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How to set Preferred Network (Wireless) under Vista

Posted on 2011-09-30
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
This is for my customer. I fix PCs for a living. I am not onsite yet and need this answered BEFORE I go onsite (which will be 4 hours after this is posted 11:30 AM EST in the USA on 9/30/11) so I request a QUICK response if possible.

OS Is Vista. SP level unknown. There are two wireless routers (one Apple Airport Extreme and one Linksys and THAT info is 100% irrelevant to my question I believe). It is possible to manually connect to EITHER router and have internet. (NOTE: I do not know the details but that implies to me there are two Comcast modems (one in basement and the other on the 2nd floor as that is where the two routers are) and the two routers are each connected to one of the modems. Comcast is the ISP.)

I want to FORCE the PC to ALWAYS try to autoconnect at boot to one of the routers (the Airport Extreme) FIRST and the other ONLY if no connection is possible to the Airport Extreme (which should NEVER happen BTW). OR (see Question Two below) never connect at boot to the Linksys.  It appears (from what customer told me on phone before I go onsite) that SOMETIMEs the PC connects to the Linksys (NOT DESIRED except in unusual situations) and not the Airport Extreme. Example might be if the signal strength for the Linksys is stronger than for the Airport Extreme.

In Windows XP HERE is how you do that. Start>Network Connections   Then Right Click the Wireless adapter Icon and select Properties. Then click the Wireless Networks tab. Then in the list of Preferred Networks, hilight the Airport Extreme SSID (router name if you like) and then click the "Move up" button on the right until the Airport Extreme is at the top of the list.

It is also possible to select the Linksys and then click the Remove button so it is NEVER connected to at boot.

MY QUESTION: What are the DETAILED step by step instructions to do this in Vista OR provide a link to the same thing. I want detailed instructions UNLESS my idea immediately below is the answer. If so say that what is immediately below is the answer. OTHERWISE, provide a solution for Vista. ASSUME that Windows Vista is handling the wireless.

My Idea:  FIRST go to Network and Sharing Center and then select the "Network Adapters" entry in the left column (which displays the same thing as Network Connections in Windows XP). Then follow EXACTLY the same instructions as I provide for Windows XP above.

SECOND QUESTION: If I REMOVE the Linksys from the Preferred Network list (assuming the same (or for the purpose of this Second Question) similar solution to XP case applies), can the customer still MANUALLY connect to the Linksys by going to the Network Connections Icon in the lower right toolbar and clicking it and seeing the available Wireless SSIDs available and selecting the Linksys etc. ??

Why am I asking this 2nd question: Because it is a MUCH CLEANER solution than putting the Airport Extreme above the Linksys in the Preferred Network list (or whatever the Vista equivalent is), but the ability to MANUALLY connect to the Linksys must NOT be removed from this PC per the customer.

In case you are curious as to WHY I want to do this (even if the Linksys has stronger signal strength) the answer is that there is a Network Printer connected to the Airport Extreme and hence to ALWAYS make that printer useable by the PC, then the PC **MUST** be connected to the Airport Extreme and not the Linksys. Also I have oversimplified the situation above. In fact there are TWO Vista PCs and one MAC and ALL THREE must have the ability to print to the network printer connected to the Airport Extreme. I know how to answer my question here for the MAC and for Windows XP PCs (not the case here) but not for Vista (and I have no Vista PC in my office right now to play around with) and THAT is why I am posting here.

Question by:mgross333
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LVL 10

Accepted Solution

Mohammed Rahman earned 2000 total points
ID: 36891758
Go to Network and Sharing Center--Network and Internet--Manage Wireless Connections and move the Airport Extreme to the TOP and also go to its properties and slect "Automatically Connect" by placing a check mark on the box "start this connection automatically" OR it may be "Connect automatically when this network is in range" and also check "Connect even if the network is not broadcasting" and unckeck these options for the Linksys.
** Under linksys properties, check the box "connect to a more preferred network if available"
Below are the picx only for reference.
 manage wireless start conn automatically wireless properties

Author Comment

ID: 36891898

THANK YOU for your detailed reply with screen shots. However I am a bit confused.

Regarding " go to its properties and slect "Automatically Connect" by placing a check mark on the box "start this connection automatically" OR it may be "Connect automatically when this network is in range"...."
that you provided TWO screen shots one corresponding to the first option (Before the "OR") and the second corresponding to the 2nd option (after the "OR"). Are you saying that for Vista you are NOT sure if the 2nd or 3rd screen shot in your post will be seen when I select Properties for the Wireless Connection ? And I just have to see which screen shot will be seen onsite ? Or might it depend on the SP level (none or SP1 or SP2) of Vista?

Also TO BE SURE (as I will not have a Vista PC to test this on until I am onsite) PLEASE TELL ME  **WHERE** in the Network and Sharing Center I will find "Network and Internet" icon (ie left column or above or somewhere else (?) and DITTO for where is the Manage Wireless Connections in the Network and Internet display. I ask this because the ONLY thing I ever do in the Vista Network and Sharing center is click the Network Adaptor (or similar words) in the left column OR see if the PC has Internet or is connected to the router in the diagram shown there. I have never clicked anything else and just want to be sure I can follow your verbal instructions.

ALSO please reply on my Question Two. I would guess the answer is I can do EVERYTHING you say (except perhaps the uncheck "connect if Linksys is not broaddcasting part) and still MANUALLY connect to the Linksys. As my customer requires that. I would like an answer to my Questions TWO although I think the answer is YES as all your settings relate to autoconnect at boot.

LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:Mohammed Rahman
ID: 36891966
As we are trying to make all these changes ONLY to be able to access the printer all the time. We can try share the printer over the Internet as below and this will help users print to the printer from Airport and also from Extreme.

I will post, in case I come across any better suggetion.
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Author Comment

ID: 36892163

Thanks again for your post BUT I prefer not to use any third-party SW (especially if not from a recognized MAJOR SW company that has GOOD support and the SW is likely to not have bugs

BECAUSE with your post above I can achieve the same thing !! Also I do not want to reinstall any printer SW (i.e I am hoping to just follow your advice and do similar things in MAC OS X).

Please reply to my QUESTION TWO in my initial post which I repeated in my reply to your post.

First the network printer (after install and I do not know IF it is usb cable OR ethernet cable OR wireless to Airport Extreme) worked for a period of time. Then the two PCs printed sometimes and sometimes not. And the MAC still printed. Then later the two PCs would not print at all and the MAC could print. Two weeks after the first problem with printing from the PCs occured, the MAC also would not print. NOW, the ONLY explanation I can think of that matches that time sequence is FIRST the PCs and LATER the MAC are connecting to the Linksys and not the AE. BUT I HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN ON SITE AND SOMETIMES CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE TELL ME THINGS THAT I FIND TO NOT BE TRUE WHEN I ARRIVE. i.e I may end up fixing this by uninstalling the Network Printer drivers on all computers and reinstalling IF I find that the PCs and the MAC are in fact still connected to the AE.

What I am getting at in the above paragraph is IF there were any problem with the printer itself OR its connection to the AE or with the AE THEN the printing problem would have occured at the same time for the PCs and the MAC. But as I say when I get onsite and start investigating I may get another idea about how to proceed.

Points will be assigned AFTER I return from onsite.

LVL 10

Assisted Solution

by:Mohammed Rahman
Mohammed Rahman earned 2000 total points
ID: 36892270
I apologize for unclear comment.

The first screen refers to all the wireless connections that are pre configured in VISTA and you can prioritize as per the requirement by moving the connection up or down.

If you would like the computer to always pick Airport Extreme, remove the Airport Extreme from the pre configured list and Add it again and while configuring, select "start this connection automatically" as shown in fig 2. This will force the computers to connect to Airport Extreme as in when its available.

Once configured go the the Airport Extreme properties page as in fig 3 and place a check mark in the fifirst and the third box. (By placing check mark in first and third box, we are forcing the computer to connect to Airport Extreme) Also do not check the second check box for Airport Extreme, else the computer may try to connect to Linksys if its signal strengts is better than Airport Extreme.

While configuring the Linksys Wireless, do not place a check mark on "start this connection automatically". Doing so, the computers will not automatically connect to Linksys even if its broadvasting better than Airport Extreme. Hence, it will serve as Manual Connection.
Once configured, unckeck the first and the third box for Linksys and check the second box.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 36896448
PCs has Windows 7, not Vista (customer misinformed me on phone). So your instructions were not 100% correct (in fact far from it), But I got the idea of what to do in a general sense and did the ONLY important steps. Moving AE to the top of the list and start automatically and Linksys 2nd and Start Manually (a Win 7 choice).

Also there is no Network and Internet in Network and Sharing Center with Win 7. I just clicked Manage Wireless Networks in the left column.

Also selecting properties did NOT bring up either of the screen shots you show, again I assume because Win 7 is different than Vista. In the far right for each router SSID there is a column for Start Auto or Start Manually and it is selectable and changeable.

LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:Mohammed Rahman
ID: 36897913
sorry mite... instructions didnt help much as it was for Vista... thanks...!

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