How to Enable and Disable Network Connections in Windows

Windows Network and Sharing Center

Microsoft Windows allows administrators to manage Wi-Fi and other kinds of local network connections through the operating system. Knowing how to disable and enable connections in Windows helps greatly with network setup and troubleshooting.

For example, consider that Windows enables the Wi-Fi interfaces of Windows PCs by default. When a Wi-Fi connection suddenly stops functioning because of a technical glitch, Windows sometimes disables it automatically, but users can always do the same manually.

Disabling and re-enabling Wi-Fi connections resets the network-specific functionality without rebooting the computer. This can clear out certain kinds of network problems just like a full reboot would.

Enable and Disable Network Connections in Windows

Follow these steps to disable or re-enable network connections via Windows Control Panel. These instructions apply to Windows 7 and newer versions of the operating system (O/S) including Windows 10:

  1. Open the Windows Control Panel, which can be found on the Windows Start Menu, inside "This PC", or other Windows systems menus depending on O/S version.
  2. Open the Network and Sharing Center - Control Panel will refresh to show new options. The Network and Sharing Center can be reached in several different ways depending on O/S version. Look under the "Network and Internet" left-hand menu option.
  3. Click the "Change adapter settings" option on the new left-hand menu that appears. This causes a new pop-up window to appear displaying the list of all connections configured on the computer with the status of each. The list often includes three or more entries for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and VPN connection types.
  1. Choose the network you wish to disable or enable from the list and right click to bring up its specific menu options. Disabled connections will have an "Enable" option and enabled connections will have a "Disable" option at the top of the menu that can be clicked to perform the appropriate action.
  2. Close the Control Panel window when finished.

    Tips to Consider When Enabling or Disabling Windows Network Connections

    Windows Device Manager can be used for enabling and disabling network connections as an alternative to Control Panel. Open Device Manager from the "Devices and Printers" section of Control Panel and scroll down to the "Network adapter" section of the device tree. Right-clicking these individual entries also bring up pop-up menus with options to enable or disable those connection types as needed.

    Consider disabling any connection types you don't use: this can help improve network reliability and also security.

    Older versions of Windows including Windows XP Service Pack 2 supported a Repair menu option for wireless connections. This feature simply disabled and re-enabled the Wi-Fi connection in one step. While this feature does not exist in newer forms of Windows, the various troubleshooting wizards in Windows 7 and newer versions offer the same and more functionality.

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