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I am running Windows 7 RC, but have noticed this behavior on Windows Vista as well.

When I am in an area that has a wireless network and I plug in my wired network so I can get a better connection (faster, more reliable), Windows continues to use the wireless network for everything.

It is not a matter of if a connection starts on the wireless it stays there, and I just need to restart my apps. All connections, new and old, are started on the wireless if it is available, irregardless of the wired connection being active or not.

Right now I toggle my hardware wifi switch on my laptop, but I would prefer if I could tell Windows to prefer one connection over the other.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Looks like Windows (XP, Vista, 7) are supposed to do this automatically. Windows uses the lowest 'metric' connection. You can manually alter these metrics if it isn't working correctly, but in most cases, wired should be preferred over wireless automatically. Check the source below for more how-to and explanation.


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My first thought in response to this was "Doesn't the metric only control routing and not what source address is used?" But I found a TechNet article that suggests the best route actually determines the connection endpoint to use in Vista and later: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/2007.09.cableguy.aspx Can someone actually confirm this behaviour? –  rakslice Nov 4 '11 at 1:30
One thing the article doesn't specifically mention is how to check your metric values. Type route print at a cmd prompt. My wireless was 10 and my wired was 20 in XP. –  Luke Nov 28 '12 at 21:57

th3dude's answer is great but he doesn't mention a key point in the link he provided.

From the link that th3dude posted: http://blogs.technet.com/b/clint_huffman/archive/2009/04/19/windows-prefers-wired-connections.aspx

You should know that Vista made a change to how we handle existing sockets – after plugging in, connections will not be switched over, you must re-establish the connection in order to make use of a wired connection. For example, if you’re downloading something from a website and realize that it would go faster by plugging in, you’d have to cancel and start over after plugging in. This is a change from XP and 2003. Here is a good reference:

The Cable Guy Strong and Weak Host Models http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/2007.09.cableguy.aspx

Which means that when I am on wireless at work in a conference room and then drop the laptop back on the dock, I have to disconnect (software) from the wireless connection OR disable (hardware switch) the wireless adapter to get back on the wired network.

Hopefully that helps you understand that it is probably not the 'metricing' that is choosing the wireless adapter but rather that Windows no longer auto-switches as it did in XP.

I'm not sure why Microsoft thought this was preferred behavior. I would have preferred a pop-up asking me whether to enable the wired adapter instead at the risk of ongoing downloads and sessions. Windows 7 makes me answer all kinds of other popups.

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Leave it to Microsoft to take something that works just fine and make it harder. –  Chance Feb 22 '12 at 19:26
@Keith: your answer is slightly misleading, you do not strictly need to disable your wireless connection. new TCP connections will use the wired connection, existing TCP connections will continue to use the wireless connection if they were already using it. –  dwurf May 14 '12 at 23:09

I tried every answer I could find but what worked in the end is me stumbling across right-clicking my wireless connection in the list of all available wireless connections (left-click up arrow near clock, then left-click on your connection, then right-click on the wireless connection you want to have available, but not be the default connect-to choice, and then clicking "Properties"). Under the "Connections" tab, uncheck "Connect automatically when this network is in range." This was even still necessary after changing the Metrics!

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Nice, but I doubt this will disconnect wireless and connect wired when plugged in? –  Arjan Aug 26 '13 at 8:32
Yes; I doubt that too. –  Jake Aug 26 '13 at 22:43
I think the information I provided will still help people though. –  Jake Aug 26 '13 at 23:08

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