Chapter 6: Networking

One of the other main differences between the Windows 8 interface and the Windows 7 interface is in the way the networking interface is laid out. Single-clicking (or tapping with your finger if you use a touchscreen) on the networking icon in the System Tray will bring up this new interface, which takes up the entire right edge of the screen. From here, you can connect to wireless networks very easily, or you can enable the new feature: Airline Mode. Switching Airline Mode on will simultaneously disable all the radios in the laptop or tablet device that you are using (this means, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile broadband), so that you can continue to use your laptop or tablet while in flight.

Another notable networking feature is data usage. You can view data has been transferred over a Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection simply by clicking (or tapping) on it. The usage is an estimate, but it can be useful if you are using a metered connection. Conveniently, you can also reset the counter so you can keep an eye on usage for each session that you use the connection -- especially useful for mobile broadband. There is another feature that's handy, and which is disabled by default: it's called 'Download over metered connection'. Put simply, this will not download scheduled Windows updates or drivers if you have set any of your connections as being metered. This is a great feature for those of you who use a mobile broadband connection.

Wireless networks appear in the large bar on the right side of the screen when you click or tap the networking icon in the System Tray. When you click on a network that you are connected to, you can also see its data usage.
Wireless networks appear in the large bar on the right side of the screen when you click or tap the networking icon in the System Tray. When you click on a network that you are connected to, you can also see its data usage.

A new feature allows you to set connections as 'metered'. This means that drivers and system updates won't be undertaken automatically when connected to network that has been marked as 'metered'.
A new feature allows you to set connections as 'metered'. This means that drivers and system updates won't be undertaken automatically when connected to network that has been marked as 'metered'.

Perhaps most importantly, using mobile broadband connections is now as easy as using a wireless network. Microsoft has worked with hardware vendors to ensure that new mobile broadband hardware will work with Windows 8 straight out of the box, which means there will be no need to install any extra drivers for most products — simply plug them in and Windows 8 will recognise them allow you to use them straight away.

Mobile broadband connections are shown in the same list as wireless networks and Windows 8 can handle them natively. That means that there should be much less hassle when it comes to getting online. You might still have to punch in your APN details manually, but you won't have to install any extra software to get online.

Microsoft has also improved the performance of wireless networking in Windows 8. Search time for networks has been reduced dramatically, and preferred networks that are in range are connected in about one second after you resume your laptop or tablet device from sleep mode. in Windows 7, Wi-Fi connections could take more than 10 seconds. This means you should be connected and ready to use the Internet and your local area network the moment your screen has switched on.

If you have both mobile broadband and Wi-Fi connections available, Windows 8 will connect to the preferred Wi-Fi connection as a priority unless you disconnect from that preferred network manually. It will connect to the mobile broadband network when a preferred Wi-Fi network is not available. Mobile broadband radios can be switched off by Windows 8 when it detects that they aren't required for use, which will minimise battery drainage for tablets and notebook computers.

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