How to Get a Free Wi-Fi Connection

By LaDonna Hadley

Learn where to find and how to connect to free WiFi services and keep your information safe while connected.

Things You'll Need

  • large aluminum bowl
  • usb wifi dongle
  • usb extender cable
  • computer/laptop

Free Wi-Fi services are offered by many businesses and public places. Learn how to connect using free Wi-Fi and how to keep your information safe while you are connected.

About Free Wi-Fi

Many businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and shopping malls and some public places such as schools, libraries and courthouses offer free Wi-Fi to customers and patrons as a complimentary service. The Internet connection is usually only available while you are in the establishment or within an established perimeter outside where outdoor seating is offered. The connection is an open network which leaves you vulnerable to others seeing the information you send and receive while on the network. Look for signs or ask an employee or representative to find out if free Wi-Fi is offered and if a password is required.

Warning

For places that offer Internet connections outside the physical building, time limits may apply. They may not offer Wi-Fi after business hours.

Tip

Check for time limits to avoid interruptions in service.

How to Connect

Connect Through a Browser

Some free Wi-Fi connections require you to accept terms through a browser before granting access.

Step 1

Open your browser on your laptop or mobile device. Depending on the device, either the home page redirects to the connection page or a new tab opens to a connection page.

Step 2

Agree to the terms of service. Some connections may also require you to click Go, Continue or Accept to proceed.

Step 3

Some free Wi-Fi requires you to log in to the network. Enter the required username and password supplied by the business and click the Go, Enter or Continue button to proceed.

Tip

Connections at schools or public libraries may require you to sign in with your username and password or a library card number. Some businesses, like hotels and convention centers, may provide you with a guest login.

Connect Through Settings

Step 1

On a Windows 8 computer, hover the cursor in the upper-right corner or along the right side of the screen to open the tool bar. Click Settings.

Tip

Connecting through Settings is also the method to connect to your Wi-Fi at home.

Step 2

Choose the Wi-Fi icon, denoted by rising bars.

Step 3

Move the control to the right to turn Wi-Fi on. All the available connections are listed, starting with the strongest. Click one of the options.

Step 4

For unsecured connections, a warning appears. A shield with an exclamation point signals a private or unsecured connection. A password field appears when a password is required. Enter a password if asked and then click Connect.

Warning

You may see other available Wi-Fi connections including secured networks and personal or residential connections. Only use connections that you have permission to use.

Safety Measures

Firewalls

Firewalls create a barrier between incoming and outgoing information on a computer. Most computers have firewalls installed to keep people from hacking your computer. Turn firewalls on and increase the security levels for maximum protection.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software scans your computer or other device for viruses and malware. Keep your anti-virus software on and updated to detect dangerous activity on your device.

Turn Sharing Off

Share settings permit your computer to save passwords and automatically connect to websites and social networks. While share settings allow you to easily share pictures and update your status, this is an open avenue for hackers when you are on an open network. Turn sharing settings off to prevent people from accessing your device through sharing channels.

Protect Passwords

Passwords provide access to services, accounts and websites, but using the same or similar ones for multiple websites makes it easy for others to access your information. Protect your passwords by using different passwords, changing your passwords often or using password management services such as Dashlane, LastPass or Sticky Password.

Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network provides added protection for your information as you surf the Web. A VPN can be thought of as a network within a network that encrypts your information through digital tunnels. Free and paid VPN services are available. Free services include CyberGhost, FreeVPN and VPNBook. Paid services include IPVanish, Private Internet Access and TorGuard.

Free Wi-Fi connections are open networks, which leaves your information vulnerable while you are connected. To protect sensitive information such as credit card numbers, bank accounts and passwords, use safety measures.

Warning

No Internet connection can offer a 100 percent guarantee to keep your information safe. Using one or more safety measures increases security levels, but caution should still be used any time you are connected to the Internet.