In Windows 8, when you connect to a wireless network, it will either register it as a public network or a private network. Private networks are basically home and work whereas public is anywhere else. Sometimes Windows 8 detects a private network as a public one and vice versa. You can manually make some changes to ensure that you are not accidentally sharing too much on a public network or blocking all sharing on a private network.

Updated March, 2014: Windows 8.1 has changed the process for switching from public to private, so this post has been updated to show the new method. 

Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, to change the network profile, we have to go into the PC Settings screen. To do that, open the Charms bar and click on Change PC Settings at the bottom.

change pc settngs

Now click on Network and you’ll see the list of connections, i.e Ethernet, Wireless, etc.

network connections

Now all you have to do is turn on the Find devices and content option. It’s automatically turned off for public networks, so when you turn it on, it changes the network to a private network.

find devices and content

Windows 8

For Windows 8, follow the following procedure. First, right-click on the network icon in the Windows 8 system tray and click on Open Network and Sharing Center.

network sharing

Here you will see the network you are connected to and what type of network Windows 8 has identified it as.

private network

As you can see above, my network is considered a Private network, which is correct since I’m at home and connected via Ethernet. If this is incorrect, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can click on Change advanced sharing settings in the left-hand pane.

change sharing settings

Click on Private and then make sure you have these options enabled:

– Turn on network discovery

– Turn on file and printer sharing

– Allow Windows to manage homegroup connections

network sharing

Then collapse Private and expand Guest or Public and make sure you have these options set:

– Turn off network discovery

– Turn off file and printer sharing

public network

Once you have done this, you need to go to the Windows 8 desktop and open the Charms bar. Click on Settings and then click on the Network icon.

network settings

You’ll see Network and then Connected. Go ahead and right-click on that and choose Turn sharing on or off.

turn sharing on

Now choose "Yes" if you want your network to be treated like a private network and "No" if you want it to be treated like a public network. Note that the label Private or Public may remain the same in the Network and Sharing Center, but once you choose the sharing settings manually, the network will have the appropriate settings applied.

turn sharing off

As a last resort, if you really can’t stand that the label is "Public" when the network is actually private, you can manually change the network location using a tool called secpol.msc. Click on the Start Screen, then right-click and choose All apps, then click on Run. Type in secpol.msc into the Run dialog box.

run dialog

Then click on Network List Manager Policies at the left and on the right-hand side you should see a couple of items with descriptions and then something called Network, which is the current network you are connected to. It may also be called something else, but it doesn’t have a description.

network list manager policies

Double-click on it and click on the Network Location tab. Here you can manually change the network location from Private to Public and vice versa.

network location

That’s about it! Not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s Microsoft! If you are having problems with changing network locations in Windows 8, post a comment here and we’ll help. Enjoy!