Connecting to open Wi-Fi hotspots in Windows 10

To get you on the Internet more quickly in more places, Windows 10 can automatically connect you to open Wi-Fi hotspots it knows about through crowdsourcing. Even when it’s turned off, you can still connect to Wi-Fi networks on your own.

How it works

You choose the settings for automatically connecting to suggested open hotspots by going to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi on your Windows 10 PC or your phone with Windows 10 Mobile in Settings > Network & wireless > Wi-Fi > Additional settings. To use this feature, you’ll need to be signed in with your Microsoft account on your Windows 10 PC or mobile device. (Note that this feature isn't available in all countries or regions.)

Windows 10 learns about open Wi-Fi hotspots your Windows PC or Windows phone connects to by collecting information about the network, like whether the open Wi-Fi network has a high-quality Internet connection. By using that information from your device and from other Windows customers' devices, we build a database of these high-quality networks. When you’re in range of one of these Wi-Fi hotspots, you automatically get connected to it.

Sometimes, you’ll be in range of a few Wi-Fi networks at the same time. When this happens, Windows uses several factors to find the best one to connect you to. It considers if other people using Windows 10 have connected to it, if it's a network that you've connected to on your own, and if it's provided by your mobile operator. Windows also considers the signal strength and quality of the network to try to give you the best Wi-Fi connection at that time.

How we help keep your data safe

Protecting your home or business network

If you manage an open Wi-Fi network at home or at a small business but don't want Windows to automatically connect people to it, you can opt your network out by including _optout somewhere in the Wi-Fi network name (also called the SSID). For example, "mynetwork_optout" or "my_optout_network". When you do this, Windows won’t automatically connect people to your open network. For more detailed info, see the section To prevent other Windows 10 customers from automatically connecting to an open Wi-Fi network you manage.

Connecting to open networks

An open network is a Wi-Fi network that doesn't require a password to connect, which means that anyone can connect to it, and other people might see info you send over the network. Many public Wi-Fi hotspots are open networks you find when you’re out and about. There are lots of things you might feel comfortable doing on open Wi-Fi, like browsing the web, catching up on news, watching videos online, listening to streaming music, or checking social networks. Be careful using an open network to do something online that requires sensitive or personal information, such as banking or buying things online.

Even when a Wi-Fi network requires a password or certificate to connect, other people on the network or Internet can possibly see the info you send unless the connection to the website uses HTTPS. This kind of connection to a website is encrypted and is shown with a lock icon on the address bar in Microsoft Edge.

When you're not sure about the safety of a Wi-Fi network, you should disconnect from it and try to connect to a Wi-Fi network you trust. If your PC has a cellular data connection, you can turn off Wi-Fi while you're doing something that requires sensitive info.

How location is used

To find Wi-Fi hotspots to suggest, Windows has to know where you are. Windows finds you by using the Windows 10 location service, which can be turned on or off for your device.

As long as Location for this device is on in Settings > Privacy > Location on your PC, Windows can look for open hotspots near you, even if Location service is turned off for your user account. (Only administrator accounts have access to the Location for this device setting.)

On your phone, Windows 10 Mobile can’t discover your device location if you have Location service turned off in Settings > Privacy > Location .

For more info about Windows 10 location service, see Windows 10 location service and privacy.

How to control connecting to suggested open hotspots

The ability to get connected to suggested open hotspots automatically may have been turned on or off if you updated your device from a previous version of Windows 10 to Windows 10 (Version 1703). If you installed Windows 10 (Version 1703) from scratch, then this setting will be turned off by default.

To find out what version of Windows 10 you have installed on your PC, go to Settings > System > About, and then look at the number next to Version. On your phone, select Settings > System > About > More info to find the version number.

To check the setting for connecting to suggested open hotspots automatically

  1. On your PC, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. On your phone, go to Settings > Network & wireless > Wi-Fi > Additional settings.
  2. Check to see whether Connect to suggested open hotspots is turned on. If it's on, Windows will automatically connect you to suggested open Wi-Fi hotspots.

To change the setting for connecting to suggested open hotspots automatically

  1. On your PC, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. On your phone, go to Settings > Network & wireless > Wi-Fi > Additional settings.
  2. Under Wi-Fi services, change Connect to suggested open hotspots if you like.

To prevent other Windows 10 customers from automatically connecting to an open Wi-Fi network you manage

If you manage an open network at your home or small business and you want to make sure Windows 10 doesn’t automatically connect other Windows 10 customers to it, change the name of your network to add _optout to the name of your network. For example, you could change your network name from “my_network” to “my_network_optout”.

It can take several days for your network to be added to the opted-out list, so Windows 10 customers might still be automatically connected to it for a while after you add _optout to the name. If you want to stop Windows from connecting customers to it sooner than that, add a password to your Wi-Fi network. For instructions about how to change your network name or add a password, check the documentation for your router or access point.