Privacy has become a major concern for many of us after reading about all the data breaches, hacking incidents, and rampant ransomware attacks. However, it’s not uncommon now to walk into a coffee shop and see dozens of people staring at laptop screens. Work doesn’t necessarily mean going to an office anymore. Therefore, if you use a Windows platform laptop, you need to know how to protect your privacy while connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
Windows Public vs. Private Setting - What Does Each Mean?
When you connect your computer either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, Windows will ask you if this is a Public or Private network. A private network means your home or office. Public networks refer to airports, coffee shops, and other publicly accessible Wi-Fi hubs.
Choosing a public setting means that your computer will be hidden from other devices on the same network, and connections will be restricted. With a private network, however, your computer will show up as discoverable on your home network, and using Homegroups, you can also share files and printers among your family members.
The differences in settings take place in the Windows firewall, which is the guard at the gate that protects all data going in and out. You can adjust those settings at any time.
Change Network from the Public to Private in Windows 10
The latest and greatest version of Windows is Windows 10. When you want to switch between public and private networks follow the steps below:
- Go to the system tray on your taskbar (far right).
- Click on the Ethernet or wireless icon (depending on how you are connected).
- Now click the Network and Internet Settings link.
- On the left, you will see Status with either Wi-Fi or Ethernet highlighted. To the right, you should see your network name. Click it.
- Now you will see choices for Public or Private and which one is already selected.
- You can also toggle the selection to Connect automatically when in range.
To adjust your firewall settings (rather than leave them at the defaults), click the Windows button and type in Firewall. Once there, you will see dozens of settings to block incoming connections, apps, and other networks. You can set up rules to allow specific incoming connections or apps to use the internet to download data. You can even fine-tune the notification settings to alert you when the firewall blocks an app or incoming connection. If you know how to, you can also set up port blocking and allowing.
Change Network from the Public to Private in Windows 8
Windows 8 was a significant upgrade with a major interface design change. Many people had trouble with the crossover because it was designed to work on PCs but also support tablets and other mobile devices. Initially, it was poorly received but eventually accepted by the mainstream. However, all the tools you need to change your network type from public to private are in there; you just need to know where to go to find them.
- Open the charms bar.
- Click on Change PC Settings at the bottom.
- Now click on Network.
- From here, you will see a list of available connections (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, etc.)
- Look for the Find devices and content setting and turn it off. It is turned off by default for public networks but turned on for private.
The above procedure works for Windows 8.1 and above. For Windows 8 without any patches or updates follow the steps below:
- Click the network icon in the system tray (far right).
- Choose Open Network and Sharing Center.
- You will see the type of network you are on (Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet). It will also show Public or Private.
- If the type is incorrect, click on Change advanced sharing settings located in the left sidebar.
- Click on private and then enable: Turn on network discovery. Turn on file and printer sharing and Allow Windows to manage Homegrown connections.
- Now below, click on the Guest or Public area to expand the settings.
- Click to Turn off Network discovery.
- Click to Turn off File and printer sharing.
- Open the Charms bar.
- Click Settings and then Network.
- You will see Networks and then Connected. Right-mouse click to turn sharing on or off (Yes means your network will be treated as a private network and No means it will be set as public).
Change Network from the Public to Private in Windows 7
Windows 7 goes back quite a way, but there are still people using it. If you need to change from a public to private network on Windows 7 follow the steps below:
- Click the network icon on your taskbar.
- Look for the Open Network & Sharing Center link and click it.
- Look for your active networks, and you will see a name for either your Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. There will be a link below it that says Home network, Work network, or Public network.
- Click the name of your network, and then you can select from Home network, Work network, or Public network to change it.
- You are done!