We were stumped this week by a Windows 10 computer that had to re-register with our wireless network every day. Turns out it’s a “feature” that was turned on in Windows 10.
Our Wallace network for faculty & staff and Gromit network for students both require that computers using them go through a registration process once a year. To register a computer you enter your Hampshire username and password, and once it is verified your computer is granted access to the network for the rest of the academic year. To accomplish this, behind the scenes we record a unique identifier for the computer so that the computer will be recognized the next time it connects to the network. The unique identifier is called the “Media Access Control” or “MAC” address for short.
Every device that connects to the internet has a MAC address that doesn’t change over the lifetime of the computer; Windows 10 adds a feature that allows the computer to make up a new (fake) MAC address every day. I won’t bore you with the details of why this might be desirable, but if you’re on the run from the FBI or hiding from the NSA you might want to consider it. On the other hand, if you’re on campus and want to use wireless, you definitely should make sure it’s off.
The consequence of this being turned on at Hampshire is that every day you will have to re-register your computer with the Hampshire network. Painful.
If you have a Windows 10 computer and have trouble connecting to our network, you might want to check the MAC address settings:
- Open up your Start menu and choose “Settings.”
- Select “Network and Internet.”
- In the panel on the left click on “Wi-Fi.”
- In the panel on the right select “Manage Wi-Fi settings.”
- In the “Random hardware address” section and under “Use random addresses for this network,” select either “On” (for a randomized MAC address that will stay the same) or “Off” (to use the computer’s actual MAC address).