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How to set up, connect to, manage and configure networks in Vista

Windows Vista includes many tools, screens and features for setting up, connecting to, managing and configuring networks. This section covers all of Windows Vista's features for doing that, and it includes basic information for setting up and connecting to networks and network connections.

Change Workgroup or Domain
Change the workgroup or domain to which a PC is attached.

To open
Control Panel → [System and Maintenance] → System → Change Settings → Computer Name tab

Description
The Networking and Internet Control Panel and the Network and Sharing Center both have one surprising shortcoming: They do not offer a way to change the workgroup or domain to which your PC is currently attached or to easily connect to a new domain or workgroup. So you may think that there is no way to perform both tasks.

In fact, though, they're both easy to do, as long as you know where to look. And you'll have to look in a surprising place—on the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box (Figure 7-8). You can also reach it via Control Panel → [Network and Internet] → Network and Sharing Center → Network Discovery → Change Settings.

The System Properties dialog box, which lets you connect to a domain or workgroup and change your domain or workgroup
 
The System Properties dialog box, which lets you connect to a domain or workgroup and change your domain or workgroup

Click Network ID to launch a wizard that will allow you to join an existing domain or workgroup. Click Change and the dialog box shown in Figure 7-9 appears. Select either Domain or Workgroup, and enter the name of the domain or workgroup to switch to a new one.

Switching to a new domain or workgroup
 
Switching to a new domain or workgroup

Connect to a Network
Connect to a network or the Internet.

To open
Click the network icon in the System Tray → Connect or disconnect
Control Panel → [Network and Internet] → Connect to a network
Control Panel → [Network and Internet] → Network and Sharing Center → Connect to a network

Description
Once you've set up a network connection (see "Set Up a Connection or Network" later in this chapter), use the "Connect to a network" screen (Figure 7-10) to connect to any network—wired, wireless, VPN or dial-up.

Choosing a network to which you want to connect
 
Choosing a network to which you want to connect

Connecting is straightforward: Double-click the network to which you want to connect, or highlight it and click Connect. When you're connected to a network, disconnect from it by clicking Disconnect.

This screen is primarily designed for wireless, dial-up and VPN connections. If your only connection to a network is via an Ethernet cable, you won't even get to the screen shown in Figure 7-10 when you choose to connect. Instead, you'll be told that you're already connected to the network. Want to disconnect? There's a simple, physical solution for you -- unplug your Ethernet cable.

Making the wireless connection
The "Connect to a network" screen has really been designed for wireless connections, not wired ones. It's a way to quickly and easily make a connection to a wireless network, not only when you're at home or work, but also when you're at a public hotspot.

To connect to a wireless network, click the network icon in the System Tray, and you'll see the screen shown in Figure 7-11.

Screen indicating that wireless networks are available
 
Screen indicating that wireless networks are available

Click "Connect to a network," and a list of all nearby wireless networks will appear, as shown in Figure 7-12. You may see multiple networks on the "Connect to a network" screen that are unfamiliar to you. That's because Windows Vista finds any wireless networks within range. For each wireless network, in addition to seeing the name of the network, you'll also see whether it is secure and protected by encryption, or unsecured. At the far right of the listing for each network, you'll also see the strength of the network's wireless signal. For more details about any network, hover your mouse over it. You'll be shown, for example, whether the network is 802.11b, 802.11g or some other Wi-Fi standard.

Browsing through the list of available networks
 
Browsing through the list of available networks

To connect to a network, highlight it and click Connect. If it's not protected by encryption, you'll see a warning. If you want to connect anyway, click Connect Anyway. Once you make the connection, you'll be asked whether you want to save the network, and if so, whether you want to connect to it automatically whenever you're in range (Figure 7-13). If it's a network to which you often connect, it's a good idea to save it and connect to it automatically. Later on, you'll also be able to manage this wireless network, if you save it now. (For details, see "Manage Wireless Networks" later in this chapter.)

Configuring the network to connect automatically
 
Configuring the network to connect automatically

Next, a screen appears, asking you what type of settings should be applied to the network—whether it is a home, work, or public location (see Figure 7-14). This will determine the kind of security that will be applied to the network; home and work network connections require less security than public connections.

Choosing the type of network
 
Choosing the type of network

Choose which type of network it is (you can always change this later; see the upcoming section, "Manage Wireless Networks"). You're now connected, and you can use the network.

Manage Network Connections: \windows\system\ncpa.cpl
Configure and manage your network connections.

To open
Control Panel → [Network and Internet] → Network and Sharing Center → Manage network connections

* Repair XP Pro - (Great program for Vista also)
The most comprehensive system repair tool on the market. We use this program.

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