How to Turn Off (Or On) Airplane Mode on Windows 10

Suspend or reinstate radio frequencies on Windows 10 and 8.1 devices

Airplane mode is a setting that immediately disables Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and all telephone communications. When you need to turn Windows 10 airplane mode on or off, there are 2 very easy ways to do it:

  • Use the Network icon.
  • Use the Start button.

Instructions in this article applies to Windows 10 and 8.1. Scroll down for Win 8.1 instructions.

A child on an airplane playing with a toy plane with his father sitting next to him.
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How to Turn off (Or On) Airplane Mode in Windows 10

There are several ways to enable or disable Airplane mode on Windows devices.

The easiest way is from the Network icon on the Taskbar (that thin strip at the bottom of your display where the Start button exists and program icons appear). Simply position the mouse over that icon and select it. From there, select Airplane mode.

You can also use the Start button in Windows 10. Follow these steps:

  1. Select Start.

    The Start menu in Windows 10.
  2. Select Settings.

    Selecting Settings in Windows 10.
  3. Select Network & Internet.

    Windows 10 control panel.
  4. Select Airplane Mode. There are also options there that let you fine-tune this and only disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (and not both). If you don’t use Bluetooth, you might as well turn it off to keep Windows from looking for available devices.

    Airplane mode in Windows 10.
  5. To perform the opposite action, follow these steps again.

In Windows 10, the Airplane mode icon is near the bottom of the list. It’s gray when you disable Airplane mode and blue when it’s turned on.

When you turn on Airplane mode you’ll also notice that the Wi-Fi icon changes from blue to gray, as does the Mobile Hotspot option, if they were enabled to begin with. This happens because starting Airplane mode disables all these features immediately. If your computer is a desktop PC, it might not have wireless networking hardware. In this case, you won’t see these options.

Turn Airplane Mode on or off Using Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, you start Airplane mode using a similar process. You'll select the Network icon on the Taskbar. However, in this case, there’s a slider for Airplane mode (and not an icon). It’s a toggle and is either off or on. Like Windows 10, enabling this mode disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well.

In Windows 8, follow these steps:

  1. Select Settings or use Windows key + C.

  2. Select Change PC Settings.

  3. Select Wireless. If you don’t see Wireless, click Networks.

Reasons to Enable Airplane Mode

There are many reasons to turn on Airplane mode beyond being told to by the captain of an airplane to do so. Using Airplane mode will increase the remaining battery charge of a phone, laptop or tablet. If you don’t have access to a charger and your battery is running low, this is a good place to start since only a few airplanes have power outlets.

You may also enable Airplane mode if you want do not want to be disturbed with phone calls, texts, emails, or internet notifications, but you still want to use your device. Parents often enable Airplane mode when their child is using their phone. It keeps the kids from reading incoming texts or being disrupted by internet notifications or phone calls.

Another reason to enable Airplane mode on a phone is to avoid cellular data roaming charges while in a foreign country. Just keep Wi-Fi enabled. In larger cities, you’ll often find free Wi-Fi anyway, and you can message contacts over Wi-Fi using apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and email.

Finally, if you can get to Airplane mode fast enough, you might be able to stop unwanted messages from sending. Say for example that you write a text and include a picture, but just as it’s starting to send you realize it’s the wrong picture! If you can enable Airplane mode quickly enough, you might be able to stop it from sending. This is one time you’ll actually be happy to see the “Message failed to send error”!

How Airplane Mode Works

Airplane mode works because it disables the device’s data transmitters and receivers. This prevents data from coming into a phone, and thus, stops notifications and calls that would normally arrive when enabled. It keeps anything from leaving the device too. Notifications include more than phone calls and texts though; they are also announcements from Facebook activities, Instagram, Snapchat, games, and so on.

Additionally, when Airplane mode is enabled the device requires fewer resources to function. The phone or laptop stops looking for cellular towers. It stops looking for Wi-Fi hotspots or Bluetooth devices too, depending on how you’ve set it up. Without this overhead, the device’s battery can last longer.

Finally, if the phone or device isn’t transmitting its location (or even its existence), you’ll be harder to locate. If you’re feeling especially vulnerable and want to make sure your phone won’t give you away, enable Airplane mode.

Why Is Airplane Mode so Important to the FAA?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) contends that the radio frequencies admitted by cellphones and similar devices can interfere with the airplane’s navigation and communication systems. Some pilots believe that these signals can also interfere with a plane’s collision avoidance system.

Thus, the FCC put rules into place to limit cell phone transmissions on planes, and thus the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the use of cellular phone features during takeoff and landing, and, in flight. It is also a common belief at the FCC that lots of fast-moving cell phones may all ping several cell towers multiple times and at once, which can confuse the mobile phone network.

The reasons go far beyond science though. Most of these center around the passengers themselves. Airlines need people to pay attention to pre-flight instructions. With everyone talking on phones during take-off and landing, this would be nearly impossible. Pilots and flight attendants need to be able to communicate with passengers quickly while in flight for security and safety reasons. What’s more, many people do not want to sit next to a person who talks on the phone during an entire flight, which is bound to happen if phones are allowed. Airlines want to keep as many passengers happy as possible, and keeping them off phones is one way.

So, take a minute now and locate the Airplane option on your favorite devices and consider when you could use that other than when on an airplane. You can enable it when your kids use your device, when battery power is low and don’t need to be connected to the outside world, and when you need a moment to disconnect and unwind. When you need it again, just disable Airplane mode.

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