10 mai 2012

Merge network locations in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The Network and Sharing Center dialog in Windows 8 Consumer Preview lacks the ability to edit the name and icon of the connected networks, and, most importantly, to merge network locations. I won't argue why it's important to be able to merge network locations — it's important for me, and that's enough.

This article describes certain techniques for altering the default behavior of the operating system. If you are not comfortable with editing Windows' registry settings, or if you find yourself doing stuff which you don't understand, stop. I am describing what works for me, not giving technical advice suitable for a production environment. Data loss may occur. Bad things may happen. You have been warned.

Should you want to merge the current network location, e.g., Network 2, into another location, say, e.g., Hotel, you can proceed as follows:
  1. Run the Registry Editor, as Administrator if needed, and navigate to HKLM/ Software/ Microsoft/ Windows NT/ CurrentVersion/ NetworkList.

  2. For safety, export the entire subree to a .reg file, so that you can always recover from unexplainable errors.
  3. Two keys are of interest here, Profiles and Signatures.
  4. Go to Signatures; there you will find two keys, Managed and Unmanaged. I assume that the network location which you want to merge into another one is unmanaged, because managed networks should not give such problems.

  5. Under Unmanaged you will find several keys with long hexadecimal names. Walk through them until you find the network which you want to merge into another network location, and the network location into which you want it to be merged.

  6. Make a note (using the Notepad) of the Description, DnsSuffix, FirstNetwork and, most importantly, ProfileGuid of the destination network location (that which will survive the merge).

  7. Go to the signature of the network which you want to merge, and replace the Description, DnsSuffix, FirstNetwork and, most importantly, ProfileGuid with those of the destination network.

  8. Navigate to  HKLM/ Software/ Microsoft/ Windows NT/ CurrentVersion/ NetworkList/ Profiles and delete the profile of the merged network.
    Actually, as best practice has it, you shouldn't delete it but rename it, for example by prepending (or appending) an underscore; but I'm sure you already do this by reflex, otherwise what business do you have messing with the Holy Registry? Delete it only after you have checked that everything is all right.

  9. Disable and then re-enable the network adapter, and check that the name and type of the network connection are set to the desired values.
May your Windows 8 Consumer Preview installation be fruitful and prosperous!

P.S. If what you want is to change the type of the network, from Private to Public or vice-versa,  or its name, you can delete the profile and the signature, then disable and re-enable the network adapter. Windows will find a new network and will ask you about its name and type.

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