Windows 8 Network and Sharing Center

Most people will simply boot up Windows 8 for the first time, configure the network location for a Home, Work, or Public network location, and go about their business. But Microsoft provides a handy front end to all of the networking-related tasks you will ever have to complete in Windows 8. Called the Network and Sharing Center and it is a one-stop shop for all your networking needs. You can access the Network and Sharing Center from a variety of locations. The most obvious is via the taskbar notification area Network icon discussed in the previous section. Just click it once and then click the Network and Sharing Center link in the pop-up window that appears. Recommended: open the Start menu and type sharing in Start Menu Search. The Network and Sharing Center provides a wealth of configurable networking information, as outlined in the following sections.

Looking at the Network Map
At the top of the Network and Sharing Center window you will see a network map showing the basic relationship between your computer, the local network that you are connected to, and the Internet. For wired networks, on the top, the network name is simply called Network by default. With wireless networks, the network name represents the actual name that was given to the wireless network.
The Network and Sharing Center can also display a more detailed network map that shows you a topographical view surrounding other PCs and devices on your home network. You can see this map by clicking the link titled See full map. This map can be full. However, the full map usually offers information that is no more useful than information given on the basic map.

Viewing Active Networks
Below the basic network map is a list of one or more active or “connected” networks, like a computer with two active network connections, one wired and one wireless. It is possible there are other multiple network connections. For example, some people may have wireless network access through a high-speed wireless card provided by their cellular company as well as either an Ethernet-based wired network connection or a traditional Wi-Fi-based wireless network connection.

Changing Network Settings
In the Network and Sharing Center, you can configure a number of properties related to network discovery and sharing, such as set up a new connection or network, connect to a network, choose HomeGRoup and sharing options, and troubleshoot problems.

Set Up a New Connection or Network: This prompts the Set Up a Connection or Network wizard, which allows you to manually configure a new network connection.
Connect to a Network:
This prompts the View Available Networks window, which is also seen when you single-click the Network notification icon.
Choose HomeGroup and sharing options:
This starts the HomeGroup control panel, from which you configure Windows 8’s new HomeGroup sharing feature.
Troubleshoot problems:
This starts the Network and Internet troubleshooter, which is part of Windows 8’s new troubleshooting platform.

Setting Up a New Connection or Network
The Set up a new connection or network link in Network and Sharing Center starts up the Set Up a Connection or Network wizard. This wizard is a helpful front end to all of the network connection types you can create in Windows 8. More options are available in this window if you are using a wireless-equipped PC.

Microsoft breaks them down to obvious subsets:
Connect to the Internet
Choose this if you need to set up a wireless, wired, or dial-up connection to the Internet. In general, you will almost never need to use this option, but there are two exceptions. Firstly, you may have a DSL or similar broadband connection type called PPPOE (called Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) that requires you to actually enter a user name and password before you can get online. Secondly, you are using a wireless network, although this option will just launch the View Available Networks window.

Set up a new network
If you just purchased a new Internet router or have recently subscribed to a new Internet service, you may need to access this option, which looks for wireless routers, access points, and other network connection hardware devices on your network. This can be a long process and attempts to configure it for you. This type of thing is best handled by either the service provider or directly from the device’s own user interface, assuming you know what you are doing. But newer network devices based on the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) standard can be configured directly from Windows 8. The wizard will detect your network hardware and settings and forward you to the networking hardware’s Web-based configuration. This varies from device to device, as will your success rate.

Manually connect to a wireless network
Manually connect to a wireless network is available only on wireless networks. It provides an alternative to the View Available Networks window and is only needed when you want to connect to a network connection that does not broadcast its SSID or “invisible.” More information is needed, including the name (SSID) of the network, the security and encryption types, and the security key (passcode).

Connect to a workplace
Choose connect to a workplace option if you need to create a VPN (virtual private network) or direct-dial connection to your workplace. Some businesses require a VPN connection so that any connections between your PC and the corporate network are electronically separated from the public Internet, and protected from snooping. Either you need a VPN connection or you don’t; and if your company doesn’t configure your PC for this feature or provide their own custom VPN software solution, they will provide instructions on how to get it to work.

Set up a dial-up connection
Set up a dial connection option will get you started if you need to connect to a dial-up Internet connection via a telephone line and computer modem. Note that dial-up services such as AOL and NetZero will often provide special software and thus, does not require you to use this kind of interface.

Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer to computer) network
Set up a wireless ad hoc network provides a way to set up a temporary peer-to-peer (P2P) network between two closely located PCs with wireless adapters. This option allows you to share files or even a (wired) Internet connection. However, creating such a network disconnects you from any traditional wireless networks, which is why it’s rarely needed or used.

Connect to a Bluetooth personal area network (PAN)
Connect to a Bluetooth personal area network is a connection type available only on PCs with Bluetooth hardware. It provides access to Windows 8’s Bluetooth Personal Area Network Devices explorer. A Bluetooth PAN is a kind of ad hoc or P2P network that is typically created to facilitate file sharing between a PC and a Bluetooth-capable device, or between a small collection of Bluetooth-capable devices such as smartphones, Palm devices, and the like. Not all Bluetooth-capable devices support PAN functionality.

Windows 8 Network and Sharing Center