Windows 8 WiFi network profile management and mobile broadband

After going back to University this year, I experienced great difficulty connecting to the University’s network as I quickly found out Windows 8 does not include the feature for WiFi profile management under “Manage Wireless Networks” anymore.

UPDATE: Click here for a working solution when connecting to an enterprise network using Intel Centrino N2230 or similar wireless chipsets.

Manage Wireless Networks was a nice, clear and effective utility to have when you wanted to prioritize your wireless connections, create, modify properties or just simply delete profiles. However, the Metro interface is the new face of Microsoft and their OS products, clearly designed for use in the Windows Phone and a similar construct in the Xbox dashboard. So I can understand the change in appearance on many of their utilities, but I must assure you the functionality still remains. Just in a less conventional way for Desktop users, but Linux savvy users will find this much the same to how they currently manage their network configuration files.

Open up Command Prompt and enter the following to…

View all wireless profiles

netsh wlan show profiles

netsh wlan show profiles

View security key of known networks within range

1. Right click on the network in the network list
2. "View connection properties"
3. Tick "Show characters" to see the network security key for that network

Network security key of known networks within range

View security key of a specific profile that is out of range

netsh wlan show profile name="ProfileName" key=clear

keyoutofrange

Delete a profile that’s out of range

netsh wlan delete profile name="ProfileName"

deleteprofile

As you can see I deleted my Profile for my smartphone, and listed all profiles again to confirm.

Stop auto connecting to a network that’s out of range

netsh wlan set profileparameter name=”ProfileName” connectionmode=manual

manualconnection

You’ve probably realised now that if you wanted to do anything relevant to your network profiles, then you’ll have to go to the Networks side-panel or Command Prompt and remember a bunch of command syntaxes to do simple things like view, remove or change priority of your profiles. More often than not I refer to Google to refresh my memory for command syntaxes, but what if I had to alter one of my profiles but couldn’t remember the syntax, and didn’t have access to the internet? One valid reason to bring back the nice, clear and effective “Manage Wireless Networks”!

Modify profiles of networks out of range in Windows 8

The only way I have found to alter any information that is stored in the network profiles is to edit their .XML files. Now this is a pain. You can find the .XML files for your profiles in this directory:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Wlansvc\Profiles\Interfaces

Then progress into the weirdly named folder, which would be the GUID of your network adapter. Then depending how many saved profiles you have, there will be an .XML document for each profile, again, named after the network’s GUID. Open up the desired .XML file in Notepad and edit as you please, using the following links as references and guides to help you identify which tags/elements are relevant to what properties of the .XML profile:

WLAN_profile Schema Elements
Wireless Profile Samples

WiFi Profile Manager Windows 8

Now, this open-source program isn’t the answer to our troubles. It is a step closer though, it allows you to:

  • View the preferred network profiles
  • Change order of priority
  • Export profiles to XML
  • Import profiles of XML format
  • Delete profiles

So far I find that this freeware gives me a manageable GUI to my network profiles, but sadly it will still be nothing compared to Window 7’s and it’s a little buggy. But it certainly does the job!

Click here to download WiFi Profile Manager for Windows 8


Kerkia’s WinFi

Courtesies to the commenter, Gwenole, for mentioning WinFi. A new app on the block with a bit more functionality and compatibility for Windows 8.1. I personally haven’t used it so I can’t go into detail about it, like I do for WiFi Profile Manager Windows 8, but I believe it may be far more suitable for the tasks to consider it the answers to our troubles.

Hopefully someone can download it and let me know 🙂


Windows 8 and Mobile Broadband

Microsoft claim the new networking features to be efficient for when connecting via Mobile Broadband, since there’s now no need for additional software required to interact with the Mobile Broadband provider’s hardware. All updates required for this feature come inclusively with the Windows Update utility. Microsoft also report that this new approach to Network Management provides Windows 8 with the intelligence for cost efficiency and a seamless experience.

Windows 8 changes to the preferred known network when it’s in range if you’re using a Mobile Broadband network, therefore this demonstrates Microsoft’s understanding of Mobile Broadband and its bandwidth limitations. You can set this option for any network of your choice by selecting “Look for other wireless networks while connected to this network” in “View connection properties” of the desired network.

lookforotherwifi

In addition to Microsoft demonstrating their understanding on bandwidth usage, Window 8’s Network Management includes the ability to configure any wireless connection to “Set as a metered connection” (as seen in image #2 of this blog). For example, if you select this option for the WiFi hotspot from your smartphone, then Windows won’t update itself or any attached devices whilst connected to that network. It will also set preferences over downloading low/high-quality images and video streaming, and also header-only vs. full-sync of emails.

Software developers are encouraged to make full use of these new APIs set by Microsoft, to facilitate this new utility in order to make Windows and it’s accompanied applications, more efficient for its end users.

At University tomorrow I will attempt to manually connect to the University’s enterprise network by “Set Up a Connection or Network”, if that doesn’t work then I’m just going to blame Windows 8. 😉


Update:

Intel Centrino network wireless chips have incompatibility issues via Windows 8/8.1 and the eduroam enterprise network – I have include the steps to take in order to resolve any failure of certificate authentication in attempt to connect to your local eduroam network via Windows 8/8.1 OS and Intel Centrino N2230 (or similar) network adapter:

  1. Go here and click on the 16.5.3 version to download the Wireless_16.5.3_e164.exe file.
    Obviously download the above from a working network connection to the internet.
  2. Run the executable on the laptop in question.
  3. Whilst running through the installation, select the EULA box & the “Update (Recommended)” method.
  4. Reboot the laptop.
  5. Go to Device Manager, expand your network adapters and right click on the Intel Centrino adapter.
  6. Click on the Driver tab.
  7. Click on Update Driver.
  8. Click on Browse my computer for driver software.
  9. Click on Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer
  10. The most recently added driver will be at the top – select that driver. However, ensure it is labelled as Intel and not any other; you do not want to select a Microsoft or any other manufacturer’s driver.

Conclusion

I know, I can’t quite believe as to how difficult managing profiles has become either… I mean, it was once in a blue moon I ever had to edit any of the profiles in “Manage Wireless Networks” anyway, but at least it was available to me. In my first year of University I experienced the same difficulty now with connectivity on their network, so I was often going into the profile and tweaking the settings until I was successful. Now it just seems more hassle for what it’s worth.

Hopefully, Windows 8.1 will include an update to provide a feature to manage our profiles a bit better. I know 8.1 is available to download, so I’ll update my machine soon and update this post accordingly!

As for the Mobile Broadband and extra support for driver vs. device recognition – I can only praise the feature as it does seem to be a seamless experience. I’ve rarely used Mobile Broadband services, but when I did, the provider’s software was often nothing less than an annoyance.

Recommended reads on topic

Bibliography

Eight Forums. 2013. How to Change the Priority of Wireless Networks in Windows 8. [online] Available at: http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/20152-wireless-networks-priority-change-windows-8-a.html [Accessed: 2 Oct 2013].

Kingsley, R. 2012. How to Manage Wireless Network Connections & Profiles in Windows 8. 7 Tutorials, [blog] September 12th, Available at: http://www.7tutorials.com/how-manage-wireless-network-connections-profiles-windows-8 [Accessed: 2 Oct 2013].

WiFi Profile Manager 8: View Preferred Wireless Network Profiles in Windows 8. 2012. The Windows Club, [blog] 12th August, Available at: http://www.thewindowsclub.com/wifi-profile-manager-windows-8 [Accessed: 2 Oct 2013].

Yam, M. 2012. Windows 8’s New Ways to Manage Wireless, Bandwidth. B8 Blog, [blog] 25th January, Available at: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Windows-8-win8-wi-fi-mobile-broadband-bandwidth,14546.html [Accessed: 2 Oct 2013].

2 Comments:

  1. Check out this other tool: it is very good and cover all your needs for profile management, without requiring using command line methods: http://main.kerkia.com/Products/WinFi/description.aspx.

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