Windows Vista : Setting Up a Small Network - Displaying the Network and Sharing Center, Customizing Your Network

2/17/2013 6:29:57 PM

1. Displaying the Network and Sharing Center

Vista’s home base for networking is the new Network and Sharing Center, which enables you to do all the following network-related tasks:

  • See a list of your current network connections.

  • Visualize your network with a network map .

  • Customize the network name, type, and icon.

  • Change your computer discovery and sharing options .

  • View the status of each network connection.

  • View the computers and devices on the network .

  • Connect to another network.

  • Manage your wireless networks .

  • Manage your network connections .

  • Diagnose and repair a network connection .

The Network and Sharing Center is a great new networking tool that you’ll probably use a great deal. That might be why Microsoft offers so many ways to open it. Here’s a summary of the various methods you can use:

  • Select Start, Control Panel, View Network Status and Tasks (you can also click Network and Internet and then Network and Sharing Center).

  • Click the Network icon in the notification area and then click Network and Sharing Center.

  • Select Start, Network, and then click Network and Sharing Center in the taskbar.

  • Select Start, Connect To, Open Network and Sharing Center.

  • In the Manage Wireless Networks window , click Network and Sharing Center in the taskbar.

Whichever method you use, you see a version of the Network and Sharing Center window shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Network and Sharing Center is Vista’s networking hub.

The Network and Sharing Center window comprises four main areas:

  • Map— This section gives you a miniature version of the network map: a visual display of the current connection. 

  • NetworkThis section tells you the name of the network to which you’re connected, the network category (private or public), whether you have Internet access via that connection, and which of your computer connections is in use (this will usually be either Local Area Connection for a wired connection or Wireless Network Connection). If you’re connected to multiple networks or have multiple connections to a single network (wired and wireless, for example), all the connections appear here.

  • Sharing and Discovery— This area shows the current network detection and sharing settings.

  • Tasks— This pane on the left side of the Network Center window gives you one-click access to the most common network tasks.

Customizing Your Network

When you first open the Network Center, in most cases, you won’t have a profile set up for the network, so Vista configures the network with three default settings:

  • A default name, usually either Networkor the SSID of the wireless network.

  • The network type, which depends on the network location you chose when you first connected to the network. (This might have occurred when you installed Vista.)


    Windows Vista supports three types of network categories: private, public, and domain. Private networks are usually home or small office networks where you need to work with a few nearby computers. To that end, Windows Vista turns on network discovery—a new feature that enables you to see other computers and devices on your network—and file and printer sharing. Public networks are usually wireless hotspot connections in airports, coffee shops, hotels, and other public places. When you designate a network as public, Vista turns off Network Discovery, and file and printer sharing. The domain category applies to networks that are part of a corporate domain.

  • A default network icon, which depends on the network location you chose when you first connected to the network. 

To change any of these default, follow these steps:

Click Customize to display the Customize Network Settings dialog box shown in Figure 2.

Type a name in the Network Name text box.

Select either Public or Private. (You see the Domain option only if you are connected to a network with a domain.)

To change the icon, click Change to open the Change Network Icon dialog box, select an icon, and then click OK.


The Change Network Icon dialog box initially shows you a small collection of icons from the %SystemRoot%\system32\pnidui.dll file. To get a larger choice of icons, type any of the following pathnames into the Look for Icons in This File text box (press Enter after you enter the pathname):


Click Next and enter your UAC credentials. Vista applies the new network settings.

Click Close. Vista updates the Network and Sharing Center window with the new settings.

Figure 2. In the Network and Sharing Center, click Customize to display this dialog box so that you can change the network name, type, and icon.
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