Windows 8 to reconnect to Wi-Fi in seconds

23 Jan 2012

Microsoft unveils details of how Windows 8 will manage mobile connections

Windows 8 will reconnect to wireless connections instantly from standby - sometimes even faster than the display turns on, Microsoft has said.

In its latest in a series of blog posts about Windows 8, Microsoft has revealed how the next-generation OS will manage wireless connections, detailing how it will borrow from smartphones to better integrate mobile broadband.

Microsoft said it wanted to make mobile broadband more like Wi-Fi, integrating it into the OS and natively supporting major mobile operators.

That will mean its connections are configured without having to download connection managers, although Windows 8 will still automatically download a mobile operator's app from the Windows Store. All drivers will be kept up-to-date via Windows Update, Microsoft said.

That integration, alongside optimised operations in the networking stack and passing the right information to the Wi-Fi adapter, means restarting connections will be as instant-on as turning on the machine from standby.

"This means you can reconnect your PC to a Wi-Fi network from standby in about a second - oftentimes before your display is even ready," said Billy Anders, group programme manager, in post on the Building Windows 8 blog. "You do not have to do anything special for this - Windows just learns which network you prefer and manages everything for you."

Windows 8 connection chart

The new system will allow all connections to be controlled from one manager without installing extra software, letting users disable all of them at once with a new "airplane mode".

"This is new for PCs even though it has obviously long been available on mobile phones," Anders said.

Cost aware

Much like with most smartphones, Windows 8 will favour Wi-Fi connections over mobile broadband, automatically switching to the former if a solid connection is available.

"On a PC that has both mobile broadband and Wi-Fi, we'll move you from mobile broadband to the less costly Wi-Fi network automatically whenever Wi-Fi is available, again reducing your mobile broadband usage and your potential for bill shock," he said.

Microsoft has also developed a set of "cost aware" APIs, to allow developers creating Metro Style apps to also keep an eye on data use, demonstrating an in house application that downloads images as lower quality over mobile broadband, but increases the quality when on a fixed-line or Wi-Fi.

This is new for PCs even though it has obviously long been available on mobile phones

Connections will have built-in data counters, which can be set to track data constantly, month-to-month or by session, with more granular data details available via the task manager or the mobile operator's own app.

If an operator creates a Metro Style app, it will be able to show notifications on the Start screen if data use nears a monthly cap.

Windows Update will also defer downloading updates until the PC is on a "non-metered" connection, such as home broadband - unless the download is to fix a critical security update, such as a "worm-like vulnerability".

"In that case, Windows Update will download the update regardless of the network type," Anders said, adding that users would be able to change such settings if they wanted Windows 8 to manage their connections differently.

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