Scott Hanselman

How to set a Network to a "Private Network" in Windows 8.1

May 16, 2015 Comment on this post [16] Posted in Tools | Win8
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A while back Windows introduced this concept of public networks and private networks. Basically it comes down to a question of "do I mostly trust this network?" However, it's never been totally obvious how to change this back and forth. There's lots of posts on the internet explaining how, but most are pretty complex with a lot of steps.

The most common reason to want Windows to treat the current network as a Private Network is so you can have someone connect to your machine, either share files over SMB, or connect via Remote Desktop (RDP). I hit this issue probably once a month where I can't figure out why I can't see this machine over Remote Desktop, and it's because it thinks I'm on a Public Network.

One technique is to go to Network within Windows Explorer and try to get this yellow bar to show up.

Network Discovery and file Sharing are turned off. Network Computers and devices are not visible.

Clicking on it will give you a choice that isn't clear to Non-Technical Family Member.

Do you want to turn on Network discovery and file sharing for all public networks? NO

No is the right answer, always. But this is a bad dialog because it looks like a Sophie's Choice.

You WANT to treat THIS NETWORK - the one you are on - as a Private Network. Select No.

A better, clearer way to change a Network to Private Network

  • Press the Windows Key + W to search Settings.
  • Type "Network Connections" and Press Enter

Windows 8.1 Network Connections

  • Click on your Network
  • Turn "Find PCs and Content" to ON. This Network is now a Private Network.

Find Devices and Content

Don't believe me? Bring it up side by side with the Classic Network Center and watch it switch back and forth in real-time!

Switching a Network Private in Windows 8
Switching a Network Public in Windows 8

I hope this helps you out as much as it did me!

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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May 16, 2015 1:00
On my Surface 3 Pro running Windows 8.1, I'm not seeing that option under the metro network settings for my wireless connection.
May 16, 2015 1:25
Jon - What do you see?
May 16, 2015 1:28
Thanks. I always wanted to know how to change this.

My daughter pressed "yes" on her MacBook the other day. Guess I need to change this back now.
May 16, 2015 2:02
Scott I'm also on a Surface Pro 3 with Win 8.1. On the Network tab, after tapping on my WiFi network's name, all I see is Data Usage heading with "show my estimated data use in the networks list" and "set as a metered connection" radios. No heading for Find Devices and Content.
May 16, 2015 2:03
Related support thread I found for above issue:
May 16, 2015 2:22
Don't forget about Set-NetConnectionProfile :)
May 16, 2015 9:54
You can also do this via powershell :)
May 16, 2015 16:12
I have fought with this in the past, and fix it with regedit:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\NetworkList\Profiles

Find the network. Category 0 = public, category 1 = private.
May 17, 2015 18:01
To those not seeing the option. This option is not located in the Network flyout (Settings Charm, Network), but in the PC Settings app.
May 18, 2015 16:52
Wow, thanks! I have considered private/public network //maybe// valuable but a pain to administrate.

May 19, 2015 17:21
Do you have a HANSELMAN-SLOW?
May 19, 2015 22:05
Sorry for ranting, but... You'll need a Windows 10 version of this post in a few months. It will likely be completely different yet again for no apparent reason. There's no more Win+W anymore, for example... because... nothing. The UX around the entire network stack has been aggravating since Vista and with each release, they shuffle the deck again. The Modern/Classic split personality crap has only gotten more and more annoying. If you're like me, 90% of the time when you're looking for ANYTHING network related, it's the classic TCP/IP v4 properties dialog. WIN+X,W is the fastest way I've found to get to where XP would take you. Commit it to memory so you can untrain/retrain yourself something new in a year when it moves again.
May 22, 2015 17:59
Please note that the option will not appear when your User Access Control (UAC) level is set to "Always notify." In this situation you will need to use the registry editor or lower the UAC level to change the network type.
August 07, 2015 7:18
I wish I could get this done the way you show, but cant find what you see in the Metro division (mine is not a pro version of 8.1). Thought this would help with my issue of changing this public network into a private one. NETWORK 12, whatever that is..ISP is of no help; MSFT is also of no help. WTH! So, not sure what to do from here. OY
August 07, 2015 20:18
Very impressive article Thanks alot for screen shots it will prove very helpful for the readers of the article. You have done great job. Now a days it is very necessary for a business to keep its important data save. You have solved the problem by posting this blog.keep it up.
August 11, 2015 2:04
Oh man, that is what I needed from MSFT and Verizon and they could not figure it out. Patent this and send it to them.... Great. Glad I found your site and this info.

Now... what about that HIDDEN network that shows up?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.