Vista’s Network Identification “feature” has been one thing that has particularly annoyed me with Vista but I haven’t heard that much hub-bub about it around the blog-o-sphere. I’m not one of those people that has been complaining non-stop about Vista, the Network Identification is just one thing that has been a consistent thorn in the side. Unfortunately, this also seems to be in Windows Server 2008, although I haven’t had any problems yet.
To summarize the “feature” and problem: Any time Vista recognizes that you’re on a new network (say the router changed or you’re connecting to a new wireless access point) it prompts you to know whether the network is Private or Public. If it’s Public, it locks down the firewall and removes exceptions for security reasons. That is not my problem with it however. That’s fine. I have Vista installed on my desktop machine, it is never venturing out on public wifi or anything like that.
My problem is that the feature does not work. I have had multiple hang-ups with my network where it will just go as an “Unidentified” network. It is able to see my local network but will not allow connections to the Internet. When I look at “Manage network connections” (or at my Local Area Connection) it reads: Network 2, Network 4. I only have one NIC and it’s plugged into a Linksys router. If I disable and re-enable the connection, it only picks up Network 2 and goes about its merry way allowing me to connect to the Internet and everything else just fine.
A smaller complaint is that I have to manually tell whether this network is public or private. It’s hardly Network Identification, it’s Network Dictation. I’m telling the computer what it is.
I was able to find that the computer stores the information in the following registry keys. It distinguishes one network from another by the MAC address of the default gateway. If you need to get down to the root of the problem you can carefully tinker around with these keys in the registry.
There is also a way to configure, rename, delete, and merge networks through the GUI. In the Network and Sharing Center, if you click the ‘Customize’ link to the right of the network name you’ll see this window. You can clearly see at the bottom the option to Merge or delete network locations.