How to Use Windows' Network Locations

18 March 2014

A common issue we find in networks is confusion over network locations in Windows. When you connect your Windows 7 or 8, PC or Laptop to a new network Windows displays a notification asking you to 'Set Network Location'.

In Windows 7; the options are 'Home', 'Work' and 'Public'. In Windows 8 the options are 'Private' and 'Public'.

In Windows 7 the network names are a bit confusing. 'Home' and 'Work' locations are in-fact very similar. ‘Public’ location is much different.

When 'Home' or 'Work' is selected your computer tries to share any folders (which are set for sharing) with the rest of the network. Windows Firewall protection also is reduced on this setting.

In Small-Mid business networks we regularly use the 'Work' location as along as the computer is connected to the company network (it is more protected when connected to the company network by routers and hardware firewalls).

When at a coffee shop, connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, or even a network you don’t really know always select the 'Public' option. This instructs Windows to put it's shields up and not share files with other people on the network, and Windows Firewall is set to high for extra protection.

Why is this confusing?

Well, say you take your laptop away from your usual company network (where you share files etc.), and you go to your client's workplace and connect to their Wi-Fi. Windows asks you again to Set Network Location. What do you choose? You might think well I’m at my client's workplace so I'll choose 'Work' location.

Well you'd be wrong and here's why. Suddenly you are now sharing any data on your laptop with your client's network, also you have no idea how they have their network setup (i.e. how secure it is).

So here's the golden rule. Unless you are connecting to your company's network ALWAYS CHOOSE PUBLIC network location. That way you'll be protected.

If you then decide later you want to share files on a network you've selected as 'Public' or change your existing network setting to 'Public' follow these instructions:

Click Start, open 'Control Panel', 'Network and Sharing Centre', where it says 'Public Network' click the link (see below picture), and you’ll get the option to choose.

The Windows 7 'Set Network Location' Dialog

In Windows 8, 'Work' and 'Home' locations are simply combined to 'Private' so the above rule still applies!

Now if you're part of our Managed IT services, we regularly check network locations on all client computers as part of our maintenance to ensure you're always protected. Another reason to have your Managed IT services with us!

As always, if you would like any more information contact us today on 1300 306 547

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