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How do I enable and disable Wi-Fi?

Laptops today all have Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) built-in, allowing people to connect to the Internet from almost anywhere. For security reasons, compatibility, or other reasons, you may want to enable and disable the Wi-Fi on your laptop.

Note: If your Wi-Fi is not working or the suggested buttons do not work, see our "Why is my Wi-Fi not working?" document for steps in troubleshooting your Wi-Fi.

How to enable Wi-Fi on a laptop
How to disable Wi-Fi on a laptop
Wi-Fi on Desktop computers

How to enable Wi-Fi on a laptop

Wi-Fi can be enabled by performing any of the steps below.

laptop wi-fi buttonEnable with laptop Wi-Fi button

Some laptops have an On/Off button or switch for the Wi-Fi connection, like the button shown in the picture to the right. It is usually found on the front edge of the laptop or just above the keyboard. Find the button or switch and make sure it is enabled. When enabled, the button should be illuminated as blue, or the switch should be in the On position.

Enable with laptop Fn and Function key

Some laptops enable and disable Wi-Fi using the Fn key and one of the function keys (F1-F12). As seen in the picture to the right, some laptops use the Fn and F12 key to enable and disable Wi-Fi and may show a small LED that is either orange when disabled or blue when enabled.

Enable in Windows

Look in the Windows notification area to find the icon for Wi-Fi or wireless Internet. Right-click with your mouse on the icon and select the option for enabling (or turning off) the Wi-Fi device in the pop-up menu. If no Enable option is available in the pop-up menu, there may be an option called Open Network and Sharing Center. If so, select this option and then select Change adapter settings. You should see an icon for the wireless network card, which you can right-click and select Enable.

Note: In Windows 8, when you right-click the Wi-Fi icon, check to see if Airplane Mode is turned on. If it is, turn it off to enable the wireless network card.

The Wi-Fi adapter can also be enabled in the Control Panel, click on the Network and Sharing Center option, then click on the Change adapter settings link in the left navigation pane. Right-click on the Wi-Fi adapter and select Enable.

Enable in Windows Device Manager

Access the Device Manager by right-clicking with your mouse on the My Computer icon on your Desktop or in the Windows Start menu. Select Properties from the pop-up menu, click on the Hardware tab in the window that opens up, and click on the Device Manager button.

Note: In Windows Vista and later, there is no Hardware tab.  Just click the Device Manager link in the System window.

Find the Wi-Fi adapter in the list of hardware devices. Right-click on the adapter name and select Enable from the pop-up menu. If no Wi-Fi adapter is found in Device Manager, the Wi-Fi adapter drivers are not installed.

Enable in CMOS setup

Finally, there is also the option of enabling the Wi-Fi device from within the computer's CMOS setup. However, it is very unlikely that the Wi-Fi device would be disabled in CMOS.

How to disable Wi-Fi on a laptop

Wi-Fi can be disabled by performing any of the steps below.

laptop wi-fi buttonDisable with laptop Wi-Fi button

Some laptops have an On/Off button or switch for the Wi-Fi device, like the button shown in the picture to the right. It is usually found on the front of the laptop or just above the keyboard. Find the button or switch and make sure it is disabled. When disabled, the button should not be illuminated or illuminated as orange or red, or the switch should be in the Off position.

Disable with laptop Fn and Function key

Some laptops enable and disable Wi-Fi using the Fn key and one of the function keys (F1-F12). As seen in the picture to the right, some laptops use the Fn and F12 key to enable and disable Wi-Fi and may show a small LED that is either orange when disabled or blue when enabled.

Disable in Windows

Right-click on the Wi-Fi icon in the Windows notification area and select Disable (or Turn Off) from the pop-up menu. If no Disable option is available in the pop-up menu, there may be an option called Open Network and Sharing Center. If so, select this option and then select Change adapter settings. You should see an icon for the wireless network card, which you can right-click and select Disable.

Note: In Windows 8, when you right-click the Wi-Fi icon, you can turn off Wi-Fi by turning on Airplane Mode.

The Wi-Fi adapter can also be disabled by accessing the Control Panel, clicking on the Network and Sharing Center option, then click on the Change adapter settings link in the left navigation pane. Right-click on the Wi-Fi adapter and select Disable.

Disable in Windows Device Manager

Access the Device Manager by right-clicking with your mouse on the My Computer icon on your Desktop or in the Windows Start menu. Select Properties from the pop-up menu, click on the Hardware tab in the window that opens up, and click on the Device Manager button.

Note: In Windows Vista and later, there is no Hardware tab.  Just click the Device Manager link in the System window.

Find the Wi-Fi adapter in the list of hardware devices. Right-click on the adapter name and select Disable from the pop-up menu. If no Wi-Fi adapter is found in Device Manager, the Wi-Fi adapter drivers are not installed.

Disable in CMOS Setup

As is the case with enabling the Wi-Fi device, it can also be disabled in the computer's CMOS setup.

Wi-Fi on Desktop computers

Wi-Fi adapters are also available for Desktop computers. The Wi-Fi button mentioned above is not available with most Desktop computers. However, there is the possibility that the Wi-Fi adapter itself (typically an external version, like a USB Wi-Fi adapter) has an On/Off button or switch. If there is no button or witch, disconnecting the adapter from the computer will disable the device.

If the Wi-Fi adapter is not an external device, it is either an internal PCI expansion card or built onto the motherboard. When you install the software for the Wi-Fi adapter, an icon will then show in the Windows notification area, giving you access to enable and disable the device. Alternatively, you can disable and enable the Wi-Fi adapter through the Device Manager or the CMOS setup.

Additional information