How to Enable and Disable Network Connections in Windows

Troubleshoot a non-working network without rebooting

Network Connections window on Windows 10 desktop

By default, Windows automatically enables and uses plugged in network interfaces, including Wi-Fi and wired adapters. When a Wi-Fi connection (or Ethernet) stops functioning, the operating system disables the connection automatically. The connection can also be disabled manually to troubleshoot and fix network problems.

If your internet isn't working, disable and re-enable the connection to reset the network-specific functionality without rebooting the computer. This can clear out certain kinds of network problems just like a full reboot would.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.

How to Disable A Network Connection

Disabling and re-enabling network connections is done through Control Panel.

  1. In Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista, select Network and Internet. In Windows XP, change to Category view, select Network and Internet Connections > Network Connections, then skip to Step 4.

    Network and Internet icon in Control Panel
  2. Select Network and Sharing Center.

    Network and Sharing Center icon in Network and Internet panel
  3. Select Change adapter settings. In Windows Vista, choose Manage network connections.

    Change adapter settings in Windows Network and Sharing Center
  4. In the Network Connections screen, right-click or tap-and-hold the connection you want to disable, then select Disable. The icon for the connection turns grey to show that it's disabled.

    Disable menu item in Network Connections window

    If Disable doesn't appear in the menu, the connection is disabled.

  5. If prompted, confirm the action, or enter an admin password if you're not logged in as an administrator.

  6. The internet connection is disabled.

How to Enable A Network Connection

Enabling a network connection is similar, but you'll use the Enable option instead.

  1. Repeat Steps 1, 2, and 3 (from above) to access the Network Connections screen.

  2. Right-click or tap-and-hold the connection you want to enable, and choose Enable.

    Enable button in Network Connections window
  3. If prompted, enter an admin password or confirm the action.

  4. The icon turns green to show that the connection is enabled.

Tips

When you disable a wireless network adapter, you lose Wi-Fi internet connectivity until you re-enable the adapter. The same is true for a wired connection. Before you disable a network connection, save any open files so that you don't lose your work.

Device Manager can be used to enable and disable network connections as an alternative to Control Panel. To disable a device in Device Manager, open Device Manager, expand the Network adapters section, and right-click or tap-and-hold the entry that corresponds to the network adapter to find the Disable option (enabling devices is similar). Uninstall connections you don't need to tighten your network security and free up resources.

Windows XP supports a Repair option for wireless connections. This feature disables and re-enables the Wi-Fi connection in one step. While this feature does not exist in newer versions of Windows, the troubleshooting wizards in newer versions of Windows offer the same and more functionality.