Your virtual life will never be the same if networks, both wired and wireless were never invented. Nowadays, wireless networks are more common because of the comfort and ease of use that they provide to any user no matter what kind of device it is that is being used. In Windows, there is a feature that is called “Network Locations” and whenever you connect to a new wireless network, the operating system automatically shows a prompt asking if you want to set the network as private or public network. If you’ve been wondering what this feature is for then we will help you find the answers in this tutorial.
We will also help you change network location for certain wireless networks that you might have set to public or private inadvertently because of lack of knowledge about network locations so be sure to get your Windows machine ready and follow the steps that we are going to show below.
What Exactly Are Network Locations
To understand why network locations need to be set the right way especially when you are connected to a public network, we must first learn about its origins and what it really is intended for. Microsoft won’t actually include a tweak or feature in the Windows operating system if it doesn’t serve any purpose to users.
Network Locations were first introduced back in Windows Vista and it has received quite a few thumbs-up from users because it was still on its initial launching stages and much of it weren’t perfect yet. It was later on carried-over to Windows 7 and Windows 8 and now, it is also found in Windows 10 but with much changes and improvements to help every user manage network connections and sharing easily.
A Network Location is actually a profile that you can set for the networks that you connect to using your laptop or PC. Every network profile has a specific group of settings for network sharing which can be applied to the network that you are connecting to. For instance, if you are connecting to a network at your work or office, yo can choose a network location profile which allows file and printer sharing as network discovery for other devices connected to the same network.
You can also apply this same profile when you connect to your network at home and when you go on a travel, you’ll need to choose a different network location profile that basically disables network discover and file as well as printer sharing to make your device more secure from unauthorized access. These network location profiles are preset and you will always be asked to set it whenever you connect to a certain network for the first time.
Network Locations in Different Windows Editions
There’s not been much of a change that happened in how network locations looked like back in Windows Vista down to Windows 7. Every time you connected to a new network using any of these operating systems, you will automatically be asked to assign a network location profile (either Home, Work or Public) and all you need to do is click on the option that you want in order to have it applied.
This has changed in Windows 10. Instead of presenting to name of the Network Profile to you (Home, Work or Public) whenever you connect to a new network, the latest Windows edition just asks you whether you want to enable discovery of your device over the network and there’s a “Yes” as well as a “No” button which makes it easier to set network location profiles compared to older Windows editions.
No matter what Windows operating system version you are using, choosing the right network location profile is important if you and your data is to be protected from unauthorized access.
Network Location Profiles in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
Now that you already know what Network Locations are, it is time to discover what each one of them do and how one differs from the other. Knowing this allows you to make the right choice whenever you connect to a new network whether it is a wired or a wireless one. Let’s start with Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. In these operating systems, you will only find two network profiles which are “Public” and “Private”. The difference between these two are explained below.
- Public Network- Also called “Guest”, this network location profile provides more security for you and your Windows computer since network discovery is turned off by default and file as well as printer sharing is disabled. You should choose this profile whenever you are connected to networks in public places such as restaurants, hotels, bars airports and many others. Basically, you can also choose this network profile for networks that you don’t trust at all.
- Private Network- In this network location profile, both file and printer sharing are enabled and your device will also be discoverable over the network. You can assign this to the network at your home or office. Additional feature also includes HomeGroup sharing and connections which would surely make sharing and connecting to other devices a lot easier but again, you should only use this for networks that you trust.
Among these two network location profiles, the “Public” profile is the one that provides the best protection for you and your device. Also, there is a third type of network location in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 called the “Domain network” but it is only found in the enterprise editions and you can’t set it by yourself because it is the network administrator alone who has the authority to enable or disable it.
Also, you can’t change anything in it once it is set so the two which we have shown above are basically the ones that you can do some tweaks with as we will be showing you in our next tutorial. For now, let’s go to the network location profiles that are available in older Windows editions.
Network Locations in Windows Windows 7
Not all Windows users have switched to Windows 10. There are those who chose to stay with Windows 7 and if you are one of them, you need to also be aware of the network location profiles that are found in this operating system version. As we have mentioned earlier, there are three types of network locations in older Windows versions and they are as follows.
- Home network- This network location is what you will need to choose if you are connected to your home network where the people and devices connected to the same network are those that you really trust. If you choose this profile, your device will automatically be set as discoverable over the network and you can see them while they as well will see your device. You can also choose to set up HomeGroup in this network location profile.
- Work network- The next type of network location available in Windows 7 is called “Work network” and it is created and designed for networks that you connect to in your workplace. This profile has the same sharing settings as the Home network and the only difference is that you cannot create a HomeGroup with this one selected as your network’s profile.
- Public network- This is the most secure network location profile and is perfect for networks in public places. When connected to a network at the airport or in a bar or other public places, you surely don’t like to have your device viewed by just anyone connected to the same network so choosing Public network would be your option. This profile does not allow network discovery of your device and sharing is turned off as well so there is no way for other users to connect or view your device. If you are connected to the Internet using LAN cable then this profile would also be your best option.
That’s basically how network locations in Windows 7 differ from each other and now that you know them, you can choose which network profile to set for the network in your home, office or whenever you connect one in a coffee shop.
What if you want to change the network location for a certain network that you’ve already connected to and set a network location for in the past? Is it possible to do this? That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss next so just read on towards the end of this tutorial to learn how to do it in different Windows operating system versions.
How to Change Network Locations in Windows 7
Changing network location profile in Windows 7 is quite an easy and straightforward thing to do. It is important to learn how this is done especially if you’ve just selected what your instinct told you to choose when you connected to different networks in the past prior to reading this tutorial. To start, you will first need to launch the Control Panel Window then go to the “Network and Internet” settings category and under it, just click “Network and Sharing Center” and you will then be taken to the Window that looks exactly like the one that is shown below.
Next, you will need to click on the network location link that is found just underneath the name of the network as you can see on the screenshot above in order to launch the “Set Network Location” Window where you can choose the new network location profile that you want to set for the network to which your computer is currently connected to as shown on the screenshot below.
Just click on your desired network location and after you do so, the changes will be applied and Windows 7 will notify you once the changes are already done.
That’s how simple it is to change network locations in Windows 7 so go ahead and experiment on it in your Windows machine. Now, what about Windows 10? The steps that are involved in changing network location in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 are quite identical and that’s what we’re going to show next!
Changing Network Locations in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
Before we get into the steps, let me first inform you that the screenshots shown below are done in a Windows 10 machine with Anniversary Update applied to it or in other words, it is already running the 14367 Build of the operating system which is the latest one as of writing this tutorial. To start, you will need to launch the “Settings” universal app Window by pressing the Windows + I keyboard shortcut combination. Once it launches, simply click on the “Network & Internet” settings category.
Once the “Network & Internet” settings section opens, you will need to click on “Wi-Fi” (if you are connected to a wireless network) or “Ethernet” (if you are connected through a LAN cable) then click on the name of the wireless/LAN network that you are currently connected to on the right of the Window as you can see below.
You will then be taken to the “Settings” Window for the network and from here, you’ll find an On/Off switch under an option that says “Make this PC discoverable”. If it is currently turned on they it means that your PC or device is displayed over the Network and other devices connected to the same network can see it. This setting is only recommended if you trust the network like that which is in your home or office while if you are connected to a public network, it is best to have this switch turned off so you can be safe against any security breaches that can have you and your files vulnerable to being accessed by unauthorized users who are connected to the same public network you are currently connected to.
After doing the tweak, you can simply close the Window and that’s it! You have already changed the network location in your Windows 10 machine. As you can see, the process has been made simpler in order to avoid confusion on the part of other users especially those who are just starting to know and discover about Windows 10.
Select the Right Network Location and Keep Yourself Safe and Secure
As you can see, Windows has an awesome feature that can help you stay safe and secured even when connected to the Internet from different locations whether at home, in the office or outside in public places that has Wi-Fi. Being able to choose the right one for each of these locations is important in keeping your information and all other data safe against unauthorized access and theft.
Did you encounter problems while doing any of the tweaks that we’ve shown above or is there something that’s quite vague to your about network locations until now? Please feel free to ask us using the comments section below and we’ll do our best to address your concern in the form of a tutorial or article in the future.