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How to Protect Your Windows PC on Public Wi-Fi

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Connecting your Windows 10 PC to your home or work Wi-Fi can be a secure and safe way to get your PC online. But when a hotspot is available to the public, the security rules are more relaxed to allow everyone to connect.

Because of this, a public hotspot might not be as secure as you might want it to be, and some individuals can exploit this lax in security to hack your computer and steal your precious information. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can keep your Windows 10 computer safe when using public Wi-Fi.


How to Protect Your Windows 10 PC on Public Wi-Fi

Free wifi sign in a resturant by the sea

We’re not saying all public Wi-Fi spots are unsafe. In fact, many of them are safe, but it’s just hard to tell which ones you can trust. So instead of wasting precious time trying to determine how secure a public network is, do the following things to ensure your Windows 10 PC is like Fort Knox to hackers and other cybercriminals.

1. Always Keep Windows Updated

Making sure your version of Windows is up-to-date goes a long way towards making your computer a tough nut to crack. Most Windows updates include security improvements, especially those released on Patch Tuesday. Furthermore, if you’re running a version of the OS that Microsoft no longer supports, you’ll miss out on the security updates altogether.

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If you have automatic updates turned on, which most Windows computers do by default, you don’t have to do anything since the OS will handle downloading and installing them for you. However, if you have turned them off, you can do it yourself manually.

Click on Start and select the gear icon to go to Settings. Then, go to Updates and Security and download the latest Windows updates.

Installing Windows 10 Update

To stay on top of the updates, have Windows notify you as soon as the important ones are available, especially when they have to do with beefing up your PC’s security.

2. Make Sure You’ve Enabled Your Firewall

The main purpose of a firewall is to prevent hackers and other external threats from gaining unauthorized access to your computer. Even with an antivirus, you still need a firewall because antiviruses programs only deal with malicious software or malware, not people.


And the one thing that differentiates people from viruses is that they have hundreds of tricks up their sleeve to get into your computer. That means you need all the protection you can get.

To ensure your Windows 10 firewall is on, go Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Firewall & network protection. Now, check under Public network and make sure it says Firewall is on.

public network firewall set to on windows 10

If the Firewall is off, click on Public network and switch on Microsoft Defender Firewall.

microsoft defender firewall set to on

Update Your Antivirus Software

Malware helps hackers take over your PC. For example, a Trojan can disguise itself as a legitimate program while working in the background to take over your system. Once the Trojan has succeeded, it creates a back door that allows hackers to come in and control your computer.

There’s a lot of malicious software hanging around on public Wi-Fi networks, and a good Windows 10 antivirus is your first line of defense. Be sure to update your antivirus before connecting to public Wi-Fi. That way, it will install new virus definitions and keep you safe from the latest threats.

Updating avast virus definition

Also, enable real-time protection and perform regular full system scans to keep your PC malware-free.

Related: The Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10

Use the HTTPS Protocol at All Times

In a nutshell, HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP is a set of rules that govern how your computer (client) and website (server) send data back and forth. Without getting too technical, HTTPS means that the protocol instructs the client and server to communicate over a secure (the S at the end) connection. Therefore, the sender will have to encrypt the data before sending it so that only the receiver can decrypt it.

Anyone who manages to intercept the connection in between will get encrypted data, and it will be indecipherable gibberish to them. So before you visit a website, especially on public Wi-Fi, make sure that the link starts with HTTPS, meaning it is secure.

google https in chrome address bar

Of course, modern browsers have tools and extensions that ensure you’re always connecting to secure sites. Chrome, for example, allows you to do this by going to Settings > Security and Privacy > Security and toggling on Always use secure connections.

chrome set to always use https

When using a VPN, you are rerouting your internet connection through a private network with extra security measures to prevent malicious attacks. Furthermore, a VPN encrypts all the data you’re sending, just like the HTTPS protocol. Please read our guide on setting up a VPN in Windows 10 to get this added layer of security.

Make Your PC Undiscoverable on the Network

When you’re on a public network, you don’t want other people to access the files and folders on your computer. You can make these inaccessible when you first connect the free hotspot. Windows will ask you if you want your PC to be discoverable on the network, and you should click on No.


connecting to wifi on windows 10

Another way to do this is to click on the Wi-Fi icon to show the list of available networks. Click on the free Wi-Fi to expand it and then select Properties.

windows 10 wifi properties

Then, set the Network Profile to Public. Doing this will make your PC hidden on the public Wi-Fi network.

setting network profile to public on windows 10

Related: How to Network File Share in Windows 10

Avoid Putting Your Windows PC at Risk in the First Place

Before you connect to public Wi-Fi, use your best judgment to determine the safety of the hotspot. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t connect to a network you’re not familiar with. And when you’re not using your Wi-Fi, turning it off will prevent your PC from automatically connecting to the hotspots you don’t know.

Also, keep in mind that your phone is practically a Wi-Fi hotspot on its own. You can easily create an Android hotspot or create an iPhone hotspot and share your mobile device’s internet with your Windows computer. That way, you don’t have to connect to a public hotspot when you’re away from your home or office and in need of internet.

Now Your Windows 10 PC is Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Being hacked is one of the scariest and most negative experiences anyone can have. And hackers love to hang around public Wi-Fi networks, hoping someone will slip up, so they gain access to their precious information. With the tips outlined above, you can prevent this from happening, making your Windows 10 machine extremely secure when connected to a public hotspot.


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