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Windows 8 promising easier time juggling mobile networks

Microsoft has tweaked the setup for both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G in Windows 8 in an effort to make the process easier for all mobile users.


Windows 8 users will face fewer headaches managing their Wi-Fi and cellular connections, says Microsoft.

Setting up and maintaining Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connections in Windows is frequently a challenge. Wi-Fi users often bump into conflicts between the software provided by the third-party vendor and the software built into Windows. And mobile broadband users sometimes have to scramble to find the right drivers for their cellular setup.

In the latest Building Windows 8 blog, Billy Anders, a group program manager on Microsoft's devices and networking team, explained how Microsoft has tweaked the mobile experience in Windows 8 to help ease the pain.

Though the Wi-Fi experience improved in Windows 7 over prior versions, setting up a mobile broadband connection entailed a number of hurdles, including finding the right drivers and software. For Windows 8, the company worked with mobile carriers and hardware makers to come up with a single universal driver.

"In Windows 8, we developed an in-box mobile broadband class driver that works with all of these devices and eliminates your need for additional device driver software," Anders said. "You just plug in the device and connect. The driver stays up to date via Windows Update, ensuring you have a reliable mobile broadband experience."

To manage your mobile settings, Windows 8 will offer a new network settings panel. From here, you can juggle all of your radios (Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, and Bluetooth), turning them on and off and even disabling them all via a new "airplane mode." The goal is to provide users with a more consistent and less frustrating interface for all mobile connections in one shot.

Even further, Windows 8 will try to learn which networks you use most frequently, typically giving precedence to Wi-Fi over mobile broadband, just as on your average smartphone. It then tries to sort the available Wi-Fi hot spots based on your behavior.

"To make sure we connect to the right network when multiple networks are available, Windows maintains an ordered list of your preferred networks based on your explicit connect and disconnect actions, as well as the network type," Anders explained. "For example, if you manually disconnect from a network, Windows will no longer automatically connect to that network. If, while connected to one network, you decide to connect to a different network, Windows will move the new network higher in your preferred networks list."

The settings panel will provide even more details, including your connection time and estimated usage, of particular value to mobile broadband customers who need to keep an eye on their data consumption.

Finally, to help with that data consumption, Windows 8 can switch you from mobile broadband to Wi-Fi whenever a hot spot is accessible and postpone automatic updates until you're on a non-metered network.

For anyone who's struggled with Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks, the changes certainly sound like a step in the right direction. And users will be able to put these changes to the test once Microsoft launches the new Windows 8 beta next month.