What do you think of Vista’s Network and Sharing Center?

I hear regular complaints about Vista’s Network and Sharing Center, but when I push the complainers for details I rarely get anything more than "It’s more confusing than XP."

So I’m looking for more input from you. Do you like or dislike the N&SC? What sort of networking tasks do you regularly or irregularly perform? Are there specific aspects of Vista’s networking user interface that you find good, bad, or confusing?

Talk to me…

37 thoughts on “What do you think of Vista’s Network and Sharing Center?

  1. I have two takes on this.

    Confusion: It was very easy in XP to goto into the NIC properties and see what is happening. And I believe that functionality has to be put back in.

    Acceptance: Once you understand the reason for Network Sharing Center then it becoming a valuable tool. I personally use it to see what folder I am sharing, to see what machines are on my network and click into my web router interface.

    Simplicity : What I think the Network Sharing Center is some simplicity, it takes too many clicks to find out the IP information of your NIC Cards

  2. First, I have been using Vista Business and Home Pre since Dec of 2006. it works…my reliability for my main desktop for the past six months is 9.64 with Adobe Pre. Elements 4.0 being crash prone. i sue this machine for video/picture editing, gaming Call of Duty 4, bioshock, Crysis as well as Office 2007 apps and work related software.

    But what I hate about networking is at work when I pull up the computers in our domain (Win 2003 servers), it has to search for them each time. Sometimes it takes forever to get the list of all the PCs on the network (all PCs are XP Pro or Vista).

  3. I do think it’s a little silly that the link from the Start button is to the Network view rather than to the N&SC. It’s one extra click to get there from the Network view, but still.

    Otherwise, I like it. It really is the “center,” and I can find the information I need straight from its interface. The technical minutia is two or three clicks at most from there.

    Of course, when I want to know something as simple as my IP, I just Run|cmd|ipconfig. But I’m oldschool that way.

  4. For me, the network and sharing center is very slow. When I open it as my computer is booting, it takes about a minute to display. I think this may be a driver issue with my Dell (Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG) Wireless card, though.

  5. Although I see the reason for it, I have to agree with Bill B when he says it takes too long to get to the Network Connections folder/NIC information. Tray Icon -> N&SC -> Manage Connections is too long, especially when it could be fixed with a Control Panel icon that I use on the Start menu anyway.

  6. My Issues are:

    Connections like VMWare with virtual adapter appear as unidentified network.
    It takes way too long to connect to Wireless Networks
    If Your Vista PC is ON and you restart your modem – it does not automatically connect to Wireless Connection (That are not Broadcasting). You have to go to Network and Sharing Center -> Connect to Network – > and keep on clicking on Refresh to connect.

  7. I would personally just like to be able to get to the simple status screen of a particular connection by right clicking as I was able to do in XP.

  8. They should have done a lot better job with it. For starters, I LOVED the tray icons for the individual connections. I miss them a lot.

    Second, they should have made A LOT more things accessible from the right-click menu. For example, I should be able to right click on the tray icon, and get a menu item for each network adapter. From there, I should get a “Status” and “Properties” submenu, that way I don’t even need to get to the S&NC if I don’t want to.

    if they are concerned with confusing users, fine. Give it an “expert mode” unlockable in the registry or something, so that people who know what their doing don’t have to waste their time navigating thru menus.

  9. After writing this I read Robert’s comment. I agree fully, and this may be redundant, but anyways, here it is.

    I really miss being able to double click on the Network system tray icon, and changing tabs to check the IP address. Now if I want to see it (without using cmd) I have to go to the N&SC, click on Show Status and then Details.

    Also, there is no direct way (that I’m aware of) to get to ‘Manage Network Connections’. It used to be Right click -> properties, I think. I even tried writing manage or network or connection at the Start Search, but it doesn’t show the link I need. (I’m using the Spanish version, so those may not be the exact matching words on the English version).

  10. I am with Jon, Network on the Start Menu should open the N&SC. It is a vast improvement for most users over XP.

  11. I don’t have a problem with the NSC and it does make certain task easier and concise but like some said certain task are more clicks than I would like. This isn’t such a problem for me though since to get to the “manage network connections” page I just created a shortcut and put it in the start menu (actually I think I got this tip from one of your posts).

  12. To be blunt, it’s useless. “Sharing and discovery” is a nice overview, a constant list of “Off” on every PC I own. Fantastic.

    The “connected network” section is so often confused by multiple adapters, or just blatantly wrong that it’s not even funny anymore. Many times I’ve seen “Local and Internet” when I’m connected to a public wifi which uses a HTTP driven password system. Helpful. Nearly as often, it says “Local only” while I am happily accessing the internet.

    The map at the top is a giant waste of space.

    What it does do is obscure the quick and dirty list of network adapters, and their individual status. I want to see each and every NIC-like device in my PC, whether it’s connected or not, what speed, it’s IP, and other actually useful information. Sure, I can get there, but it’s more clicks away — What’s to hide?

  13. Here is the thing, inside XP there was one icon per connection. In Vista one icon covers all the various connections.

    I only used to double click on the network icon for one thing – to find out the IP/DNS settings or change them. Now there are too many clicks to do so. It is a pain because I dont use the icon for anything else.

    So the question becomes is there more useful information there I am not using? and therefore is this a learning curve for Vista. Would I change my usage to use the icon for other reasons which are more frequent than viewing/changing IP addresses?

    Other than viewing actual network statistics (which isn’t there anyway) to see what is active on a connection, everything else I use as much as or less than viewing/changing the IP.

    Solution: add IP address info for each connection on the NSC page with a hyperlink to go to the dialog box to change it.

  14. Network and Sharing Center is probably a good thing for new users, but for a power user it will drive you INSANE with the number of click throughs. That being said, for those of you who want to get to the properties quicker, just type ncpa.cpl in your start menu’s run line. That will bring up your Network Connections directly instead of having to go through Network and Sharing Center.

  15. What I find frustrating is that when coming out of hibernation, I frequently don’t get my wireless connection to fully come up. It will come up with limited access or no access at all. The network and sharing center are pretty much useless at that point.
    When that happens, I’ve found the quickest solution is to turn off my wireless for 30 seconds or so. It seems like there should be a way for Vista to bypass most of the network discovery for connections to a known network. I only connect repeatedly to two networks. Both are WPA2.
    I also miss being able to double click the network icon in the system tray and get right to the LAN Connection Status, so I can quickly see the meter running on my connection.

  16. Actually, I thought the Network/Sharing Center part of Vista was one of it’s highlights. It was well thought out and easy to use.

  17. I like the Network and Sharing Center because it consolidates so many functions (or links to functions) in one place. I imagine that many users — not your readers, Ed — don’t know each icon (and red X) in the display is actually clickable for various functions, as well — not quite intuitive.

    As for Start > Network: It is consistent to browse the Network from this spot, just as Start > Computer browses the computer. Further, IF all is well with the network connection, more users may be browsing machines than using the Center’s function.

    Similarly, most users have only one network connection going at a time. (Home, Work, coffee shop)

    None of which is meant to pick a quarrel with anyone else.


  18. I’d like to have smth like “force connection” or “connect now” for the wireless networks. The rest works perfectly. L&F probably a bit confusing after XP 🙂

    For those, who has a slowness by Wi-Fi connection – it depends from the drivers and how many networks are around. I’ve updated the drivers for Intel Wi-fi and that helped a lot. Second, I’ve selected in my router the dynamic channel selection. Since than the connection is almost always immediate (I have to admit, that sometime it takes about a minute to connect)…

  19. The one thing that gets me is not the N&SC itself, but the lack of the old “Connect To” menu on the Start Menu. You used to be able to connect to a VPN right from the start menu. Now it pops up the “Connect to a network dialog” which then displays the old style connection dialog anyway. The whole thing seems unfinished.

    As for the N&SC itself, I never use it except to click through to get to my adapter properties. It might be useful to someone, but not to me.

    That being said, I develop network software for a living, and that probably does not make me an average user.

  20. I actually think its much more informative and lays out the details in an easier to read fashion. I was frustrated a bit trying to find the network connection properties, but once you find it its not hard.

    Wireless has improved over XP. I did have some problems with a weak signal confusing vista to thinking the password was incorrect, but otherwise I much prefer the network center.

    I wish the network button on the start menu went directly to network connections or the sharing center, rather than devices. But a right click properties takes you there.

  21. I absoulutely love it to the point that If XP had such a feature or programme I would pay to get it.
    My reason. _ I am in Africa and although the ISP here are improving they are not upto the mark and the connection drops lots of time. ( I use EVDO/Vsat/GPRS based on where I am .

    I t is so simple to look at the tray Icon and know that the 404 page not found error you are getting is beacuse you have lost your internet connection and not beacuse of the horrible ping times.

  22. Tray Icons – There is only one tray icon for both network and internet and when you mouse over I prefer the Xp way of stating the name of the network connection instead of stating the workgroup.
    I am on dialup and prefer the XP way of showing the activitywith the blinking icons to show I still have a connection as dialup will sometimes hang or dropout.

  23. Network problem 1 the diagnostics. In XP SP2 we got a dialog stating what was happening during a connection reset. In Vista I get a blue bar. It might seem user friendly to use a blue bar in stead of technobabble, but in practice it isn’t. I do not have to be able to understand the technobabble, it still tells me something is happening and the computer has not crashed. A blue bar, especially the diagnostic blue bar tells me nothing.

    Network problem 2 for Vista is discovery. It takes too much time especially since ‘always on’ network devices (i.e. a NAS) seem to be discovered last.

    Network problem 3 would be the not so helpful help texts in the center itself. Have you tried working out if you can stop password protection of the network without disabling sharing from reading the text? It did not work for me. Same for media sharing, very unclear. But that could just be me.

    Network problem 4. The connection to a Vista computer with media sharing on is finicky, especially sharing video sometimes drops the entire connection.

    Network problem 5 I can’t prioritize (or I can’t find the way to prioritize) the lan over the wi-fi connection. Using a dock and a notebook I want the lan on if it is available, falling back to slower wi-fi if needed. Vista works the other way around.

    Network problem 6 ad-hoc wireless p2p networks. The technology to quickly connect a few laptops to eacht other to share files and presentations. Great idea. Horrible user experience. (try transfering a file).

    Network problem 7 the full network map had trouble showing all connected equipment, and I can’t identify the devices Vista doesn’t recognize by hand.

    Sorry this post is probably getting to long. I’ll stop with a final note. Basic networking in Vista is not too bad, but trying to use it fully is not a pleasant user experience. My feeling is that they tried to please both powerusers and beginners, very ambitious. Unfortunately in this case they did not quite manage to ace it.

  24. Brent, if you will right click your taskbar and customize the start menu, you can get your “connect to” link back.

  25. I have a great practical example for you Ed. You know my background, so I know you will understand.

    Tonight I decided to change my wireless router info, SSID, password and channel. Once I set the router I went to my XP laptop, double clicked the wireless icon and in less than a minute I had my wireless going.

    I then grabbed the Vista laptop, had to right click the network icon to open Network and Sharing and then in a few extra steps took about a minute and a half to setup the wireless. I clicked okay and bingo, no connection to the internet. The wireless info showed that I had a network connection, the IP was proper and the DNS was the proper Comcast. That means it saw the internet, but wouldn’t connect. I had to do a repair and then it worked great.

    Too many steps, too dumbed down so that it takes too many extra steps and even then doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. If I was a regular user I’d be calling for someone like me to fix it.


  26. I’ll probably get used to it eventually, but as other people said, it simply takes too long to find anything. I have resorted to command line when dealing with people over the phone. There seems to be too much information or something, so people can’t focus to tell me what is on their screen.

    On a side-note, the 25 virtual connections that Vista always creates for some unknown reason, makes the output of ipconfig much more confusing than XP also. Maybe there is a new command line switch instead of /all to use, which doesn’t show the useless connections.

  27. This is something I ran into when setting up my home network. This will either work as a good example, or someone here will tell me what I’m doing wrong (so it’s win win). When setting up my wireless network, I set it up with a MAC-address control list (I know – many people think this is pointless), and I needed to get the MAC address of my wireless NIC to add to the list. Unfortunately, if a NIC isn’t connected to any network, the only way I know of in Vista (sans command line) to get the MAC address is greyed out (manage network connections/status/details). Essentially, the only way to get the MAC address in this scenario, without using “ipconfig /all”, in Vista is to disable MAC-address filtering, connect to the network, then check the status/details page. To contrast, in XP, I could just right click the desktop icon and choose properties/details to get it.

  28. Same issues as most people so I won’t get into the details:

    No right click NIC properties from the task bar, having to go into the N&SC takes too long
    Can’t find the MAC address through the GUI if the interface isn’t up (as Matt noted). I don’t mind using the cmd line if it wasn’t for the following:
    The gazillion interfaces that show up on an ifconfig /all
    Having to manually reconnect to a wireless connection after coming out of sleep mode (the one networking-related feature that I actually prefer on my Macbook Pro).

    I’ve only been using Vista full-time on a work laptop for week now though so there might be other issues. With all that being said, I do like the consolidated Network & Sharing Center which seems to organize all the networking features much better than they were in XP.

  29. I only ever did 2 things in the network section of XP and I find them very hard to do in Vista.

    I want to see the properties of a given network adapter and do something with it.
    Create a network place for an FTP site so it is easily browse able from the shell.

    The second I have yet to figure out how to do in Vista.

  30. I don’t use Vista myself but I do support others.

    My favourite is “connect to a network” (along the left side). It only shows wireless networks! This is of course entirely useless when you’ve just connected an ethernet cable and want to know why the interface isn’t up.

    Start -> Network -> Click on the bar that says you aren’t connected -> Click on the item on the menu appearing -> Click on “show devices” (?) on the left -> Disable, enable, properties, or repair. SO MANY CLICKS.

  31. I agree with alot of the above, vista’s networking tells me full of irrelevant crap while I have to spend a couple of minutes to see if this Intel 3945 wifi card has an IP address or not.

    I have the latest driver, and it still can take up to a minute for a right click on the network icon in the system tray to work. While some of the issues are with the wifi cxn, I think vista could make life a lot easier for power users.

    And the most frustrating thing is that there’s nothing the public can do about this. I’d even buy some sort of software which would handle my LAN and wifi connections and basically fill the functions of the NSC. If anyone has any ideas on how I can easily check my IP status without having to uninstall vista ultimate back to XP, let us know.

  32. What I did with Vista was to install the xirrus wifi monitor sidebar gadget. This gives you a nice quick view of your signal strength, Mac address and IP Address (although the IP is useless if you’re behind NAT because it shows your NAT address instead of the external IP.

  33. My network and sharing keeps crashing and goes into “not reponding”state when I disconnect from the vpn (remote access to hp), if you look at the status it shows connected but you can’t not access the network nor can you minimize or even close the network and sharing centre window, reboot it’s been my only option so far, can’t fing any info on the net.

  34. I find the network and sharing center will identify my wireless network connection, then “lose” it… returning to the “Identifiying…” mode. It finds it, identifies, and then recycles again. And again. And again…..

  35. John, that’s not the Network and Sharing Center doing that, it’s your network driver. The Network and Sharing Center is simply reporting what’s happening in real time.

    What’s your router? Have you checked whether there’s a firmware update and whether all settings are up to date?

    If the router is older, this might be part of the solution:


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