How to Find a Wireless Network Using Windows Vista - dummies

How to Find a Wireless Network Using Windows Vista

By Dan Gookin

The first problem you encounter when trying to make the wireless network connection is finding the network. Not all wireless networks show up at first blush.

Remember that physical objects around you affect the signal: walls, bookcases, large partitions made from lead, and superheroes. Those things readily block the wireless signal. Move around. Sometimes, moving the laptop just a few feet in one direction improves signal reception. Remember that if you cannot see the wireless hub directly, odds are good that you won’t get a solid signal.

In Windows Vista, click the Refresh button found in the upper-right portion of the Connect to Network window. Keep clicking this button to have the wireless NIC rescan for network availability.


Some wireless networks don’t send out their SSIDs. Although the wireless NIC still picks up the signal, no name is given for the access point. You have to supply the name.

Here’s how to connect to an unnamed wireless network in Windows Vista:

  1. Pop up the Start button menu and choose Connect To.

  2. Click the link Set Up a Connection or Network.

    It’s at the bottom of the window.

  3. Choose Manually Connect to a Wireless Network and click the Next button.

    A window appears with various fill-in-the-blanks items, helping you hone your choice of which wireless network to connect to.

  4. Type the SSID into the Network Name box.

  5. Select Security Type from the button menu.

  6. If the Encryption Type button becomes enabled, click it.

    The encryption type is based on the security type.

  7. Type the security key or passphrase.

    It helps to put a check mark in the Display Characters check box so that you can double-check your typing.

  8. Click the Next button.

    If all goes well, Windows presents the network as ready for a connection.

  9. Choose the option Connect To.

    And you’re only half done. Now you need to use the Connect To command from the Start button menu to connect to the network.

Another cause of a dropped connection may be a timeout. For example, some for-pay wireless services give you only a limited amount of access time. After that time expires, you’re no longer connected or you may see the Pay Up home page rather than the Internet.

Finally, the connection problem may simply be that the password is incorrect. A dialog box warns you about it, but keep in mind that any wireless network passwords you stored in your PC might be changed by the various networks you access.

  • You can check the connection strength by pointing the mouse at the wee connection icon in the notification area.

  • The wireless connection strength is also displayed beneath the network’s information area in the Network and Connection Sharing window.

  • You can install various wireless networking gadgets for the Sidebar. Most display the wireless network’s name, signal strength, and IP address.

  • Third-party utilities can also be used to gauge signal strength, such as the wireless networking tool shown earlier. Various war driver utilities, used to find wireless signals, can also be used to discover signal strength. The NetStumbler is a popular choice and can be downloaded from the web.