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Whenever I go to View Wireless Networks in Windows, there is always an unsecured computer-to-computer network called "Free Public Wi-Fi". You can't get any connection from it, but why is is always there?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You may have previously connected to an Ad-Hoc network where the credentials were saved. When you do this, Windows usually keeps the settings so you can easily connect in the future.

No matter what version of Windows you are using - make a good tool That should allow you to delete cached/stored connections, Nirsoft Wireless Key View (However, I cannot guarantee this will work as I have never used it with Ad-Hoc connections).

You have not stated what version of Windows you are using.

For Windows XP

For Windows XP, simply go to "Network Connections" and right click your Wireless card, look for the middle tab Wireless Networks and under preferred networks, simply press delete on the correct one.

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For Windows Vista and 7

For Windows Vista and 7, Go to Network and Sharing Center and click Manage Wireless Networks then simply delete the networks you no longer want to connect to.

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Thorough answer (with freehand circles :D ) +1. –  John T Jan 10 '10 at 23:08
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Here's a possible explanation for how it all came to be, written back in 2006...

http://blogs.chron.com/techblog/archives/2006/09/free_public_wif.html

When Windows connects to a network, it retains that network's name, or SSID, then broadcasts it as an ad hoc network, essentially inviting a connection. You can find more details here. Microsoft has said it will fix this in the next XP service pack; it's unclear if Windows Vista behaves this way.

The details explain:

The following is a sample scenario:

  • Alice has a wireless access point at home with an SSID of "linksys", which she has successfully set up and connected to with her laptop.
  • Alice goes to the airport (or train station or coffee shop) and opens her laptop.
  • Bob, who is sitting next to Alice, has a laptop configured with an ad-hoc network advertising an SSID of "linksys".
  • Alice's laptop when started looks for the SSID of "linksys", and attachs to Bob's ad-hoc network.
  • The next time Alice boots up the laptop when the Ethernet cable is not attached and there is no "linksys" SSID in range, Alice starts advertising an ad-hoc network with an SSID of "linksys".

This is basically a configuration error that spreads virus-like from laptop to laptop. In field tests, numerous ad-hoc SSIDs such as "linksys", "dlink", "tmobile", "hpsetup", and others have been documented.

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