What Is a Hidden Network?

You might see one in your Wi-Fi networks list

A hidden network is a wireless network that isn't broadcasting its network ID (also known as SSID). That means it is invisible to all devices searching for a new network to join. It's helpful to understand how they work and whether they can benefit you and your network.

What Does Hidden Network Mean?

A hidden network is what it sounds like: A network hidden from usual detection. Once popular amongst security-savvy users, it was seen as a good way of ensuring nefarious sources could not see your network before trying to access it. It's like having a secret doorway to your home, not on display to others. 

However, in recent times, hiding your network has fallen out of favor as many tools are available to help users spot hidden networks. Also, it's not as secure as you would think.

What Is a Hidden Network Used For?

People use a hidden network to keep things slightly more secure. While tools are available to detect these networks, the average user won't think to look for something they don't even know exists.

Some users also set up hidden networks to keep things tidier when browsing new networks. Rather than having to search through a long list of routers and connections, such as when in an apartment building, it can be more convenient to keep it hidden. However, a hidden network can make it slightly more challenging to connect to as you'll need to know the SSID to find it. That's a few extra steps compared to simply clicking the network name and entering the password. 

What Does It Mean When There Is a Hidden Network?

Knowing there's a hidden network available doesn't mean much. There are many reasons why users may hide a network. 

It may be that someone has believed hiding their network makes it safer and more secure from hackers. The person who set up the network may also want to keep it more private from other nearby users. 

It may also be the network is rarely used, so there's little need to publicize it to other users.

Why Would Someone Have a Hidden Network?

Hidden networks might seem like they've been established for security purposes, but that's rarely the case. It hides the SSID (the network name) rather than the network's password. 

Some users may feel safer by hiding their network, although it's far better to set up a strong password and network protocol. Peace of mind through the sake of one tick box that turns a network hidden can be helpful. 

Other users may prefer to keep their private network hidden from other users in their homes, such as if they live with roommates and don't want to share a network with them. If the roommate doesn't know the network exists, they won't want access.

In a work environment, there may be a guest network for visitors and one for internal use, with the latter hidden, so visitors are not confused.

Is a Hidden Network Safe?

A hidden network is no more or less safe than a regular network. As with connecting to any network, safety is up to the network owner and why they set it up. 

As with any network, you should know what you're connecting to before doing so. Do not connect to a network unless you know who controls it.

  • How do I connect to a hidden network?

    To connect to a hidden network, navigate to Windows Settings > Network & internet and select the Wi-Fi tab. Click Manage Known Networks and select Add network. You'll need to enter the network name, security type, and security key information, which you can get from the network admin, and then click Save. You should then connect automatically to the hidden network.

  • How do I remove a hidden network from my Wi-Fi?

    To remove a hidden network, navigate to your router's administrative panel and log in. Find a Wi-Fi Settings option and look for Hidden Networks. Disable Hidden Networks, and then restart your router for the change to take effect.

  • How do I hide a Wi-Fi network?

    You'll disable SSID to hide your Wi-Fi network, and this process will be slightly different depending on your router. Log in to your router administrative panel and look for an option like SSID Broadcast. To disable SSID broadcast and hide your Wi-Fi network, refer to your router's specific instructions. For example, if you have a Linksys router, go to the Linksys website for instructions. If you have a Netgear router, go to the Netgear website for instructions.

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