The first time that you connect to a network, you must choose a network location. This automatically sets the appropriate firewall and security settings for the type of network that you connect to. If you connect to networks in different locations (for example, a network at your home, at a local coffee shop, or at work), choosing a network location can help ensure that your computer is always set to an appropriate security level.
There are four network locations:
Choose Home network for home networks or when you know and trust the people and devices on the network. Computers on a home network can belong to a homegroup. Network discovery is turned on for home networks, which allows you to see other computers and devices on the network and allows other network users to see your computer. For more information, see What is network discovery?
Choose Work network for small office or other workplace networks. Network discovery, which allows you to see other computers and devices on a network and allows other network users to see your computer, is on by default, but you can't create or join a homegroup. For more information, see What is network discovery?
Choose Public network for networks in public places (such as coffee shops or airports). This location is designed to keep your computer from being visible to other computers around you and to help protect your computer from any malicious software from the Internet. HomeGroup is not available on public networks, and network discovery is turned off. You should also choose this option if you're connected directly to the Internet without using a router, or if you have a mobile broadband connection.
The Domain network location is used for domain networks such as those at enterprise workplaces. This type of network location is controlled by your network administrator and can't be selected or changed.
If you know you won’t need to share files or printers, the safest choice is public network.
Open Network and Sharing Center by clicking the Start button , and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, and then click Network and Sharing Center.
Click Work network, Home network, or Public network, and then click the network location you want.
Choosing Home network or Work network changes the firewall configuration to allow communication. This can be a security risk. For more information, see What are the risks of allowing programs through a firewall?
To help ensure that a home or work network is safe to connect to, make sure that it has the following:
For wireless networks, a wireless connection encrypted with Wi‑Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2). (WPA2 is preferred because it is more secure than WPA.)
For all networks, a firewall or other device with network address translation (NAT) , which is connected between your computer or wireless access point and your cable or DSL modem.
For more information, see Setting up a wireless network in Windows 7, Making your network more secure, and What are the different wireless network security methods?
The Public network location blocks certain programs and services from running to help protect your computer from unauthorized access while you're connected to a network in a public place. If you're connected to a public network and Windows Firewall is turned on, some programs or services might ask you to allow them to communicate through the firewall so that they work properly.
When you allow a program to communicate through the firewall, it's allowed for every network with the same location as the network you're currently connected to. For example, if you connect to a network in a coffee shop and choose Public network as the location, and you then unblock an instant message program, that program will be unblocked for all public networks that you connect to.
If you plan to unblock multiple programs while you're connected to a public network, consider changing the network location to Home network or Work network. It might be safer to change this one network than affect every public network you connect to from that point on. But remember that if you make that change, your computer will be visible to others on the network, and this is a security risk.