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Connecting to a wireless network in Windows 8 is far less painful than it was in Windows 7. However, a few things that should be easy and obvious are in fact a bit tricky.

You may be having problems connecting to a wireless network in Windows 8, or find that you’re regularly entering PEAP credentials each time you want to get online. You might find that your device connects to the wrong wireless network, or simply want to use it as a wireless hotspot.

While none of these things are clear from day to day use of Windows 8, they are, however, easily done – once you know how.

Connecting To A Wireless Network In Windows 8

We’ll start with the basics – how do you connect to a wireless network in Windows 8?

By default, most new Windows 8 computers will be set to connect to wireless networks automatically as the operating system boots. As such, you should see an alert informing you that a network has been found; an open network will be connected to, with Windows asking you how you wish to treat the connection (as a trusted, “home” network or as a less secure option, “work”). Secure networks will require authentication, of course.

What if WiFi isn’t already enabled in Windows 8?

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Begin by swiping in from the right to open the Charms bar and select Settings. Here you should see an icon labelled Unavailable, with a red circle and cross accompanying a typical wireless network symbol. Tap this, and switch WiFi to On in order to prompt the computer to check the nearby network connections. When you’re ready to go online, tap a network name and then Connect, adding any further information (such as WEP, WPA or PEAP authentication) when prompted.

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If you would rather do things the old-fashioned way, open the desktop view and browse to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Setup a new connection or network > Manually connect to a wireless network.

Changing The Priority Of WiFi Networks Natively

As you may have noticed, there are various things from Windows 7 that didn’t make it through to Windows 8. One of these was a wireless network manager, enabling you to prioritise a particular wireless network to connect to if several were listed. In Windows 8 this isn’t possible within the user interface (neither the mouse driven traditional desktop view, nor the “Modern” touch menu), so the default action is to skip tapping the Connect automatically, making the whole connection process a lot more manual.

Fortunately, there is a way around this that doesn’t rely on third party tools (although some are available).

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Begin by switching to the Start screen and typing command to search for the Command Prompt tool (simpler to use than you might think The Windows Command Prompt: Simpler And More Useful Than You Think The Windows Command Prompt: Simpler And More Useful Than You Think The commands haven't always stayed the same, in fact some have been trashed while other newer commands came along, even with Windows 7 in fact. So, why would anyone want to bother clicking the start... Read More ); in Windows 8, this will be listed twice, Command Prompt and Command Prompt as Administrator. Choose the second option, agreeing with the user access warning. In Windows 8.1, the search results will simply list Command Prompt once – you’ll need to right-click and select Run as administrator to continue.

At the prompt, enter:

netsh wlan show profiles

The resulting list will show all wireless networks detected to date by your Windows 8 machine, those you’ve connected to and some you have not. You’ll probably also notice that your preferred network isn’t at the top of the list.

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Using the interface and profile names, you can resolve this.

netsh wlan set profileorder name=”[WIRELESS_NETWORK_NAME]” interface=”WiFi” priority=1

For instance, if I wanted “citadel” to be my preferred connection, I would enter:

netsh wlan set profileorder name=”citadel” interface=”WiFi” priority=1

Note the use of the “priority” condition, which can be used throughout the list to specify a preferred second, third and fourth connection; as many as are required.

To confirm your change has worked, use the netsh wlan show profiles command again. You should now see that your preferred network is listed first.

Use Third Party Tools To Set Preferred Wireless Networks

If the steps above seem too much like the dark arts to you, then you might prefer the WiFi Profile Manager 8 donationware app, available free online from The Windows Club. If you’re not sure what donationware is, our guide to researching free software should explain How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software Before downloading a free program, you should be sure it's trustworthy. Determining whether a download is safe is a basic skill, but one everyone needs -- particularly on Windows. Use these tips to ensure you... Read More .

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WiFi Profile Manager 8 offers tools that allow you to:

  • View the Preferred Network Profiles
  • Change list order
  • Export to XML
  • Import from XML
  • Remove Profiles

This useful app is an executable and can be quickly run (as opposed to installed), enabling you to set a primary wireless profile by right-clicking and selecting Make Default. Other profiles can be repositioned in the list using the Move Up and Move Down options in the same menu, and older profiles discarded with Remove.

Remember PEAP Authentication In Windows 8

Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol is a modern wireless networking protocol that offers improved security over WEP and WPA. It is supported in Windows 8, but unlike the more widely used WEP and WPA, connecting to a wireless network using PEAP requires you to enter your username and password and the intended domain each time you connect.

This is, of course, inconvenient. Fortunately, Windows 8 can be configured to save your PEAP WiFi connection details.

Open the Charms menu to begin, select the PEAP network connection and right-click to display the context menu; choose View connection properties to continue, displaying Wireless Network Properties. From here, open Security > Advanced Settings.

On the 802.1x tab, put a check in the box to activate Specify authentication mode and ensure that the User authentication option is selected, followed by Replace/Save credentials. Following this, enter the network credentials, click OK and then reconnect – you won’t need to update these details again!

Turn Windows 8 Into A Wireless Hotspot

What about sharing your Windows 8 computer’s Internet connection? Can you turn a Windows 8 device into a wireless hotspot?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes you can. Using Connectify – available from www.connectify.me/download in free and premium ($25/year, $40/lifetime) versions – you can set up your Windows 8 computer as a wireless hotspot, sharing Ethernet, WiFi or even connections from a 3G/4G dongle!

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Once installed (you’ll need to reboot your PC afterwards), all you need to do is create a name for the hotspot, specify the connection you’re sharing and generate a password, before clicking Start Hotspot. Anyone nearby will then be able to use your computer as a wireless hotspot to gain access to the Internet. You can also use Connectify to create ad hoc local networks for file sharing between computers!

Note that there are other tools; however, Connectify is the best option we’ve found for this so far.

Maximise Windows 8’s Wireless Networking Capabilities

Some of you reading this might be thinking “why doesn’t Microsoft include all of these tools and features as standard within the desktop or modern user interface?” After all, mobile devices can be turned into wireless hotspots 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America 3 Foolproof Ways to Create Your Own Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Tethering in North America Do you want to give multiple wireless gadgets on-the-go internet access? Are you sick of getting ripped off by wireless hotspot tethering? There’s a variety of technologies that can help you – the two most... Read More with native software, so why not PCs?

The answer, of course, lies somewhere between “don’t know” and “Microsoft provide a platform for developers to fill in the gaps.” However, the fact that Windows 7 includes the ability to easily prioritise a particular wireless network over others, while the same feature in Windows 8 can only be accessed via the command line, is one that can leave you perplexed.

Let us know in the comments if you have tried any of these tools and methods; also, share any alternatives you might know of.

Image Credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page

  1. t
    December 19, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    for the "netsh wlan set profileorder name=”citadel” interface=”WiFi” priority=1" command, the interface name might be different, for me it was "Wi-Fi". type "netsh wlan show interfaces" to find out.

  2. Kali
    February 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for info,

    I tried hotspot using Connectify in win8 laptop. I am able connect the network via my android mobile but after some time(2-5 min) the network is getting disconnected automatically. this happens with all the clients connected to my computer.

    Can u please tell me what may be the problem?

    Thanks

    • Christian C
      February 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      I would think the first thing to check is your firewall.

      Once you've ruled this out, consider updating your wireless card drivers.

  3. Bala
    November 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Wifi in windows 8 have been improved but still it has its shortcoming
    1. Win 8 can't connect to a access point with WEP - SHARED key authentication, although using WEP is not recommended now-a-days, but still there are so many older access points which has this settings. This is a known limitation
    2. Win 8 doesn't show UTF-8 encoded SSID names (i.e.,) if the access point SSID name is in language other than english then it might show some garbage. But still you can connect using that, the real problem happens when you have multiple access point in range with all showing some garbage and couldn't figure out which to select

  4. Mark M
    November 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    handy info here, good lookin' out...as usual

  5. Keren monder
    November 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for the tips. I will get my Windows 8 tablet for the holidays!

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