I will continue our Windows 7 Networking series with a guide on how to connect to hidden wireless networks. Hidden wireless networks are those networks which do not broadcast their Network ID (SSID). While not that many people use such networks, some have the feeling of a bit more security to have their home wireless network hidden from unwanted guests. In this guide I will share with you the steps for making a successful connection.
Step 1: Get the Details of the Hidden Wireless Network
First and foremost, you need to know all the identification and connection details of the hidden wireless network you want to connect to. Therefore, open your router's configuration page and go to the Wireless configuration menu. Write down the values for the Network ID (SSID) and Security fields. Depending on what type of security your wireless network has, you will need to write down the value of another important field, as following:
- For WEP security - note the value of the WEP Key field.
- For WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK(AES) security - note the value of the Preshare Key field.
NOTE: If your wireless network has no security enabled, then you only need to know the value of the Network ID (SSID) field. 802.1X, WPA and WPA2(AES) security is generally used in enterprise networks and most likely your laptop will be pre-configured to connect to your corporate wireless network. Therefore this guide won't apply to corporate networks.
Once you have all these three details, you can go ahead with step 2.
Step 2: Start the 'Set Up a Connection or Network' Wizard
To do this, you need to open the Network and Sharing Center: go to Start Menu -> Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network and Sharing Center. In the Network and Sharing Center window you will see lots of shortcuts. Click on the one that says 'Set up a new connection or network'.
The 'Set Up a Connection or Network' wizard will now start. From the list of available options, select 'Manually connect to a wireless network' and click on Next.
Step 3: Complete the Details of the Wireless Network
Now you will have to complete all the fields shown in this window. The first one is called Network name. In it, type the name of the wireless network you want to connect to, which is the equivalent of the Network ID (SSID) field from your router's wireless configuration menus.
The next field that needs to be completed is the Security type used by your wireless network. Depending on the type of security used, make the following selection:
- For WEP security - select WEP.
- For WPA-PSK security - select WPA-Personal.
- For WPA2-PSK(AES) security - select WPA2-Personal.
NOTE: If your wireless network has no security enabled, then select No authentication (Open).
Now it is time to select the appropriate type of encryption. If you are using WPA2-PSK(AES) security, make sure you select AES. Otherwise, leave the default value Windows 7 gives you.
For WEP, WPA2 Personal and WPA Personal you will have to enter the security key as follows:
- For WEP security - the value of the WEP Key field.
- For WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK(AES) security - the value of the Preshare Key field.
If you are in a public environment, then it is a good idea to check the 'Hide characters' box. Also, don't forget to check the other two boxes: 'Start this connection automatically' and 'Connect even if the network is not broadcasting'. These two allow you to connect automatically to the hidden wireless network. Once all data is completed, click on Next.
When done, you will see a message which says that you have successfully added the wireless network to your computer. If you are unsure on any of the settings, you can click on 'Change connection settings' and review them all.
This will open a window where you can change all your settings and looks like the screenshot below. It can be opened at any time by going to Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network and Sharing Center -> Manage Wireless Networks and double clicking on the wireless network.
When done, Windows 7 will automatically connect to the hidden wireless network. Also, the wireless network icon from the taskbar will change as shown below.
Troubleshooting Problems with a Wireless Network
If you are having troubles connecting to a wireless network, first check if you followed the correct steps highlighted in the section above. Pay attention to ALL the steps and check if you got them right. If you did everything "by the book" and you still cannot connect, then read the following articles:
- Troubleshoot Internet Connection Problems over a Wireless Network - this guide shows how to use the Windows 7 built-in troubleshooting tools to fix problems with connections to wireless networks;
- Troubleshoot Wireless Network Connection Problems by Yourself - this is a step by step chart with questions and answers. Answering a series of questions takes you to the most probable root-cause and its solution;
- Fix Troublesome Wireless Connections by Removing their Profile - if you have problems with a wireless network which worked in the past, it can happen that its profile in Windows 7 got changed or corrupted in the meantime. This tutorial helps you fix problems in such scenarios.
- Easily Backup & Import Your Wireless Network Settings in Windows 7 - this is a very useful guest post we published on How-To Geek. It should make it easy for you to backup and restore your wireless network settings across Windows 7 computers.
As you can see from this guide, connecting to hidden wireless networks requires a bit more work than connecting to public ones. However, if you pay a bit of attention and don't skip any of these steps, it can be done in just a few minutes. If you have any useful tips on connecting to hidden wireless networks, don't hesitate to leave a comment.