Wireless networks continue to pop up at restaurants, hotels and parks and, of course, many homes now use wireless routers for Internet access throughout the home. By default, your computer doesn't connect to available wireless networks until you've logged in to Windows. If your computer or network requires you to log in before accessing Windows, you can set your wireless to connect before you ever log in.
Is It Really Worth It?
Your computer can take anywhere from a few minutes to five or 10 minutes to connect to a wireless network after you log in. The time depends on how many startup programs you and how long it takes for the wireless network to authenticate you. If you have programs that require immediate Internet access, such as anti-virus, the prelogin connection is even more beneficial since these programs can start and update the moment you log in without waiting for a wireless connection.
The Quick Fix
If you already have a wireless network set up on your computer, you can enable prelogin wireless connections in just a few steps. Open the Charms bar and click “Settings.” Click the wireless network icon and right-click your wireless network. Select “Properties.” Click the “Advanced Settings” button under the “Security” tab. Check the “Enable Single Sign On for This Network” and click the “Perform Immediately Before User Logon” radio button. Click “OK” to save your settings. The next time you start your computer, you'll already be connected to the wireless network before you log in.
If you don't have the network already set up, you'll have to first set up your connection. During the process, you are prompted to select your security settings and change the sign on option. Start by opening the Charms bar and clicking “Settings.” Type “Network” in the search box and select “Network and Sharing Center.” Select “Set Up a New Connection or Network.” Choose “Manually Connect to a Wireless Network.” Follow the prompts to set up the connection. When the Wireless Properties window appears, click the “Security” tab, click “Advanced Settings” and enable the single sign-on option.
The Few Exceptions
The single sign-on prelogin option isn't available for every security type. If you don't see any sign-on options or don't see the single sign-on option in the Advanced Settings window, your computer or network uses a different security type. WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Personal and WPA2-Enterprise all support connecting to a wireless network before logging in.
If your computer doesn't require a login, you won't see the single sign-on option. In this case, your computer connects to the wireless network as your startup programs load. You must have individual user accounts set up on your computer or network before this option is available.
Juggling Multiple Networks
If you have multiple wireless network profiles on your computer for various locations, you can set multiple networks to connect before you log in. Windows tries to connect to each network in your list until the system finds an available connection. If you have numerous networks listed, this process can take several minutes. Only set up the most used networks to preconnect to reduce your login and startup time.
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