What to Know About Connecting to a Hidden Network

Why they exist and whether they're safe

A hidden network is a wireless network configured not to broadcast its network name (SSID). That means it's effectively hidden unless you know where to look, as it won't show up alongside other networks.

What Is a Hidden Network Used For?

In the past, users frequently created hidden networks to add an extra layer of security because no one could see they existed. In reality, it doesn't add much protection, and most users should have secure passwords in place instead. 

However, a hidden network can still be used for various purposes. These can be to keep a network list tidy such as in a busy apartment building where you don't wish to advertise a network you only use for a couple of your own devices. 

Similarly, in a work environment, it can be helpful to have a guest network on display for visitors while hiding a network used for employees.

What Does It Mean When There Is a Hidden Network?

A hidden network doesn't operate any differently from a regular network. The only difference is it isn't broadcasting its network name to anyone browsing for a network. However, there is software available that can show hidden networks. Revealing a hidden network doesn't mean you can (or should) connect it to since you'd still need the password to connect.

A hidden network is no more or less safe to connect to than a regular network. What's important is knowing who owns and controls the network.

Why Is There a Hidden Network on My Wi-Fi?

Unless you have set your Wi-Fi router to be hidden, your Wi-Fi networking equipment won't broadcast any hidden networks you come across via apps or elsewhere.

Instead, you can view the networks near to your location so you can choose to connect to them. A hidden network is only visible if you use a dedicated app such as iStumbler to view all available networks near your location.

If you come across one, it won't interfere with your connection unless you try to join it.

Should You Connect to Hidden Networks?

Technically, there's no harm in connecting to hidden networks providing, of course, you know the origins of the network. If you've set up the hidden network yourself, it's safe to use. For unknown ones, you should know more about it.

Connecting to a hidden network is slightly different from joining a regular one, as it's hidden. You need to know the network name, security type, and security key information. These will be provided to you by the network administrator. 

It's pretty simple to connect to a hidden network in Windows.

How to Connect to a Hidden Network on a Mac

  1. Click the Apple icon on the top left corner of the desktop.

  2. Click System Preferences.

  3. Click Network.

    MacOS System Preferences with Network highlighted.
  4. Click the Network Name drop-down menu.

    MacOS network settings with network name drop-down menu highlighted.
  5. Click Join Other Network.

    MacOS network settings with Join Other Network highlighted.
  6. Enter the details for the network.

    MacOS Join a Wi-Fi network dialog box.

    Make sure Remember this network is ticked so you don't have to re-enter the details at a later date.

  7. Click Join.

  • How do I connect to a hidden network in Windows?

    If you’re using Windows, the most straightforward way to connect to a hidden network is via Windows Settings. From Settings, select Network & Internet and make sure you’re on the Wi-Fi tab. Select Manage Known Networks > Add network. Consult your IT team or admin to obtain the network name, security type, and security key information. Enter this information in the Add network screen and select Save. You’ll be connected to the hidden network.

  • How do I remove a hidden network?

    If you don’t want a hidden network on your Wi-Fi network, find your router’s administrative panel and log in. Depending on your router, you’ll see an option for Wi-Fi Settings or something similar. Look for a Hidden Networks option. Once you find this option, you’ll be able to disable hidden networks. Restart your router to complete the process.

  • How can I hide a Wi-Fi network?

    You'll need to disable a network's SSID to hide the network. To do this, you'll need to find your router's specific instructions. The process will likely include logging into your router's administrative panel and locating an option called SSID Broadcast. Your router's instructions will guide you on disabling the SSID broadcast and hiding your Wi-Fi network. If you have a Linksys router, consult the Linksys website, and if you have a Netgear router, head to that website.

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