Take control of Wi-Fi sharing and expensive metered connections in Windows 10. Image Credit: WinBeta
Take control of Wi-Fi sharing and expensive metered connections in Windows 10. Image Credit: WinBeta

Windows 10 includes the wireless networking features from both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, giving you several ways to sync and share Wi-Fi settings, plus some options for when the Wi-Fi you’re using is actually an expensive connection.

Like Windows 8.1, Windows 10 doesn’t just save the details of the Wi-Fi networks you’ve connected to in the past, so it can automatically get you online next time you’re in range. It also syncs them using your Microsoft account – so if you use the same account to sign in to two different PCs you’ll automatically get the Wi-Fi connection details you’ve already used on the other device (and when Windows 10 comes to phones, it will work there as well).

Those connection settings are stored securely, the same way they would be if you connected to the Wi-Fi network by typing in the password on each PC, so letting them sync isn’t any more of a security risk, and it means you don’t have to try and remember all the Wi-Fi passwords you need. But you can always get the password for a Wi-Fi network you’ve been connected to.

Recover a Wi-Fi password
Right-click on the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and choose Network and Sharing Centre, then click on the Wi-Fi connection listed. In the Wi-Fi Status dialog that pops up, click Wireless Properties, then open the Security tab. Click the Show Characters checkbox and the Network security key will show up as text you can read and copy.

You can get the same information for the current connection or for other networks too, from an elevated command prompt. Right-click on the Windows button in the taskbar and choose Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu, then type in:

netsh wlan show profile

This will show the name of the Wi-Fi connection (and probably a lot of other recent connections, so find the right one). Copy that and use it instead of “Profile Name” when you type in this command, and you’ll see the password:

netsh wlan show profile name=”Profile Name” key=clear

Manage Wi-Fi networks
Windows will automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve used before, and to Wi-Fi networks shared with you by friends using Wi-Fi Sense, or to open networks detected as commonly used (again, by Wi-Fi Sense). That means if wireless is turned on, you’ll automatically connect to free, open Wi-Fi hotspots like the ones in airports and coffee shops.

Most of us connect to open Wi-Fi networks, despite the fact that they’re not entirely safe – the owner of the Wi-Fi network can monitor network traffic, and so could other users on the same network if they’re using network sniffing tools. If you don’t want Windows 10 to make those automatic connections, change the Connect to suggested open hotspots setting (under Settings, Network & Internet, Wi-Fi, Manage Wi-Fi Settings) to off.

Share connections with Wi-Fi Sense
You can also choose whether to connect to private Wi-Fi networks shared by your friends here (if you don’t want that convenience, turn off Connect to networks shared by my contacts), and whether you want to share any Wi-Fi networks via Wi-Fi Sense with friends on Facebook, Skype, Outlook.com or all three.

You still have to choose to share the network information each time you connect to a new network, and what your friends get is not a password they can copy and pass on, but a credential stored in their PC that lets them connect without knowing the password.

If you want to stop Windows connecting to a Wi-Fi network you’ve used before, scroll to the bottom of the Manage Wi-Fi Settings page and find the network in the list. Select it and choose Forget (that will remove the password from your system as well).

If you’re concerned about your friends sharing your Wi-Fi connection with their friends, who you may not know, remember that the friend they share it with won’t get online unless they’re close to your hotspot – and that if you tell someone your Wi-Fi password they can always tell someone else.

If you don’t want to add the word _optout to your Wi-Fi network name to stop it being shared through Wi-Fi Sense, you can change the password regularly, and ask people not to tick the Wi-Fi Sense sharing checkbox when they connect.

Once you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network that you haven’t shared, you have to type in the password again to share the network with friends; select it from the list in Manage Wi-Fi Settings and choose Share. Basically, you’re trusting your friends to behave reasonably, which is the same calculation you’d be making if you just told them your Wi-Fi password.

Manage expensive connections
If you have built-in mobile broadband, Windows 10 is smart enough to know that’s a connection you pay for, and the OS won’t use it for downloading Windows Updates (except for high-priority security updates) or automatically updating apps from the Windows Store. Outlook won’t even download email on a metered connection unless you click the button that appears in the inbox.

That also happens automatically for a mobile broadband dongle that you plug into your laptop, but if you’re using a mobile hotspot or you’re using your phone as a hotspot, you need to manually limit the connection.

In Settings, choose Network & Internet, Wi-Fi, Advanced Options, and turn Set as metered connection on (while you’re connected). If you don’t have data limits on your mobile broadband, or you need to temporarily have Windows download updates that it wouldn’t normally do on a metered connection, you can turn the metering off, as well. You can’t make an Ethernet connection metered though.