How to Connect to a Free Public WiFi

By Billy Kirk

Free public WiFi is an excellent Internet access solution that provides wireless, broadband access at no charge. Whether you have a Mac or PC, all you need is a computer equipped with an internal WiFi card in order to join a public hotspot. Even if you lack such a card, using an external USB dongle attachment will also grant you access. No other tools or devices are necessary to enjoy free public WiFi, and joining these hotspots requires no previous WiFi knowledge.

Things You'll Need

  • Internal WiFi card or external USB WiFi dongle

Step 1

Determine whether you have an internal WiFi card on board your computer. If you do, you are ready to scan for and join free public WiFi networks. If you are unaware whether your computer has such a card, check the specifications of your machine listed with the manuals and documentation that originally shipped with it.

Step 2

Plug in and use an external WiFi USB dongle if you do not have an internal WiFi card on board. This dongle is fairly small in size and resembles a slightly oversized memory key. Ensure it is snug in any USB port on your computer, then restart your computer once it has detected the new hardware. You will be greeted with an on-screen message indicating hardware detection.

Step 3

Search for and click on the wireless network icon that is on your computer's desktop screen. Depending upon the operating system you run, you will find the icon in one of two places. In OS X on a Mac, this icon will be on the right hand side of the top desktop toolbar, beside the volume icon. In Windows you will find the icon on the right hand side of the bottom toolbar, positioned beside either utility icons.

Step 4

Look through the list of available networks that pops up once you click on the wireless network icon. This list is of all the networks in your area that you are in range of, both public and private. Clicking on a network name will either allow you to join immediately or present you with a dialog box asking for a password. In the latter case, hit the "Cancel" button and back out to the network list. Try to join a network until you find a public WiFi hotspot that is not password protected.

Step 5

Wait a few moments after clicking to join the free public WiFi network. You should see your wireless icon update to indicate you've joined the hotspot. You may now surf the Internet using this connection.