The first time that you connect to a network, you must choose a network location. This automatically sets the appropriate firewall 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 three network locations: Home, Work, and Public place.

Home or Work

Choose one of these locations for home or small office networks when you know and trust the people and devices on the network. 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. For more information, see What is network discovery?

Public place

Choose this location 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. Network discovery is turned off for this location.

Note

  • If there’s only one computer on your network and you know you won’t need to share files or printers, the safest choice is “Public place.”

To change a network location type

If your computer is part of a domain, you won't be able to change the network location type because it is controlled by your network administrator.

  1. Log on to the network.

  2. Open Network and Sharing Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, and then clicking Network and Sharing Center.

  3. Click Customize, and then click either Public (for "Public place" networks) or Private (for "Home" or "Work" networks). Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  4. Click Next, and then click Close.

Warning

What makes a home or small office network safe to connect to?

To help ensure that a home or small business network is safe to connect to, make sure that it has the following:

  • For wireless networks, a wireless connection encrypted with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) or Wi‑Fi Protected Access (WPA). (For WPA, WPA2 is preferred.)

  • For all networks, a firewall or other device with Network Address Translation (NAT), which is connected between your computer or wireless base station and your cable or DSL modem.

Illustration of a network with a firewall or device with NAT in the recommended position
A network with a firewall or device with NAT in the recommended position

For more information, see What are the different wireless network security methods? and Making your network more secure.

How Windows Firewall affects network locations

The “Public place” location blocks certain programs and services from running, to help protect your computer from unauthorized access while you are connected to a network in a public place. If you are connected to a "Public place" network and Windows Firewall is turned on, some programs or services might ask you to unblock them (allow them to communicate through the firewall) so that they work properly.

When you unblock a program, Windows Firewall unblocks it for every network with the same location type as the network you are currently connected to. For example, if you connect to a network in a coffee shop and choose "Public place" as the location type and then you unblock an instant messaging program, that program will be unblocked for all networks in the "Public place" location.

If you unblock multiple programs while you're connected to a public network, consider changing the network location to "Home" or "Work." It might be safer to change this one network than affect every public network you connect to. But remember that if you make that change, your computer will be visible to others on the network.