Written by Eric Wyatt (last updated November 22, 2021)
When your computer uses Wi-Fi, you have the freedom of moving around and easily connecting to a network or the internet from anywhere. If you have the correct credentials, you can log on and access whatever you have been given permissions to access. You might think that this is reciprocal, and in many ways you are correct—a Wi-Fi network should not be able to access your computer unless you give permission (by joining the network). However, there is plenty of information that networks can gain from your computer even if you have not connected.
When your computer is not connected to Wi-Fi, it is continually sending out a signal looking for a network it can join. This signal includes information that can be used to identify your computer. This signal includes your computer's unique physical hardware (MAC) address. If you are using a laptop, for example, when you are in areas such as airports, shopping centers, or coffee houses, your MAC address can be used to track your movement in that area. Even if you are on a desktop computer in an area with other Wi-Fi networks your information can be shared.
Windows, fortunately, has a feature called Random Hardware Addresses that, when enabled, secures your computer so that no one can see this information. To turn Random Hardware Addresses on in Windows 10 or 11, follow these simple steps.
Your changes take effect immediately. It is that simple to enable Random Hardware Addresses on your computer.
If you followed the steps above and did not see the Random Hardware Addresses option, it is because your Wi-Fi card does not yet support Random Hardware Addresses. It is also important to note that enabling Random Hardware Addresses in an IT administered environment can cause problems, so you'll want to consult with your IT administrator before enabling the feature.
Now you can help hide the information your computer sends out to Wi-Fi networks, and potentially keep your movements private within various locations.
This tip (11903) applies to Windows 10 and 11.
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