Tips & Tricks for Wi-Fi Networking with Windows Vista

Although the new Network and Sharing Center in Windows Vista may be great for the average consumer, it can be quite a nuisance for advanced users because of the added steps to access many of the networking configuration settings. While Windows XP didn’t offer an exceptionally user-friendly networking interface, it was quick and easy to access certain network settings if you knew what you were looking for.


This tutorial will wrap up our series on networking with Windows Vista by showing some tips and tricks to help with your transition from Windows XP.


Add the Network Icon to the Desktop


The Network icon (replacement for My Network Places), like the other main system icons, isn’t placed on the desktop by default in Windows Vista. The Recycle Bin is the only desktop icon that automatically appears.


You can access the Network on Vista’s Start Menu or when viewing your computer contents in Windows Explorer. Furthermore, for even quicker access you can add the Network icon to your desktop. Here’s how:


1. Right-click on your desktop and select Personalize.

2. Click the Change desktop icons link, on the left in the integrated task pane.

3. Check the icons you wish to appear on the desktop, then click OK to exit.


Quick Access to Network Connections


Disabling or enabling a connection in Windows XP only took a right-click on the network status icon in the system tray; however in Vista you have to open the Network and Sharing Center, click on a link to open the Network Connections window; then you can disable/enable a connection.


To save a few clicks each time you need to manage your network connections, you can create a desktop shortcut directly to the Network Connections window; here’s how:


  1. Right-click on the desktop, select New, and select Shortcut.

  2. In the location field enter the following:

explorer.exe ::{7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E}

  1. Enter a name for the shortcut and click Finish.

  2. If you wish, you can even apply the official Network Connections icon to the shortcut you just created:

    1. Right-click on the icon and select Properties.

    2. Click the Change Icon… button.

    3. Enter the following into the text field:


    1. Click OK to select the icon and click OK on the shortcut properties window to exit and apply the changes.


For even quicker access to the Network Connections window, you can add the icon to the Quick Launch toolbar. Just drag the new desktop icon and drop it into the Quick Launch area.


Rename Network to My Network Places


The My Network Places from Windows XP has been renamed simply to Network in Vista. If you’re particular about the naming of your icons or you find it hard to get used to the Network icon after years of seeing My Network Places, you can change it.


Unfortunately, you can’t simply click on the icon and rename it as you can with other icons. You’ll have to do this through a more complex method—by editing the Windows Registry. Here’s how:


  1. Open the Start menu.

  2. In the search field, type “regedit”(for Registry Editor) and hit enter.

  3. If using the Classic Start menu, click on Run, type “regedit”, and click OK.

  4. Navigate to the following folder:

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareClassesLocal SettingsSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsShellMuiCache

  1. In the righthand pane, double-click the following key:


  1. Enter your desired name in the Value data field and click OK.

  2. Close the Registry Editor.

  3. To activate the new icon name, right-click anywhere on the desktop and select Refresh.

The new icon name should now appear.


Add the Internet Explorer (IE) Icon to the Desktop


Along with the other main icons, the Internet Explorer icon isn’t automatically placed on the Vista desktop. In addition, the Internet Explorer icon can’t even be enabled via the desktop icon settings via the Personalization window. This can be rather bothersome when you’re used to clicking on the IE icon to surf the web. Nevertheless, there are ways to get the icon on your desktop:


Here’s the simplest way to add the Internet Explorer icon to the desktop:

  1. Open the Start menu.

  2. Click and drag the Internet Explorer icon (from the top of the Start menu) to the desktop.

  3. To change the icon’s shortcut label, right-click on the icon, select Rename, enter the desired name, and hit Enter.


Although that was simple, you’ll have the ugly arrow on the Internet Explorer icon, unlike the other main icons like Computer, Network, and Recycle Bin. You can however go through the more advanced method of adding the Internet Explorer icon without the arrow, but this requires editing the Windows Registry:


  1. Open the Start menu.

  2. In the search field, type “regedit” and hit enter.

If using the Classic Start menu, click on Run, type “regedit”, and click OK.

  1. Navigate to the following folder: HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerHideDesktopIconsNewStartPanel

  2. In the right hand pane, double-click the following key:


            If the key doesn’t exist, you need to create it:

a)      Right-click in the right hand pane, select New, and click on DWORD (32-bit) Value.

b)      Type the above key (including the brackets) into the entry and hit Enter.

c)      Then double-click on the new key and proceed to the next step.

3.      In the Value data field, type “0”, and press OK.

  1. Close the Registry Editor.

  2. To activate the Internet Explorer icon, right-click anywhere on the desktop and select Refresh.

The Internet Explorer icon should now appear on your desktop.


If you haven’t already, check out all the earlier tutorials on networking using Windows Vista:


Eric Geier is an author of many wireless networking and computing books including 100 Things You Need to Know about Upgrading to Windows Vista, published by Que and Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting up Public Wireless Internet Access, published by Cisco Press.

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