By default, all WiFi networks broadcast the so-called Service Set Identifier (SSID) every 100 milliseconds to let other devices know about their presence. If you were able to hear and understand the signals broadcasted by your router, you would probably want to cover your ears because all routers around you are constantly shouting something like, “This is BASEMENTWIFI!” or “Hi, I’m CISCO_NETWORK!”
Well, almost all routers. Some routers don’t broadcast their SSID because the hidden network WiFi option has been turned on in the settings. This option stops the broadcasting of the network’s SSID, which effectively causes it to disappear and become invisible to all devices that connect to WiFi networks.
In the past, activating the hidden network WiFi option used to be a popular security mechanism, but it has since fallen out of favor because there are many easy-to-use tools that make it extremely straightforward to find hidden networks and see detailed information about them. One such tool is NetSpot, and we explain how to find hidden networks with it later in this article.
Because hidden networks don’t broadcast their names, it takes a few more steps to connect to them. You also need to know a few things about the hidden network you want to connect to, namely:
If you have all this information, you can follow the instructions below for your platform.
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on Windows 10
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on Windows 8 and Older
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on macOS
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on Linux (GNOME)
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on Android
How to Connect to Hidden Networks on iOS
Just because hidden networks don’t broadcast their names doesn’t mean they’re completely hidden. Because hidden networks still communicate with other devices, it’s possible to detect using a wireless network analyzer like NetSpot.
NetSpot is a versatile wireless network analyzer that can instantly collect detailed information about all WiFi networks available in the area and present it as an interactive table.
When NetSpot detects a hidden WiFi network, it lists it as “Hidden SSID” and provides the following information:
You can also use NetSpot to survey a known hidden WiFi network, which can be useful when setting up a home wireless network you don’t want your neighbors to see or deploying a business network that’s intended only for employees.
To survey a hidden WiFi network with NetSpot:
A hidden network doesn’t broadcast the so-called Service Set Identifier (SSID), which is essentially a fancy way to say that it doesn’t disclose its name. Such networks are not really any more secure than networks that do broadcast their SSID because finding them isn’t difficult.
To get rid of a hidden network, you need to log in to your router’s admin panel and go to WiFi settings. There, look for an option called Hidden Network and disable it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to restart your router for the change to take effect.
To find a hidden network, you need a WiFi analyzer capable of capturing the wireless activity around you and associating with specific networks.
Some routers are configured from the factory to broadcast a hidden network for a variety of different reasons. In most cases, you should be able to disable the hidden network from the router’s admin panel.