How to Join a Wireless Network From Any Device

The method depends on what you're using

Family using multiple wireless devices
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If you understand the basics of making wireless network connections, joining a wireless network should be easy. However, special considerations apply, depending on the type of device you're using.

Microsoft Windows PCs

Basic network configuration in Windows

To join a wireless network in Windows, navigate to the Windows Network and Sharing Center using the small network icon (displaying a row of five white bars) on the right-hand side of the Windows taskbar or through the Control Panel.

Windows supports network profiles that enable the operating system to remember the necessary network configuration parameters so that your computer will detect and rejoin a network automatically in the future.

Check for Updates in Windows Update

PCs can fail to join networks if their wireless drivers are out of date. Check for driver upgrades in the Microsoft Windows Update utility. Driver updates are also available in Windows Device Manager.

Apple Macs

Network in macOS System Preferences

As in Windows, you can launch the macOS Network dialog in two ways: select System Preferences, or click the network icon (four curved bars) in the main menu bar and then Open Network Preferences.

Network pane in macOS System Preferences

macOS remembers recently joined networks and, by default, automatically tries connecting to them. You can control the order in which these connection attempts are made. To prevent your Mac from automatically joining undesirable networks, set the Ask Before Joining an Open Network option in Network Preferences.

Install Mac network driver updates through Software Update.

Tablets and Smartphones

Almost all smartphones and tablets incorporate both built-in cellular network capability and local-area (LAN) wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These devices automatically connect to the cell service when switched on. They can also be configured to join and use Wi-Fi networks simultaneously, using Wi-Fi when available as the preferred option for data transfer, and automatically falling back to using a data connection, if necessary.

Wi-Fi settings pane on iPad

Apple phones and tablets control wireless connections through the Settings app. Selecting Wi-Fi triggers the device to scan for nearby networks and display them in a list under Choose a Network. After successfully joining a network, a checkmark appears next to that network's list entry.

Android phones and tablets feature a Wireless & Network settings screen that controls Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell settings. Third-party Android apps for managing these networks are also available from multiple sources.

Printers and Televisions

Wireless network printers can be configured to join home and office networks, too. Most wireless printers feature a small LCD screen that displays menus for selecting Wi-Fi connection options and a few buttons for entering network passphrases.

Samsung UN55H6350 LED/LCD Smart TV - Photo - Network Settings Menu
Photo of the Network Settings Menu on the Samsung UN55H6350 LED/LCD TV. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Televisions capable of joining wireless networks are becoming increasingly common. Some require plugging a wireless USB network adapter into the TV, but most have integrated Wi-Fi communication chips. On-screen menus allow you to connect the TV to your home network or to configure a bridge device, such as a DVR, that join the network via Wi-Fi and transmit video to the TV via cable.

Other Consumer Devices

Game consoles such as Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation feature their own on-screen menu systems for configuring and joining Wi-Fi networks. Current versions of these consoles have built-in Wi-Fi, while older versions require you to set up an external wireless network adapter plugged into a USB port or Ethernet port.

Screenshots of Samsung SmartThings home automation app
Easily check for compatibility within the app.

Wireless home automation and wireless home audio systems typically create proprietary wireless local networks within the home network. These setups use a gateway device that connects to the home network router via cable and joins all of its clients to the network via proprietary network protocols.