may not know a network is nearby. To connect to a hidden network, though, you'll need to know the SSID, so get it from the network owner, or write it down if you've created the hidden network yourself.

After you launch the wizard for connecting to a hidden network, or to one that is not currently within range, you'll have to fill in the network SSID (called the network name), any security or encryption information, and so on. You can then connect to the network, or you can close the dialog after you've set up the connection, and connect to the network at a later time.

Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network

This option lets you directly connect to a nearby PC wirelessly, without the use of a router or server. The PC to which you connect must be within 30 feet. If you're already connected to a wireless network, you may be disconnected from your current network when you set up an ad hoc connection. You'll name your network, and select security if you want it to be secure. (Once you set up the network, anyone within 30 feet can connect to it, so it's a good idea to use security.) If you do use security, everyone must use the same encryption scheme and you need to give everyone the password to use it.

Set up a dial-up connection

This is the same screen you'll come to if you choose Connect to the Internet and then choose Dial-up from the screen that appears.

Connect to a workplace

Many businesses allow workers to remotely access their corporate networks, either directly over the Internet or by dialing in to a modem-equipped PC or server. Most commonly, you'll have to set up a VPN connection in order to do this. In a VPN, your connection with the corporate network is done over any public Internet connection, but all communications and data are encrypted and travel inside a virtual "tunnel" that is private and secure.

In some instances, you won't be able to use Vista's built-in VPN feature to connect to your corporate network via a VPN. Some VPN connections require special software or hardware, which a system administrator will provide to you.

If you're connecting via a VPN, choose "Use my Internet connection (VPN)" when the wizard launches. The screen shown in Figure 7-28 will appear. Type in the address of the VPN server, as provided to you by your system administrator. It can be in IPv4 format (, for example) or IPv6 format (3ffe:1234::1111, for example), or it can be the server name (, for example). You can also choose to share the connection with others on your network, and to set up the connection now but not connect to it. If your VPN requires the use of a smart card for security, check the appropriate box.

Figure 7-28. Creating a VPN connection to connect to your corporate network securely over the Internet

In the next screen, type in your username and password, and your domain if one is required. Then click Create, and you'll create the VPN and connect to it, if you want to connect now. The VPN does not actually give you Internet access, so before you can use it, you have to be connected to the Internet.

Once you're connected to the Internet, you can launch your VPN in several different ways. The simplest is to click on the network icon in the System Tray and select "Connect to a network." The screen shown in Figure 7-29 appears. Select the VPN connection and click Connect.

Figure 7-29. Connecting to a VPN

You can also connect by choosing "Connect to a network" from the Network and Sharing Center, as outlined in "Connect to a network," earlier in this chapter, or by going to the Network Connections Folder and double-clicking the connection or highlighting it and choosing "Start this connection." (See "Network and Sharing Center," earlier in this chapter, for details.)

If you instead want to connect to your workplace via a direct dial-up connection, when the wizard launches, choose Dial Directly and you'll fill out a form and follow instructions similar to the ones you followed on the VPN form, except that it will ask for a phone number rather than a VPN server address. Use the dial-up connection in the same way you make any other network connection, as outlined in the previous paragraph.


  • In many cases, Windows Vista will automatically detect and set up a network or network connection, so you may not need to run the wizard.

  • VPNs have a use in addition to connecting to a workplacethey can provide security when you use a public wireless hotspot to connect to the Internet. Hotspots are nonsecure and use no encryption, so someone may be able to examine your Internet traffic when you're on it. You can use a for-pay VPN service to encrypt all your wireless communications when you're at a hotspot. Set up this kind of VPN in the same way you do a corporate VPN; the VPN provider will give you server information, the username, the password, and so on. A good one to try is HotSpotVPN at

See also

"Network and Sharing Center" and "Connect to a network"

Virtual Private Network

See "Set Up a Connection or Network," earlier in this chapter.

Windows Firewall

See "Windows Firewall," in Chapter 8.

Windows Defender

See "Windows Defender," in Chapter 8.

Network Connection Status

Get details about a network connection.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center View Status

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Network and Sharing Center Manage network connections Right-click a connection and select Status


You can use this screen for wired and wireless networks, although it will be used more frequently for wireless networks because wireless connections require more care and handling than wired connections. They are more apt to be slow because of interference problems, and to disconnect due to interference and other problems. And you're likely to have multiple wireless connections set up on your PCone for work, one for home, and several for your favorite hotspots.

The Network Connection Status screen (Figure 7-30) provides you with basic information about your connection to help with troubleshooting, and to help you configure your network and its connection.

Figure 7-30. The Network Connection Status screen, which provides detailed information about each connection

The screen varies slightly, according to whether you're examining a wired or wireless connection. But overall, no matter the network, it provides basic information, including the SSID of the connection (the SSID is, in essence, the network name of the wireless network; wired networks don't have SSIDs), the speed, the signal quality, the duration of the connection, and similar information. It also shows the amount of data sent and received between your PC and the network, measured in bytes.

The screen also contains a number of buttons that either provide more information or accomplish tasks:


This provides an exceptional amount of detail about the wireless connection (Figure 7-31), in particular related to network infrastructure, including IPv4 and IPv6 IP addresses, DNS information, the default gateway, the DHCP server, DNS servers, when the IP lease was obtained, when it is scheduled to expire, and so on. It also shows the MAC address of the adapter (which the screen calls the Physical Address), which is a unique identifier that a piece of networking hardware has, something like a serial number.

For a quick way to find out your IP addresswhether you're on a wired or a wireless networkclick the Details button.

Figure 7-31. Details, which provides an exceptional amount of detail about a wireless connection, particularly related to IP and network infrastructure

Wireless properties (only for wireless networks)

This screen has two tabs: Connection and Security. The Connection tab (Figure 7-32) lets you configure how Windows Vista should handle the wireless connection. You can have your PC automatically connect whenever the network is within its range, which is very useful for when you frequently connect to the same wireless networkfor example, at home or at work. That way, you don't need to do anything when you're nearby; just turn on your PC, and Windows Vista will automatically connect.

Figure 7-32. The Connection tab, which lets you configure the way Windows handles the wireless connection

You may run into a situation where you are near two wireless networks to which you frequently connect. This tab lets you determine which one should get preference. For the network that gets the highest preference, uncheck the box next to "Connect to a more preferred network if available." For other networks, make sure the box is checked. That way, you'll tell Windows Vista which network it should connect to first, in case you're within range of both.

There's an even better way to tell Windows Vista the order of preference for connecting to wireless networks. You can order them, from most preferred to least preferred. See "Manage Wireless Networks," earlier in this chapter, for more details.

The tab also has a security feature. One way to protect your wireless network from intruders is to tell it not to broadcast its SSID. That will make it harder for other users to know your network exists, and to connect to it. But how can your PC connect to the network if the network doesn't broadcast its SSID? Check the box next to "Connect even if the network is not broadcasting."

The Security tab lets you use network encryption to keep your network safe from intruders and snoopers. For details, see "Setting Up Wireless Encryption."


Brings up the Network Connection Properties dialog box, which has detailed configuration information relating to services and protocols used by the network. For details, and to learn more about how to configure this screen, see "Network Connection Properties (Includes Wired and Wireless Connections)," earlier in this chapter.


Be very careful before clicking this button. Instead of disconnecting you from the network, it disables the network adapter so that it no longer works. You will no longer be able to connect to any network, because your adapter will be disabled. (Of course, if you disable a wireless adapter, you can still connect to a wired network, and if you disable a wired adapter, you can still connect to a wireless network.) Windows Vista will not recognize the hardware. If this happens, however, you can have Windows Vista re-enable the hardware. From the Network and Sharing Center, choose "Diagnose and repair," and it will turn the hardware back on.


If you run into a problem with your connection, click this, and it will diagnose the problem and repair it or suggest a way to repair it.

See also

"Manage Wireless Networks" and "Setting Up Wireless Encryption"

Part II: Nutshell Reference