Connect to a Wireless Network on Windows

There's more than one way to connect to Wi-Fi

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction

What to Know

  • Windows 10: Select the Globe icon in the lower-right corner, choose a network, select Connect, and enter the network key if prompted.
  • Windows 8.1: Press Windows key+C, select Settings > Network > Available, choose the network, and select Connect.
  • Windows 7: In the Taskbar, select Network, choose a network, select Connect, enter the security key, and select OK.

All modern Windows devices support wireless network connections when equipped with the necessary hardware. Generally, that's a wireless network adapter. How you make the network connection depends on the operating system installed on the device, and there may be multiple ways to connect. On older devices, purchase and configure a USB-to-wireless adapter as a workaround. Instructions apply to Windows 10, 8.1, 7, XP, and the Command Prompt.

Use the Taskbar to Connect to a Network in Windows 10

All Windows 10 devices, including desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets, let you view and log in to available wireless networks from the Taskbar. At the Network list, click the desired network and then input credentials if prompted.

If you connect using this method, you'll need to know the network name so that you can select it from the list. You will also need to know the network key (password) assigned to the network if it's secured with one. If you're at home, that information is likely on your wireless router. If you're in a public place like a coffee shop, you'll need to ask the proprietor. Some networks don't require credentials, though, and a network key isn't necessary.

To connect to a network in Windows 10:

  1. Select the Network icon on the Taskbar (refer to the Note below if you don't see a Network icon). If you're not connected to a network, this icon will be a Globe icon with a No symbol.

    The no network connection symbol on the Taskbar in Windows 10.
  2. In the list of available networks, select the network to connect to it.

    A list of available wireless networks in Windows 10.
  3. To connect to this network automatically next time you're within range of it, click next to Connect Automatically.

    The option to connect automatically to a wireless network in Windows 10.
  4. Click Connect.

    Selecting Connect to connect to a wireless network in Windows 10.
  5. If prompted, type the network key and click Next.

    Entering in a network key and selecting Next to continue wireless connection setup in Windows 10.
  6. If prompted, decide if the network is a public network or a private one. Select the applicable answer.

If you don't see a Network icon on the Taskbar, click Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Show Available Networks.

Rarely, the network you want to connect to is hidden from view, which means the network name won’t appear in the Network list. If this is the case, you’ll have to work through the Network Connection wizard, available from the Network and Sharing Center.

Connect to a Network Using the Network and Sharing Center

For those more familiar with using Network and Sharing Center, accessing it may be slightly different from previous versions of Windows, but the basic functionality is nearly the same. To connect to a network using the Network and Sharing Center, do the following:

  1. Right-click the Network icon on the Taskbar and select Open Network & Internet settings.

    Right-clicking the Network icon in the Windows 10 taskbar.
  2. From the left panel, select Status.

    Selecting Status in Network and Internet settings in Windows 10.
  3. Under Advanced network settings, select Network and Sharing Center.

    Selecting Network and Sharing Center in Windows 10.
  4. Under Change your networking settings, select Set up a new connection or network.

    Selecting Set up a new connection or network in Windows 10.
  5. Select Set up a new network and select Next.

    Setting up a new network in Windows 10.
  6. Enter the required information and select Next. (Check with your network administrator or the documentation included with your wireless router.)

  7. Complete the wizard as prompted.

For more information about the different types of Windows network connections, refer to our article on types of network connections.

Connect to a Network in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 offers a Network icon on the Taskbar (which is on the Desktop) like Windows 10 does, and the steps for connecting to a network from there are almost identical. To connect from the Desktop, though, you must first access it. You can do that from the Start screen by clicking the Desktop tile or by using the key combination Windows key+D. Once at the Desktop, follow the steps shown above in the Windows 10 section of this article.

If you'd rather connect to a network from the Windows 8.1 Charms bar, or if there's no Network icon on the Taskbar:

  1. Swipe in from the right side of your touchscreen device, or move your mouse cursor to the lower-right corner of the screen. (You can also use the keyboard combination Windows key+C.)

  2. Click Settings > Network.

  3. Select the network.

  4. To connect to this network automatically next time you're in range, place a check next to Connect Automatically.

  5. Click Connect.

  6. If prompted, type the network key and click Next.

  7. If prompted, decide if the network is a public network or a private one. Click the applicable answer.

If the network you want to connect to is hidden and doesn't appear in the Network list, use the Network and Sharing Center as detailed in the Windows 10 section above.

Connect to a Network in Windows 7

Windows 7 also offers various ways to connect to networks. The easiest way is to connect using the Network icon on the Taskbar:

  1. Select the Network icon on the Taskbar. If you're not connected to a network, this icon looks like a Wi-Fi icon with no bars and has an asterisk on it.

  2. In the Network list, select the network to connect to.

  3. To connect to this network automatically next time you're in range, place a check next to Connect Automatically.

  4. Click Connect.

  5. If prompted, type the security key and click OK.

As with other consumer Windows systems, Windows 7 offers the Network and Sharing Center, available from Control Panel. Here you'll find the option Manage Wireless Networks. If you experience wireless network connection problems or if you don't see the network you want to connect to in the network list when working through the steps above, go here and click Manually Create a Network Profile. Work through the wizard to add the connection.

Connect to a Network in Windows XP

To connect a Windows XP computer to a wireless network, refer to the article Set Up Network Connections in Windows XP.

Use Command Prompt to Connect to a Network

The Windows Command Prompt, or Windows CP, lets you connect to networks from a command line. If you experienced wireless connection problems or can't figure out another way to connect, try this method. You'll need to know the following information before you begin:

  • SSID: The Sevice Set Identifier. You'll likely find this on your broadband router and might also be the name of the network.
  • Key: The network identifier (password).

To make a network connection using the command prompt:

  1. Search for Command Prompt using any method you prefer. You can search from the Taskbar on a Windows 10 device.

  2. Under Command Prompt, choose Run as administrator. If prompted, under User Account Control, select Yes to run.

    Running the Command Prompt as the administrator in Windows 10.
  3. To locate the name of the network to connect to, type netsh wlan show profiles and press Enter on the keyboard. Write down the name of the network you want to connect to.

    Showing profiles in the Command Prompt.
  4. To locate the name of the interface, type netsh wlan show interface and press Enter on the keyboard. Write down what you find in the first entry, next to the name. This is the name of your network adapter.

    Displaying network interfaces in the Command Prompt.
  5. Type netsh wlan connect name="nameofnetwork" interface="nameofnetworkadapter" and press Enter on the keyboard.

    Connecting to a wireless network in the Command Prompt.

If you see errors or are asked for additional information, read what's offered and add parameters as required.

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