Question from Kellie: I was messing around with the network settings on my Windows 10 laptop last night.
While I was in there I noticed that my Wi-Fi network is set to “Public” instead of “Private”.
I’ve always heard that public networks are dangerous.
Is that true? And if it is, how can I change it to private?
Rick’s answer: Kellie, let me give you the short answer to your question first to put your mind at ease…
In the context of your home Wi-Fi network, having it set as Public isn’t dangerous at all. In fact, it’s actually more secure than having it set to Private/
What this is actually referring to is your Wi-Fi network’s “Network Profile”.
When your Wi-Fi network’s profile is set to “Public”, Windows prevents the device from being discoverable by other devices that are connected to the network.
It also turns off “File and Printer Sharing” on your device to prevent other connected devices from being able to access the files on your machine or use your printer.
On the other hand, if your network’s profile is set to “Private” any other devices that are connected to your network will be able to “see” your machine on the network and be able to attempt to connect with it.
The other connected devices will also be able to access the files in any folders you have shared or use a shared printer.
In short, designating your Wi-Fi network as “Public” actually makes it more difficult for strangers to find and access your computer for nefarious purposes – which is a good thing!
Whether you should set your Wi-Fi network’s profile to “Public” or “Private” will depend on your specific situation.
If you have family members or others in your home or office that you want to share files and printers with you’ll need to have your network set to “Private” in order to grant them that access.
However, if you don’t want anyone else to potentially have access to your computer in any way, you should leave your Wi-Fi network set to “Public”.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, and it really is. But as they say, it is what it is!
You said your Wi-Fi network is currently set to “Public”. That means you’re all set if the security of your PC and the files that are stored on it are your primary concern.
But that being said, if you ever have a need to share files or a printer with another machine over your Wi-Fi network you’ll have to set the network profile to “Private”.
Luckily, that’s a very easy change to make. Just follow these steps:
1 – Make sure your PC is connected to your Wi-Fi network.
2 – Right-click on the Network icon located in the Notifications area (the lower-right corner of the screen), then click Open Network and Internet settings.
Note: You should now see a window displaying your Wi-Fi network status.
3 – Click Properties.
4 – Click Private to change the Network Profile from “Public” to “Private”.
That’s all there is to it. Your Wi-Fi network should now be set to “Private” security.
I hope this helps Kellie. Good luck!
Update from Kellie: Thanks a lot, Rick. That helped a lot.
You’re right about the difference between Public and Private networks being counter-intuitive.
I would have thought that a Private network would be more secure than a Public one. Now I know the truth. Thanks again!
Bonus tip: This post explains what “Evil Twin” networks are (and why you need to steer clear of them).