How to Protect Your Windows PC on Public Wi-Fi

Connecting your Windows 10 PC to your home or work Wi-Fi can be a safe and secure way to bring your PC online. But when a hotspot is accessible to the public, the security rules are more relaxed to allow everyone to connect.

For this reason, a public hotspot may not be as secure as you would like, and some people may exploit this lax security to hack into your computer and steal your valuable information. Let’s take a look at some ways to protect your Windows 10 computer when using public Wi-Fi.

How to protect your Windows 10 PC on public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi at a seaside restaurant

We’re not saying that all public Wi-Fi hotspots are unsafe. In fact, many of them are safe, but it’s hard to say who you can trust. So instead of wasting valuable time trying to figure out how safe a public network is, follow these steps to make sure your Windows 10 PC looks like Fort Knox to hackers and other cybercriminals.

1. Always keep Windows up to date

Making sure your version of Windows is up to date goes a long way in making your computer a badass. Most Windows updates include security improvements, especially those released on Patch Tuesday. Also, if you’re using a version of the operating system that Microsoft no longer supports, you’ll miss out on security updates altogether.


If you have automatic updates turned on, which most Windows computers do by default, you don’t have to do anything as the operating system will download and install them for you. However, if you have disabled them, you can do it yourself manually.

Click on To start up and select the gear icon to access Settings. Then go to Updates and Security and download the latest Windows updates.

Installing Windows 10 Update

To stay on top of updates, ask Windows to notify you when important updates are available, especially when they have to do with strengthening the security of your PC.

2. Make sure you have your firewall enabled

The main purpose of a firewall is to prevent hackers and other external threats from gaining unauthorized access to your computer. Even with antivirus, you still need a firewall because antivirus programs only deal with malware or malicious software, not people.

And the one thing that differentiates people from viruses is that they have hundreds of tricks up their sleeve to get into your computer. That means you need all the protection you can get.

To make sure your Windows 10 firewall is enabled, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Firewall & Network Protection. Now check under Public network and make sure it says Firewall is enabled.

Public network firewall set on Windows 10

If the firewall is disabled, click Public network and turn on Microsoft Defender Firewall.

Microsoft Defender Firewall Enabled

Update your anti-virus software

Malware helps hackers take control of your PC. For example, a Trojan can disguise itself as a legitimate program while working in the background to take control of your system. Once the Trojan succeeds, it creates a backdoor that allows hackers to enter and control your computer.

A lot of malware hangs around on public Wi-Fi networks, and a good Windows 10 antivirus is your first line of defense. Make sure to update your antivirus before connecting to public Wi-Fi. This way, it will install new virus definitions and protect you from the latest threats.

avast virus definition update

Also, enable real-time protection and perform full system scans regularly to protect your PC from malware.

Related: The best antivirus software for Windows 10

Use the HTTPS protocol at all times

In a nutshell, HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP is a set of rules that govern how your computer (client) and website (server) send data back and forth. Without getting too technical, HTTPS means that the protocol asks the client and the server to communicate over a secure connection (the S at the end). Therefore, the sender will need to encrypt the data before sending it so that only the receiver can decrypt it.

Anyone who manages to intercept the connection between the two will get encrypted data, and it will be indecipherable gibberish for them. So before visiting any website, especially on public Wi-Fi, make sure the link starts with HTTPS, which means it’s secure.

google https in chrome address bar

Of course, modern browsers have tools and extensions that ensure that you always connect to secure sites. Chrome, for example, allows you to do this by going to Settings > Security & Privacy > Security and switch to Always use secure connections.

chrome configured to always use https

When you use a VPN, you redirect your Internet connection through a private network with additional security measures to prevent malicious attacks. Additionally, a VPN encrypts all the data you send, just like HTTPS. Please read our guide on setting up a VPN in Windows 10 to get that extra layer of security.

Make your PC invisible on the network

When you’re on a public network, you don’t want other people accessing your computer’s files and folders. You can make them inaccessible when you first connect to the free hotspot. Windows will ask you if you want your PC to be discoverable on the network, and you will have to click on No.

connect to wifi on windows 10

Another way to do this is to click on the Wi-Fi icon to display the list of available networks. Click on Free Wi-Fi to expand it, then select Properties.

wifi properties windows 10

Then set the Network profile at public. This will make your PC hidden on the public Wi-Fi network.

set network profile to public on windows 10

Related: How to Share Network Files in Windows 10

Avoid putting your Windows PC at risk in the first place

Before connecting to public Wi-Fi, use your best judgment to determine the security of the hotspot. As a general rule, you should not connect to a network that you do not know. And when you’re not using your Wi-Fi, turning it off will prevent your PC from automatically connecting to hotspots you don’t know about.

Also, remember that your phone is practically a Wi-Fi hotspot on its own. You can easily create an Android hotspot or create an iPhone hotspot and share your mobile device’s internet with your Windows computer. This way, you don’t have to connect to a public hotspot when you’re away from home or your office and need the internet.

Now your Windows 10 PC is safe on public Wi-Fi

Being hacked is one of the scariest and most negative experiences one can have. And hackers love hanging out on public Wi-Fi networks, hoping someone is wrong, so they can gain access to their valuable information. With the tips outlined above, you can prevent this from happening, making your Windows 10 machine extremely secure when connected to a public hotspot.

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