Jun 25

The default network settings in most cases produce a working network environment with minimal fuss and bother. However, you might want to modify some of the settings for your network.

Setting the Workgroup Name

A workgroup is identifi ed by a name; all computers in a workgroup must be in the same local area network and subnet, and all must share the same workgroup name. The workgroup name is strictly an organizational tool, which Windows uses to group computers and shared resources on the same network. As the administrator of a workgroup, you might want to change the workgroup name to something that describes your organization or family; if your network is relatively large but does not include a domain server, you may choose to defi ne more than one workgroup.

In Windows Vista, the workgroup name is largely invisible and irrelevant; when you open the Network folder or look at a network map, Windows Vista displays all computers in the network, regardless of which workgroup they’re in. (However, network discovery is faster when all computers are in the same workgroup.)

That was not the case in earlier versions of Windows, which display in their network folders only computers in the same workgroup as your computer. Therefore, if your network includes computers running earlier versions of Windows, you should use the same workgroup name for all computers so they can see each other. The default name for a new workgroup in Windows Vista is WORKGROUP; in Windows XP it is MSHOME.

Joining a workgroup doesn’t require a secret handshake or special security settings; you merely need to set the workgroup name on each computer. To set the workgroup name in Windows Vista:

1. In Network And Sharing Center, click the arrow to the right of Network Discovery to expand that section.

2. Next to the workgroup name, click Change Settings.

3. On the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box, click Change.

4. In the Computer Name/Domain Changes dialog box, select Workgroup, type the name of the workgroup (15 character maximum; the name can’t include any of these characters: ; : < > * + = \ | / ? ,). Then click OK in each dialog box.

5. Restart your computer.

Except for the first step, the process for changing the workgroup name in Windows XP is nearly identical: Right-click My Computer and choose Properties. Then follow steps 3 through 5 above.

Specifying the Order and Connection Properties of Preferred
Wi-Fi Networks

The first time you connect to a wireless network, Windows adds that network to the top of the list of preferred networks. (A preferred network is simply one to which you have connected before.) If you take your computer to a different location and connect to a new network, that location is added to the list of preferred networks.

Each time you turn on your computer or enable your wireless adapter, Windows attempts to make a connection. The WLAN AutoConfig service tries to connect to each of the preferred networks in the list of available networks, in the order that those networks appear. Unlike Windows XP, which included in its preferred networks list only those networks that broadcast their SSID, Windows Vista includes nonbroadcast networks also. This makes it possible to set a nonbroadcast network to a higher priority than an available broadcast network; Windows XP exhausts the list of broadcast networks before attempting to connect to an available nonbroadcast network.

You can alter the order of networks in the preferred list and configure any entry for manual rather than automatic connection. To manage the settings of entries on the list of preferred networks, in Network And Sharing Center, click Manage Wireless Networks to open the window.

To change the order of entries in the list, select the entry you want to move and then click Move Up or Move Down. Alternatively, you can drag a network to the desired position.

Manage Wireless Networks is also the place to review and, optionally, change connection settings for a network. To do that, double-click a network, which opens the network’s properties dialog box.

To change an entry in the preferred networks list from automatic to manual, or viceversa, select or clear Connect Automatically When This Network Is In Range. Settings on the Security tab let you specify the type of security and encryption and enter the security key or passphrase; if that information has changed since you set up the connection initially, you can change it here instead of creating a new network.

Renaming Your Network

You can change the name and the icon for your network. This information appears in Network And Sharing Center and in the information that pops up when you point to the Network icon in the taskbar notifi cation area. The network initially takes on the name of the wireless SSID or, if you join a domain, the domain name. (The default name of a wired network is Network.)

To make the change, in Network And Sharing Center, to the right of the network name, click Customize. Type the name you want in the Network Name box. If you want to select a different icon, click Change Icon, where you’ll fi nd icons suggestive of a library, office building, park bench, airport, coffee shop, and more.

Removing a Network

A computer that travels often is likely to accumulate settings for a large number of networks. Although these collected settings don’t have any signifi cant impact on performance or disk space, you might fi nd it helpful to remove from the list entries that you don’t plan to use again, such as one for a network at a hotel you don’t expect to revisit. To remove a wireless network, in Network And Sharing Center, click Manage Wireless Networks. Select a network to delete and click Remove.

Windows Vista includes another tool that lets you delete wired networks as well as wireless networks. To use it, in Network And Sharing Center, click Customize. In the Set Network Location dialog box, click Merge Or Delete Network Locations. In the Merge Or Delete Network Locations dialog box, select the networks to remove and click Delete.