Sunday, January 12, 2014

Manage wireless networks on Windows 8 and 8.1

If you are used to manage wireless networks in Windows 7 or previous, you may also be used to being able to choose if you want your computer to connect automatically or manually to a wireless Access Point. Being able to choose if you don’t want to connect automatically to an Access Point is an advantage because that way your computer won’t be looking for previously associated wireless  Access Points, therefore revealing all the previous Access Points you have used in the past.

This could be a privacy or security concern for you (this is easy for somebody like a malicious person to find), because for example when you go to your home, your computer will broadcast all the places you go to frequently (often the wireless Access Point name describes the places you have visited).

So if in Windows 7 for example you don’t want your computer to look for all the previously used Access Points you can simply set the Manual connection for the Access Points that aren’t yours, that way the computer won’t disclose them to your surroundings unless you want to.

In Windows 8 and 8.1 the option for configuring automatic or manual wireless connections does not exist, at least not in the network configuration options. Windows 8 and 8.1 normal behavior is to automatically search for the previously used Access Points. Other issue with this is that you can’t “forget” the networks you have no access to.

So in order to configure your computer to connect manually to a certain Access Point this is what you have to do:

1) Go to “C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Wlansvc\Profiles\Interfaces”, there you will find a folder, enter to that folder and there will be bunch of files, each one representing a different Access Point.

2) Open each file and find the line where it says “auto” then change it to “manual”. It should look like this: “<connectionMode>manual</connectionMode>”

You can safely delete the files that represent the Access Points that you don’t want to keep, you can also check other characteristics of the Access Points inside the files.

I found some software that is supposed to bring back the Windows 7 configuration to Windows 8 and 8.1 but it’s either buggy or it didn’t implemented the auto/manual feature. This also avoids having to use “netsh” commands.

More info about the issue here:

Update: Windows 8.1 Update 1  finally included the option to manage known networks.


Ruthlyn Wills said...

Thanks for your solution. It really helped :)

Helic said...

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

interestingly it works. finally i know where windows 8x keeps those freaking netsh config files! thanks for that!