A network location identifies the type of network that a PC is connected to with a network adapter. Everytime you connect your Windows 10 PC to a new WiFi network, it asks you whether you want your PC to be discoverable by other PCs on the same network. Selecting Yes or No helps Windows understand the type of network you’re connecting to. It can then select the correct settings automatically. The operating system will behave much more conservatively on a public network than it would on a home or private network. For instance, selecting Yes prepares your PC for sharing files and devices on a network. Windows will automatically assign a network discovery state to the network and set the appropriate Windows Firewall and security settings for the type of network that you connected to.
But say you’re sitting at a coffee shop and connected to a public WiFi. You’re strongly advised to select No when you connect to the network and are asked the same question. Selecting No will turn off these discovery features. Your computer won’t appear to other devices on the network and won’t try to discover them. Even if you’ve set up a Homegroup on your PC it will be disabled while you’re connected to a Public network. You can change how Windows treats the public and private networks but this is how it is by default. Private networks are treated as trusted networks which contain more devices that you might want to connect to, like Miracast.
Enabling the same settings on a Public network can be a huge security risk. But if you’ve set a Network’s location to Private or Public and later you want to change it, you can. You will need access to an admin account in order to make this change.
Set Network Location To Public Or Private In Windows 10
- Open the Settings app and navigate to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. If your PC is connected via an Ethernet connection, go to Network & Internet > Ethernet instead.
- Select the Network that your PC is currently connected to.
- On the network profile page, select Public to set your network location to Public. Likewise, select Private to set network profile to Private.
- If you’re using an older version of Windows 10, you may see something different when you go to Network & Internet > WiFi. Clicking on the connected network won’t do much in this case and you’ll have to click Advanced options.
- Instead of selecting a Public or Private Network location you only get the option to Make this PC discoverable. Toggling it on will make Windows treat the connected network as a Private Network. Turning it off would make Windows treat the connected Network as a Public network.
- On newer Windows 10 versions you can also access the Network Profile page in a more direct fashion. Click on the wireless/network icon in the system tray to bring up a list of all available networks as well as the network to which your PC is currently connected.
- The network your PC is currently connected to is listed at the top and you’ll notice a link right below its name: Properties. Clicking on it will take you directly to the page where you can set the Network location to Private or Public.
Once again, entrusting a Public network as Private in the Windows settings can be dangerous. On a Public network, there can be any number of other PCs. There can also be other kind of devices that you’d have no idea about. A potential attacker can then discover your PC on the network and try to gain access. Not that it’s easy to compromise the security of your Windows PC even on a Public network. Moreover, there’s not necessarily an evil computer genius lurking around in the shadows near every public network. Still, making Windows treat a Public network as Private sure does let down one of the security walls the attacker will have to bypass.