Getting online

Windows tutorial: Page 1 of 11

Staying connected to the Internet

Whether you want to post social updates, email your friends, or check your favorite websites, an Internet connection is key. And, if you have a Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 PC, you’ll need an Internet connection to finish setting it up.

Connecting at home

If you have an account with an ISP (Internet Service Provider) like a phone or cable company, you already have Internet access at your home. You can plug your PC into your modem with an Ethernet cable, and then open your web browser to get to the Internet. If you need more help, see Connecting to the Internet.

If you want several PCs or devices to share the same connection, or if you want to have a password-protected connection, you can set up a network in your home. Once it’s set up, you can select your network from the Settings charm. To learn more, see Adding a device or PC to a network.

Another option when you’re connecting at home is to create a homegroup, which is perfect if you want to stream music or video from a PC to somewhere else, or share files and devices (such as printers) between PCs. To find out more, see HomeGroup from start to finish.

Connecting when you’re on the go

Lots of public places offer a Wi‑Fi connection, like coffee shops or airports. While you’re waiting for your cup of coffee or your flight, you can check your email or browse the web.

If you’re in a place where Wi‑Fi isn’t available, you can sign up for mobile broadband. A mobile broadband connection is an Internet connection you take with you and can use as long as there’s mobile phone service available. You typically buy a SIM card from your phone or cable company and then plug the card into your PC to connect with mobile broadband. To find out more about mobile broadband, see Mobile broadband from start to finish.

Some Internet connections (especially mobile broadband connections) are metered, meaning your plan comes with a maximum amount of data you can transmit per month. With these types of plans, it’s a good idea to stay on top of how much data you’ve used to make sure you don’t get billed for going over your plan limits. You can check this by tapping or clicking the network icon in the desktop or through the Settings charm. To find out more, see Metered Internet connections: FAQ.

Connecting to a network

When you first set up Windows, you might have already connected to a network. If not, you can see a list of available networks and connect to one.

To see a list of available networks

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

  2. Check the network icon. It'll show if you’re connected and how strong the connection is.

  3. If you’re not connected, tap or click the network icon (The wireless network icon or The wired network icon).
  4. Tap or click the name of the network you want to connect to, and then tap or click Connect.

    You might be asked for the network password. You can get it from the network admin. If you’re at home, this is probably someone in your family. If you’re at work, ask your IT admin. If you’re in a public place, like a coffee shop, ask someone who works there.

  5. If you want to connect to this network every time it's in range, select the Connect automatically check box.

The network icon in the Settings charm
A list of available networks

Using mobile broadband

To learn how to set up a mobile broadband connection, see Mobile broadband from start to finish.

Once you’re set up, Windows can keep you connected when you're on the go by automatically switching from a Wi‑Fi connection to mobile broadband. That way, you stay connected even if you're moving from place to place. Or, you can switch automatically from mobile broadband to Wi‑Fi as it becomes available, helping you keep costs lower.


When you’re using a metered connection, apps and updates from the Windows Store aren’t automatically downloaded. Windows will let you know so you can control your data use (and cost).

Flight mode

When you're on an aeroplane, all electronic devices have to be powered down completely for take-off and landing. But once you're safely in the air, you can put your PC in flight mode and then use it to watch films you've downloaded, play games or work on a presentation. Flight mode suspends any signal transmissions from your PC to comply with airline regulations.

To use flight mode

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

  2. Click the network icon The network icon
  3. Turn on Flight mode when you're on an aeroplane and turn it off after landing at your destination.

To find out more about flight mode, see What's flight mode?

Flight mode, turned on

Privacy on public networks

When you're away from home and using a public network, like in a coffee shop or airport, there are some steps you can take to help keep your PC and data safe.

The first time you connect to a public network, you'll be asked if you want to find devices and content on that network. Say no so that other people can't see your PC while you're connected to this network. If you accidentally say yes, don't worry. Here's how to change the setting.

To help keep your data safe on a public network

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Settings.)

  2. Tap or click Network, tap or click Connections, then tap or click the name of the network.

  3. Turn off Find devices and content. You'll still be able to go online but other people using that public network won't be able to get to your data.

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