Switch from public to private network in Windows 7, 8, and 10

On Windows, when you connect to a wireless network, it will register it as Audience network or a Private net. Private networks are basically home and work, while public networks are everywhere else, which you don’t trust.

Sometimes Windows detects a private network as public and vice versa. You can make some changes manually to make sure you don’t accidentally over-share on a public network or block all shares on a private network.

In this article, I explain the steps for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

Windows 10

In Windows 10, go ahead and click the Ethernet or wireless icon in the system tray on the taskbar. The Ethernet icon is like a small computer and the wireless icon is pretty well known. Once you are done, click Network and Internet settings link.

This will take you to the PC settings dialog with the Status tab selected. If you are connected to a WiFi network, click WiFi in the left pane, otherwise click Ethernet.

Go ahead and click the name of the WiFi or Ethernet network you have Online state. When you click on the network, you can now select Audience or Private.

For WiFi networks, you also have the option to connect automatically when you are within range of the WiFi network.

Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, to change the network profile, we need to enter the PC Settings screen. To do this, open the charm bar and click Change your computer settings at the bottom.

change PC settings

Now click on Net and you will see the list of connections, i.e. Ethernet, wireless, and so on.

network connections

Now all you have to do is activate the Search for devices and content option. It automatically turns off for public networks, so when you turn it on it switches the network to a private network.

search for devices and content

Windows 8

For Windows 8, follow the procedure below. First, right-click the network icon in the Windows 8 system tray and click Open the Network Sharing Center.

network sharing

Here you will see the network you are connected to and the type of network that Windows 8 has identified.

private network

As you can see above, my network is considered one Private network, which is correct since I am at home and connected to Ethernet. If this is not correct, you can do a couple of things. First, you can click Change the advanced sharing settings on the left board.

change sharing settings

Click Private and make sure you have these options enabled:

– Enable network discovery

– Enable file and printer sharing

– Allow Windows to manage home group connections

network sharing

Then shrink Private and expand Guest or Public and make sure you have these options set:

– Disable network discovery

– Disable file and printer sharing

public network

Once that’s done, you’ll need to go to the Windows 8 desktop and open the spell bar. Click on Configuration and then click Net icon.

network configuration

You’ll see Net and then Online. Go ahead and right click on this and choose Turn the sharing option on or off.

enable sharing

Now choose Yes if you want your network to be treated as a private network and No if you want it to be treated as a public network. Note that the Private or Public tag may remain the same on the network and sharing center, but once you manually choose the sharing settings, the appropriate settings will be applied to the network.

disable sharing

Windows 7

In Windows 7, the process is a little different. You still need to click the network icon on the taskbar, but this time click Open the Sharing and Networking Center link.

Here you will see an overview of your network connection. Under Check your active networks, you will see the name of the Ethernet or WiFi network and it should have a link below called Home network, Work network or Public network.

Click on this link and you will be able to switch between the three different network types.

There’s also an option in Windows 7 to treat all future networks as public networks automatically, though I don’t think most people find them useful.

Manually force a network location

As a last resort, if you can’t change your network location using the above methods, you can manually change your network location using a tool called secpol.msc. This will not work in Home, Student or Starter editions of Windows. On Windows, press the Windows + R key, which will display the file To run Dialog box. Write secpol.msc in the run dialog box.

execution dialog

Then click Network List Manager Policies on the left and right, you should see a couple of items with descriptions and then something called Net, which is the current network you are connected to. It can also be called something else, but it has no description. If you are connected to a WiFi network, it will be the name of your WiFi network.

network list manager policies

Double-click it and click the button Network location card. Here you can manually change the network location from Private to Public and vice versa.

network location

That’s all! It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s Microsoft. If you’re having trouble changing your network locations on Windows, post a comment here and we’ll help. Enjoy it!

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