In Microsoft Windows, a Wi-Fi wireless local network that does not broadcast its name (SSID) is known as a hidden network. Special care should be taken with hidden networks as they can trigger issues with Windows devices.
Setting Up Hidden Networks
Making a Wi-Fi network hidden requires a simple configuration change on its wireless router. Home routers provide a configuration option on their consoles usually called "disable SSID broadcast" for this purpose.
Finding Hidden Networks in Windows
When a Windows computer discovers a hidden network on one of its periodic local Wi-Fi scans, it alerts the user by displaying an entry called "Hidden Network" (Windows 8.1) or "Other Network" (Windows 7) in its dynamically updated llist of neighbor networks.
Connecting to Hidden Networks in Windows
Setting up a connection to a hidden wireless network requires a user to manually enter its configuration data via Windows Network and Sharing Center. Required information about the hidden network includes its
As with other types of Wi-Fi networks, Windows will automatically connect to that hidden network in the future if that user preference is selected.
Technical Difficulties with Hidden Networks
Beside the error prone nature of setting up the initial connection, issues with Windows devices being able to re-connect to hidden networks have been reported in the past and discussed at length on public forums.
For example, Windows XP had a known issue where the O/S would not re-connect to that network even if the user specified that option (see Microsoft KB 907405). Re-connection failures can also occur whenever the router administrator updates the SSID or wireless security settings and the Windows device are not updated to match.
Should Your Home Network Be Hidden?
Security experts generally agree that configuring a home router to hide its SSID helps little in protecting it from attack. Network sniffer tools can still discover the name with minimal effort on the part of a hacker.
On the other hand, hidden networks have been the source of Wi-Fi connection troubles with Windows PCs in the past as described above. For increased peace of mind, there is no harm in setting up your home network as hidden, as long as appropriate precautions with the Windows devices are followed.