How to Connect Wirelessly to the Internet in Windows 10

By Andy Rathbone

Windows 10 constantly searches for a working Internet connection, whether your computer plugs into a cable or scans the airwaves for a Wi-Fi (wireless) connection. If your computer finds a Wi-Fi connection that you’ve previously connected with, you’re set: Windows passes the news along to Microsoft Edge, and you’re ready to visit the web.

When you’re traveling, however, the wireless networks around are often new, forcing you to find and authorize these new connections.

To connect to a nearby wireless network for the first time (whether it’s one in your own home or in a public place), follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button and click Settings from the Start menu.

    The Settings app appears.

  2. Click the Settings app’s Network & Internet icon, which opens to show your available wireless networks.

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    If your computer can connect wirelessly, Windows lists all the wireless networks within range, as shown in the following figure. Don’t be surprised to see several networks listed; if you’re at home, your neighbors probably see your network listed, too. (That’s one of the reasons why wireless passwords are important.)

    The networks are ranked by signal strength, with the strongest and fastest network listed at the top.

    Windows lists every wireless network within range.
    Windows lists every wireless network within range.
  3. Choose to connect to the desired network by clicking its name and clicking the Connect button.

    If you’re connecting to an unsecured network — a network that doesn’t require a password — you’re finished. Windows warns you about connecting to an unsecured network, but a click or tap of the Connect button lets you connect anyway. (Don’t do any shopping or banking on an unsecured connection.)

    But for a more secure connection, skip the unsecured networks. Instead, ask your hotel staff, coffee shop barista, or airport staff for the password to the secure network. Then head to the next step.

    If you select the adjacent Connect Automatically check box before clicking the Connect button, Windows automatically connects to that network the next time you’re within range, sparing you from connecting manually each time.

  4. Enter a password if needed.

    If you try to connect to a security-enabled wireless connection, Windows asks you to enter a network security key — technospeak for password. If you’re at home, here’s where you type in the same password you entered into your router when setting up your wireless network.

    If you’re connecting to somebody elses password-protected wireless network, ask the network’s owner for the password. You may need to pull out your credit card at the front counter in some hotels and coffee shops — they may charge for access.

  5. Choose whether you want to share your files with other people on the network.

    If you’re connecting on your own home or office network, choose “Yes, turn on sharing and connect to devices.” That lets you share files with others and connect to shared devices, such as printers.

    If you’re connecting in a public area, by contrast, always choose “No, don’t turn on sharing or connect to devices.” That helps keep out snoops.

If you’re still having problems connecting, try the following tips:

  • When Windows says that it can’t connect to your wireless network, it offers to bring up the Network Troubleshooter. The Network Troubleshooter mulls over the problem and then says something about the signal being weak. It’s really telling you this: “Move closer to the wireless transmitter.”

  • If you’re in a hotel room, moving your computer closer to a window may help you get a stronger wireless signal. (It might even pick up a wider variety of available wireless networks.)

  • If you can’t connect to the secured network you want, try connecting to one of the unsecured networks. Unsecured networks work fine for casual browsing on the Internet.

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  • If your desktop’s taskbar contains a wireless network icon, click it to jump to Step 3. It’s a fast and handy way to connect wirelessly in new locations.