Connecting a PC to a Wireless Home Network

Troubleshooting a connection on Windows

Using a computer without an internet connection is virtually impossible now, especially with our dependence on cloud computing. Follow these steps if you're having issues connecting your PC to your wireless network and get back online.

Open the Network and Sharing Center

Screenshot of wireless network options

To create a connection to a wireless home network, first, you must open the Network and Sharing Center. Right-click on the wireless icon in the system tray and click the Open Network and Internet Settings link. Or, if you're not having network problems, simply click on the wireless icon and skip to straight to step 4.

Look at the Network

wireless home network

The Network and Sharing Center shows a picture of the currently active network. In this example, you see that the PC is not connected to a network. To troubleshoot why this has happened (presuming that your computer was previously connected), click the Diagnose and Repair link. Otherwise, skip to Step 4.

Review the Diagnose and Repair Instructions

wireless home network screenshot

After the "Diagnose and Repair" tool has done its test, it will suggest some possible solutions. You can click on one of these and go further with this process. For the purpose of this example, click the Cancel button, then click on the Connect to a Network link (in the left-hand tasks area).

Connect to a Network

wireless home network screenshot

The Connect to a Network screen displays all available wireless networks. Choose the network you want to connect with, right-click on it and click Connect.

If you are in a public place (some airports, municipal buildings, hospitals) that has WiFi service, the network you connect to may be "open" (meaning no security). These networks are open, without passwords, so that people can easily log in and connect to the Internet. You should not have to worry that this network is open if you have an active Firewall and security software on your computer.

Enter the Network Password

wireless home network screenshot

After you click on the Connect link, a secure network will require a password (that you should know, if you want to connect to it). Enter the Security Key or passphrase (fancy name for password) and click the Connect button.

Choose to Connect Again to This Network

wireless home network screenshot

When the connection process works, your computer will be connected to the network you chose. At this point, you can choose to Save this Network (that Windows can use in the future); you can also choose to Start this connection automatically"every time your computer recognizes this network — in other words, your computer will always log in automatically to this network, when available.

These are the settings (both boxes checked) you want if you are connecting to a home network. However, if this is an open network in a public place, you may not want to connect automatically with it in the future (so the boxes would not be checked).

When you have finished, click the Close button.

View Your Network Connection

wireless home network settings

The Network and Sharing Center should now show your computer connected to the selected network. It also shows a lot of information about Sharing and Discovery settings.

The status window provides a wealth of information about your network connection. To see this information, click the View Status link, next to the network name in the center of the screen.

View the Wireless Network Connection Status Screen

wireless home network settings

This screen provides a lot of useful information, the most important being the speed and signal quality of your network connection.

Speed and Signal Quality

  • If your computer has a wireless adapter operating at 54 megabits per second and the screen shows "54 Mbps", you know that your connection is the fastest that it can be.
  • If the signal quality is 5 green bars, you know that you have the clearest connection possible (most likely free of noise and other disturbances that can negatively ​affect connectivity — how well and how fast your internet connection works).

On this screen, the Disable button's purpose is to disable your wireless adapter — leave this alone.

When you have finished with this screen, click Close.

Your computer should now be connected to a wireless network. You may close the Network and Sharing Center.