Wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) zones are convenient, easy to access, and available to any device with a wireless adapter. Finding open wireless Internet is usually no problem in populated areas. In fact, airports, libraries, and cafés often advertise free Wi-Fi hotspots.
When you find an open Wi-Fi zone, you'll need to take a few simple steps in Windows 7 or Windows Vista to connect safely. Note that public Wi-Fi networks are typically unsecured, meaning that a determined attacker can follow everything you do while siphoning off your private information. While we recommend avoiding unsecured networks whenever possible, sometimes you just need to use one. Whether your network is secured or unsecured, follow these steps to connect:
Step by Step: In Windows 7
1. Click the network icon in the notification area to open the list of available networks. Alternatively, click the Windows Start button and open Control Panel; click Network and Internet; and then click Connect to a network (under Network and Sharing Center) to open the list of available networks.
2. Click the network to which you would like to connect.
3. Click the Connect button. If the network is security-enabled, you'll need to enter a security key obtained from the network administrator.
If this is the first time you are connecting to the network, you'll be prompted to choose a network location. A network location is a profile Windows uses to determine appropriate security settings. Always choose the Public network location when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. You can change the location of any network you connect to by clicking Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, Network and Sharing Center. Change the network location by clicking the network location below the network name.
Step by Step: In Windows Vista
1. Click the Windows Start button, then click Connect to. Alternatively, click Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, Connect to a network (under Network and Sharing Center).
2. In the list of available networks, click the network to which you would like to connect.
3. Click the Connect button. If the network is security-enabled, you'll need to enter a security key (obtained from the network administrator).
Remember: Unsecured wireless networks--which many public Wi-Fi hotspots are--carry greater risk than secured (password-protected) wireless networks. Do not work with sensitive information while surfing on an open public network.