Windows 7 : Mapping Your Networking Infrastructure (part 1) - Using the Network and Sharing Center

2/26/2011 4:30:38 PM
Windows 7 provides a whole new way to navigate and manage the networking features of your computer. For mapping your networking infrastructure, Windows 7 provides the Network and Sharing Center, Network Map, and Network Connections. You can access and work with these utilities as discussed in the following sections.

1. Using the Network and Sharing Center

The Network and Sharing Center is a central console for managing your networking experience. You can access the Network and Sharing Center by following these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

  2. In the Control Panel, click Network and Internet→Network and Sharing Center.

Once you’ve accessed the Network and Sharing Center, shown in Figure 1, you can use it to manage your general network settings and network status. When you are connected to a network, the Network and Sharing Center provides an overview of your networking configuration. The main areas in the Network and Sharing Center are:

Network overview

Provides a visual overview of your network infrastructure, including whether you are connected to a network and whether you can access the Internet from that network. If your computer has multiple active network connections, the network overview states that you are connected to multiple networks. Clicking “See full map” opens the Network Map window.

Network details

Provides details about the network(s) to which the computer is connected and the types of access for those networks. A connection to a LAN is shown as “Local only” or “No Internet access.” A connection to a LAN that in turn connects to the Internet is shown as Local and Internet. Clicking the connection name (next to “Connections:”) allows you to manage the related network connection.

Figure 1. Viewing your network and sharing configuration

In the Network and Sharing Center, you’ll see several links at the bottom of the main pane. Clicking “Set up a new connection or network” allows you to manage the different types of network connections available to you. As shown in Figure 2, you may connect to the Internet, set up a wireless router or access point, manually connect to a wireless network, connect to a workplace, or set up a dial-up connection. Not visible in the figure are choices for setting up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network and connecting to a Bluetooth personal area network (PAN). Options include:

Figure 2. Setting up a new network

Set up a new network

If you need to set up a wireless router or access point on your network, select this option from the list and click Next. The wizard allows you to configure a wireless router or access point, set up the properties for file and printer sharing, save the network configuration for future use, and make the network a private network. If you have all of the required information to set up your wireless network, click the Next button and follow the steps provided by the wizard.

Connect to a network

Clicking this option allows you to connect to an available network using the window shown in Figure 3. This includes wired connections to known networks discovered, as well as wireless connections Windows 7 discovered during the browsing process while opening the window. If you see the desired network you want to connect to, click Connect, and Windows 7 will automatically try to connect you to the network. You can also disconnect from a network by clicking the network and then clicking Disconnect.

Choose homegroup and sharing options

Clicking this option allows you to configure homegroup settings. As Figure 4 shows, you can share libraries and printers with other computers in the homegroup; stream media to devices; and view, print or change the homegroup password.

Figure 3. Connecting to a network or disconnecting from a network

Figure 4. Managing homegroup settings


You can configure homegroup settings only when you are connected to the homegroup. If you are not connected to a home network, you won’t able to change homegroup settings.

Troubleshoot problems

Clicking this option provides access to the built-in network and printing troubleshooters. The network troubleshooters allow you to have Windows 7 automatically try to detect problems with your networking configuration. As Figure 5 shows, each troubleshooter is related to a specific type of problem, such as Internet connections or Homegroups. To start a troubleshooter, simply click its listing. Network Diagnostics can help to identify different problems related to an inability to connect to the Internet, connect to network resources, or find resources on the network. Although these tools help to identify network problems, they are not a substitute for the tools available to find and diagnose low-level problems, such as the Event Viewer and command-line tools like ping and tracert. The troubleshooters will enable and disable your network adapter, check for a new IP address from the DHCP server, and check for connectivity. If you have recently set up a network connection and you find that it does not work, the troubleshooters will help to identify these simple problems.


The network and printing troubleshooters are designed for resolving specific types of problems. They work well when you think you know the source of a problem. For example, if you suspect that your computer has a problem with the network adapter configuration, you can use the Network Adapter troubleshooter to try to diagnose and resolve the problem.

In the Network and Sharing Center, the Network Overview shows warning icons. Similar warning icons are displayed on the Network Map as well. Clicking one of these warnings icons starts Windows Network Diagnostics, which runs a high-level network diagnostics that makes use of the appropriate network troubleshooters automatically.

Figure 5. Use troubleshooters to diagnose and resolve problems

In the left pane of the Network and Sharing Center screen, you’ll find options to manage wireless networks, change adapter settings, and change advanced sharing settings:

Figure 6. Managing wireless connections

Manage wireless networks

This option allows you to see wireless connections already configured or available for your use, as shown in Figure 6. You may also:

  • Add a wireless connection by selecting the Add button. When you select this option, you are presented with a window asking you for specific information about how you want to add a network. You can add a network that is in range of the computer, manually create a network profile, or create an ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network. If you have already enabled a wireless connection, select the first option, which allows you to connect to the wireless network and saves a configuration profile for future use. If you would like to create a new wireless profile, you need to know the network name, security type and security key, if enabled. This option also creates a configuration profile for the wireless network for future use. The last option allows you to create an ad hoc network connection. An ad hoc network is a temporary network for the transmission of files among machines not connected via a wireless access point. This option works well if you need to transfer data with someone else and you both have a wireless card in your computer.

  • View the properties of a selected wireless adapter by clicking the “Adapter properties” button. You will see a window that allows you to manipulate the different protocols associated with the wireless adapter, including TCP/IP properties, file and printer sharing, and the Microsoft network client protocol. These settings reside on the Networking tab; the Sharing tab allows you to configure Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) for this adapter. Selecting the Configure button on the Networking tab allows you to view and manage additional features of your wireless adapter.

  • Choose the type of profile to assign to new wireless networks by clicking the Profile types button. The default setting in Windows 7 is “Use all-user profiles only.” This setting allows connections to wireless networks from your computer to be accessed only by those with user accounts on the computer. Selecting the “Use all-user and per-user profiles” allows users to create connections accessible only to them, which can cause a loss of network connectivity if you log off or switch users on the local system. Microsoft recommends that you use the “Use all-user profiles only” option, which allows greater flexibility and lessens the chance of lost network connectivity.

Change adapter settings

This allows you to view and change the properties of your computer’s network adapters. As shown in Figure 7, this includes standard network adapters, wireless adapters, Microsoft VPN connections, and any other software or hardware adapter allowing you network connectivity.

Change advanced sharing settings

This shows the status of different aspects of network discovery and sharing. As shown in Figure 14-8, Windows creates a separate profile for each type of network you use. You can choose specific options for each profile. Clicking the Expand button for a profile allows you to manage the aspects of that profile. Clicking the Shrink button minimizes the management section for a profile. Network discovery must be on to discover information about your network. When you are connected to a home, work, or domain network, network discovery is turned on automatically to allow you to discover computers and devices. When you are connected to a public network, network discovery is turned off to prevent other people from discovering and then trying to access your computer. To enable network discovery if it isn’t already enabled, click “Turn on Network Discovery” and then click Save Changes.

  •  Windows 7 : Understanding Home and Small-Business Networks
  •  Troubleshooting Windows 7 Programs and Features
  •  Windows 7 : Getting Help and Giving Others Assistance
  •  Windows 7 : Recovering After a Crash or Other Problem (part 3)
  •  Windows 7 : Recovering After a Crash or Other Problem (part 2) - Restoring Previous Versions of Files & Recovering Files from Backup
  •  Windows 7 : Recovering After a Crash or Other Problem (part 1) - Recovering Using Restore Points
  •  Windows Server 2008 : Installing and Configuring FTP Services (part 2) - Configuring the FTP 7.5 Features and Properties
  •  Windows Server 2008 : Installing and Configuring FTP Services (part 1) - Installing the FTP Server & Creating a Secure FTP 7.5 Site Using SSL
  •  Windows 7 : Creating Backups and Preparing for Problems (part 2) - Scheduling and Managing Automated Backups
  •  Windows 7 : Creating Backups and Preparing for Problems (part 1) - Configuring System Protection
  •  Windows 7 : Detecting and Resolving Computer Problems (part 3) - Resolving Problems with System Services
  •  Windows 7 : Detecting and Resolving Computer Problems (part 2) - Tracking Errors in the Event Logs
  •  Windows 7 : Detecting and Resolving Computer Problems (part 1) - Solving the Tough Problems Automatically
  •  Windows 7 : Scheduling Maintenance Tasks
  •  Windows Server 2008: DHCP/WINS/Domain Controllers - Exploring Global Catalog Domain Controller Placement
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  •  Windows Server 2008 : DHCP/WINS/Domain Controllers - Reviewing the Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS)
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