Windows 10. Absolute Beginner’s Guide (2016)
Part II: Customizing Your Windows 10 Computer
13. Connecting to Networks and the Internet
In This Chapter
• Connecting to the Internet
• Finding the Hardware Needed to Connect to the Internet
Although Windows has plenty of cool and fun features, most of its power comes from the ability to work with other devices and connect us to the Internet. For example, your personal contacts are developed and maintained through social media, email, and messaging on the Internet. These contacts are the fuel that powers the sharing capabilities throughout Windows. And the information you work with every day is a combination of content you have stored on your computer merged with content Windows finds on the Internet. It’s fair to say that Windows has limited functionality without a connection to the Internet. Fortunately, Windows makes connecting to the Internet easy regardless of your location.
This chapter provides several step-by-step lists of instructions to help you connect wherever you are.
Reviewing Important Internet Connection Basics
Connecting to the Internet from your desktop, laptop, or tablet usually runs smoothly after everything is set up properly. But there are lots of moving parts in the process, any of which can stop working or become dated as new capabilities are developed. One way to anticipate problems, as well as to be on the lookout for faster and better ways to connect, is to know the basics of connecting to the Internet. You won’t necessarily become an Internet engineer after reading this section, but you can certainly gain a better understanding of what happens when you fire it up.
Learning About Internet Service Providers
The devices you use today to browse the Web, send and receive email, play videos, and more cannot connect to the Internet on their own. Whether you are at home, in an office, on a plane, in a coffee shop, or even at the grocery store, you need a way to connect to the Internet. This connection is provided by an Internet service provider (ISP). The ISP provides access to the Internet for a fee. Even large companies that provide their employees fast Internet access do so by working with an ISP. Figure 13.1 illustrates how your computer works with the ISP.
FIGURE 13.1 The ISP provides access to the Internet. Your connection does not run through your ISP’s headquarters. The picture shows your ISP managing your connection.
You can compare the service provided by an ISP to the way you access electricity, water, or natural gas. In fact, access to the Internet might one day be regulated as another utility.
Checking the Hardware Required to Connect
Although Windows is powerful, connecting to the Internet usually requires some hardware. The hardware usually (but not always) is provided by the ISPs and includes the following:
• Modem—The modem is a device that bridges the Internet to your computer or home/office network. Each type of Internet connection—cable, DSL, and such—uses a different type of modem. If you’d prefer not to lease or purchase a modem from your provider, you can usually purchase one compatible with most providers from your preferred home electronics retailer. Many newer modems include Wi-Fi capability and can also double as a router.
• Ethernet cable—Except for dial-up and mobile broadband connections, you need an Ethernet cable to connect your computer to the modem or to connect the modem to a router and your computer to the router. If an Ethernet cable was not provided by your ISP, you can purchase one at any store that sells electronics, especially computer equipment.
• Wireless antennae—If you want to connect wirelessly but your device does not have a wireless network adapter already built in, you can purchase and connect one easily.
Another common device you might have is called a router, which is discussed in this chapter in the section “Understanding Routers for Internet Connection Sharing.” Routers are essential if you want to share your connection across multiple devices.
Learning the Internet Connection Services Typically Available
Each ISP uses a specific technology to connect your computer to the Internet. The technology the ISP provides, plus the price the ISP charges, the availability of the service, how to use and configure the technology, and how convenient and reliable the technology is, all combine to define a service offered by the ISP. It might be that you have a number of services available at your home. If that is the case, review each option carefully to make a decision. Price is important, but be sure to research the reliability of the service. Reliability is defined by how often the service is down and whether the connection you pay for is provided at the speed advertised. There might be just one ISP doing business in your neighborhood, and that ISP might provide just one service. In that case, your options are obviously limited.
Here’s a list of the most popular services used to connect users today, as well as a short explanation of how you connect to the service:
• Fiber—Some ISPs offer a dedicated fiber-optic connection to residential customers. Using a very small strand of fiber-optic cable, the Internet connection relies on waves of light with very fast and clear connections. A modem is used to convert the light to a digital signal your computer will understand. The modem is typically connected to a router allowing for Ethernet or wireless connections. It is not unusual to have television and phone services available through the same connection.
• Cable—Technology companies have learned to piggyback Internet traffic on the cable and hardware that provides cable TV service to their customers. Your ISP, which with this technology is the company that provides your cable TV service, provides you a modem that uses coaxial cable to connect to one of the cable ports in your home.
The modem is typically connected to a router allowing for Ethernet or wireless connections. You usually do not need a user ID and password to access the Internet with a cable modem, but be sure to ask if one is needed when you have cable modem service installed.
Many cable companies provide a choice for speeds of Internet service. Many services start at 3Mbps, which stands for 3 megabits per second, or 3 million bits per second. At 3Mbps, a song available on the Internet would take about 14 seconds to download (assuming the song is 5MB). Cable companies often offer services (at a higher cost) up to 60Mbps, and some fiber services offer speeds of 1,000Mbps or more!
• Digital subscriber line (DSL)—A broadband service is DSL, which, because it uses the same lines that support your regular telephone service (if you still have that), is provided exclusively by telephone companies. The ISP provides a small device that splits the signal so that the phone signal goes to the telephone and the Internet signal goes to the modem. The modem is another piece of hardware provided by the ISP.
You need access to a telephone port close to the location, ideally in the same room, where the modem is installed. Like the cable modem, you connect your computer to the modem with an Ethernet cable. You usually do not need a user ID and password to access the Internet with a DSL modem, but be sure to ask if one is needed when you have the service installed.
• Satellite—DirecTV, the largest television and music satellite company, is one of a few companies that provide Internet access through satellite service. The signal is delivered to your home or home office from the satellite dish mounted on a building or based on the ground.
The signal is then delivered by a cable from the dish that connects to a modem, which is used to convert the signal for use with your computer, as shown in Figure 13.2. You connect your computer to the modem with an Ethernet cable.
FIGURE 13.2 Satellite service is an option for locations that can’t be served by cable or telephone companies.
The benefit of DirecTV Internet service is its availability where DSL and cable service is not available. You also might save money by bundling satellite entertainment service with Internet service. The disadvantage of satellite service for Internet is that overcast skies can cause the satellite signal to be easily lost. The service is also considerably slower than cable service, and you often have a limit on how much data you can use in a month. It’s reasonable to say that you should use satellite service only when no other service is available.
• Dial-up—Dial-up Internet access is still in use where broadband access is not available. With this service, a dial-up modem is used to send and receive Internet traffic over telephone lines. Some desktop computers have a built-in modem, but these are far less common than they used to be, so it’s important to check whether one is installed before you commit to using dial-up service. Dial-up service is slow, but using this technology might be your last resort when other services are unavailable. Your local telephone company can offer dial-up service. If you can get online, you’ll find a popular and useful site that lists dial-up services at www.freedomlist.com.
Understanding Routers for Internet Connection Sharing
To extend an Internet connection to several computers in your home or home office, you can use a router. A router is a piece of hardware (costing anywhere from $25 to more than $100) that helps share the Internet connection with computers connected to the router. Routers today can provide both wired and wireless access. Higher-end routers can handle more connections from multiple devices and even allow different devices to work at different speeds. A router suitable for home or home office use can usually accommodate 4-10 wired devices. You connect your router to the Internet modem, as shown in Figure 13.3.
FIGURE 13.3 A router is used to share a single Internet connection with several computers.
The modem provided by your ISP might also double as a router by providing support for sharing the connection with multiple computers, including permitting wireless access to the modem.
Understanding the Network Adapter
The network adapter is the piece of hardware used to connect your device to a network. Don’t worry—it is extremely unlikely that your PC or tablet, if purchased in the past four years, does not have a built-in network adapter. Often these adapters are internal, meaning you can’t see them unless you open your computer (which is not recommended), although you can see the port (wired) or sometimes the antenna (wireless).
To view the network adapters set up in Windows so that you can make sure Windows recognizes them and they are functioning, follow these steps:
1. From the taskbar, type view network connections into the search box.
2. Select the View Network Connections setting, which should appear at the top of the list of results. The Network Connections dialog box shown in Figure 13.4 will open on your Desktop, showing available connections and their current status.
FIGURE 13.4 You can check your connections using the Network Connections dialog box.
Connecting to the Internet
Following are some of the most common Internet connection scenarios. You can follow the step-by-step procedures to connect to the Internet for each scenario in the following list:
• Connecting to a wireless network
• Connecting where free Wi-Fi is advertised
• Connecting where Wi-Fi access can be purchased
• Connecting to a wired network at work or home
• Connecting after you upgrade to Windows 10
• Connecting if you have been forced to restart
Before diving into the individual connection scenarios, it’s important to understand that after you install Windows 10 and initially connect to the Internet, you might not need to make any changes to your setup or to even purposely connect to the Internet. Windows automatically connects to the Internet on startup unless you use a manual connection method, such as dial-up.
Unless you want to change how you connect—for instance, if you bring your computer to a new location or if you change your network or connection setup at home (that is, you change your hardware or Internet service provider)—you might not need the information provided in the rest of this section.
When connecting to the Internet, you are also connecting to a local network that can have other computers and devices such as printers, game systems, and Internet capable televisions. Interacting with other devices on this local network is examined in more detail in Chapter 20, “Sharing Files and Printers.”
Connecting to a Wireless Network
To connect to the Internet through a wireless network, follow these steps:
1. From the Desktop, select the Network icon on the taskbar. The wireless networks that are in range will be displayed, as shown in Figure 13.5.
FIGURE 13.5 You can review all the network connections from the taskbar.
2. Select the wireless network you wish to connect to. The wireless network will expand slightly to display options for that network.
3. If this is a network you expect to use again in the future, select the checkbox Connect Automatically, as shown in Figure 13.6. Select Connect to initiate the connection.
FIGURE 13.6 You are able to easily connect to available networks and retain connection settings for future use.
4. The options for the selected wireless network will expand again, and you will be prompted to enter a password for the network, as shown in Figure 13.7. If you want to confirm that the password has been spelled correctly, select the preview icon that appears in the password field. You can select Share Network With My Contacts, which will share this network and password to the remembered networks on their devices if your settings allow this. Enter the wireless network password, and click Next.
FIGURE 13.7 You type in the password for the wireless network to which you are trying to connect.
Most newer routers also have a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button that automates the way a computer authenticates with the router and avoids the need for typing in a password. You might need to hold the button for a few seconds to initiate this feature on the router. The router should connect automatically to your Windows 10 device, and it will automatically connect to this router the next time it sees it.
5. Windows 10 will now communicate with the router and, if the password is correct, it will show Connected for this wireless network. You will also see a connected wireless icon on your taskbar. Hover over this icon with your mouse cursor to see the network name and connection state, as shown in Figure 13.8.
FIGURE 13.8 Once successfully connected, you will see an icon on the Desktop taskbar with bars indicating signal strength.
The setting Share Network With My Contacts refers to Wi-Fi Sense. Settings related to this feature can be found in the Settings app under Network & Internet>Wi-Fi and then selecting Manage Wi-Fi Settings. If enabled, Wi-Fi Sense shares network passwords with your contacts, and you can receive network passwords from your contacts. This may seem like a security concern, but your shared passwords are not visible, and network settings can disable this sharing of wireless network credentials in a business environment. You can select which networks you share and which types of contacts will have access to the networks you know and use.
Windows includes a setting to classify wireless networks as metered connections. This is intended to prevent a wireless connection from being used for nonessential tasks that could quickly consume a limited data quota, such as would be the case if sharing an Internet connection from a smartphone. Refer to the steps in the following section, and refer to Figure 13.10 to locate this setting.
Connecting Where Free Wi-Fi Is Advertised
There’s no doubt that you have come across a store, a coffee shop, a hotel, an airport, or another public location advertising Wi-Fi. If free Wi-Fi is offered, follow the previous steps under “Connecting to a Wireless Network.” At step 4, you might need to provide the network passcode, although many public Wi-Fi hotspots are not secured. If a password is required, you might need to ask someone at the location to provide you with it.
When working with a public network, you should exercise caution. You might be prompted when initiating the connection to indicate if this is a private, work, or public network. If you are not prompted, you should make sure that your device knows this is a public network. This will disable sharing and prevent other individuals from having an easy connection to your device and any data. To let Windows know that a wireless network is a public network, follow these steps:
1. From the Desktop, select the Network icon on the taskbar and select Network Settings. Alternatively, from the Start menu, you can select Settings to open the Settings app and then select Network & Internet.
2. Select Wi-Fi from the left navigation bar, as shown in Figure 13.9.
FIGURE 13.9 Control setting related to privacy using Manage under Network settings.
3. Select Advanced Options to open details related to the network to which you are connected. As shown in Figure 13.10, the current properties for the Wi-Fi connection DS9 are shown.
FIGURE 13.10 Turn discovery settings to Off to protect your device and data when on a public network.
4. Under Find Devices and Content, slide the switch to Off. The network will now be considered Public as far as Windows is concerned.
The same options are available for Ethernet connections that you may be using in a public place. Network discovery and other advantages to working with a private network connection are examined in more detail in Chapter 20.
Occasionally Windows may automatically and mistakenly classify a home network as a Public network. This will prevent the device from being visible from other devices and disable sharing content. Use the steps above to enable Find Devices and Content, which will also change the network to Private.
Connecting to Pay-as-You-Go Wi-Fi
Most airports and many small coffee and snack shops offer Wi-Fi, which is almost always provided by a national service. You can usually tell which type of Wi-Fi is offered from advertisements or notices on the walls. Or you can ask someone. Most ISPs charge a fee based on the time you connect, and they might charge based on data consumption with additional fees if you go over your data limit. If you connect from this location frequently, you might consider signing up for a plan that gives you access for a longer period at a reduced price.
If Wi-Fi is offered for a fee, you need to enter credit card information to pay for the access.
Follow these steps to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot:
1. You need to first connect to the wireless service at your location. This does not provide you access to the Internet yet. You are simply joining the network at your location. Follow the instructions in the previous section, “Connecting to a Wireless Network.” Someone working at or supporting your location can identify the network to which you should connect; however, the name of the network (for example, Boingo or _Heathrow Wi-Fi) might make the selection obvious.
2. Open Internet Explorer. You should be brought to the sign-up page for the ISP in use at the location. Enter the information requested. You should connect shortly.
Microsoft has included an app in Windows 10 named Microsoft Wi-Fi. Shown in Figure 13.11, this alerts you to a new Wi-Fi hotspot service that will continue to grow. Microsoft has stated that it intends to expand the service to approximately 10 million locations.
FIGURE 13.11 Microsoft Wi-Fi is designed to be a widely available pay-as-you-go alternative.
Some Office 365 subscriptions include access to Microsoft Wi-Fi, as do some packaged Surface tablet purchases. Transactions are handled through the Windows Store, so if you are set up to make purchases you will have very little hassle using this type of pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi. Chapter 24, “Using Your Microsoft Account for Purchases,” considers making purchases through the Windows Store in detail.
Connecting to a LAN/Wired Network
Most corporate and school networks connect to the Internet over a local area network (LAN). This is no different from using a wired network connection in your home.
At an office or a school, look for an unused Ethernet port. There is only one type of port that accommodates the Ethernet plug, so you should be able to determine quickly whether a port is available. At home, simply connect to one of the ports in your modem or router.
After you connect, wait a few seconds and then look at your taskbar to verify you are connected. Hover over the network connection, as shown in Figure 13.12, to verify your connection status. If you are not connected to the LAN, it’s a good idea to shut down your computer and restart. After you sign on again, check the taskbar again or open a web browser. If an error message appears, meet with a member of the information technology team or contact the support desk that manages the network at your location.
FIGURE 13.12 Check the status of your Ethernet connection from the taskbar.
Connecting After Upgrading to Windows 10
If you upgraded your computer from Windows 7 or 8 and you could connect to the Internet before you upgraded, you should reconnect without issue in Windows 10. If you installed Windows 10 on a new drive or partition, you were probably prompted to connect to the Internet to complete the setup. You need to connect to the Internet if you want to sign in with a Windows account.
Connecting After You Restart Your Device
Windows automatically reconnects to the wireless network you have been using. If you intentionally disconnected from a network, Windows no longer automatically connects you to that network. Wi-Fi networks always have priority over mobile broadband networks.
The Absolute Minimum
• You must connect to the Internet to complete the initial configuration and installation of Windows. The connection type you use—wireless, wired, and so on—becomes the default connection type, and Windows attempts to automatically make the same connection each time it starts.
• A number of technologies are in use today to connect people to the Internet. Because in some cases just one ISP serves a neighborhood, you might not have a choice of Internet connection technologies.
• You can specify that Windows should connect automatically if you are using a wireless adapter. Doing so requires you to enter your wireless connection password the first time you connect.
• When using a public network, you should turn off network discovery and sharing to prevent inadvertently sharing your data with strangers.
• Windows supports the use of WPS to automate the connection to a wireless router.