A local network, formerly also known as a homegroup, is one of the easiest ways to share files between multiple computers connected to the same router. Thanks to this configuration, all the computers on the network can connect with each other, access shared files, send files to other computers, and even share resources such as printers with them. The local network also allows us, for example, to access a NAS server or a network hard drive connected to it.
Having several computers connected to the same local network is very useful and practical. However, depending on the network to which we are connected, and the users on it, we may not be interested in sharing our data and resources with others (for example, if we are on a public network and the others are computers unknown or untrusted). Therefore, we are going to see how we can configure our Windows 10 computer to make our PC visible, or invisible, within a local network.
Dangers within being visible on a LAN
Although sharing files with other users connected to the same local network may seem useful, comfortable and harmless, in fact, just by being visible on the network we are taking risks. The first of them is that any other user connected to the network will be able to access our files, and resources, directly, without problem. And, depending on what we share, this can be a danger.
Second, there are viruses that infect other computers through the local network. If our PC is invisible, the malware will not detect it and, therefore, we will avoid being infected. However, if we are visible on the local network, this virus will connect to our PC and, through various vulnerabilities (such as SMB, which led to the massive Wannacry attack ), it will infect our PC, even without attracting the attention of the antivirus. .
Connect and configure the local network
We don’t have to do anything special to be able to connect them to the local network. It is enough to have Windows installed on the PC, and to be connected to the Internet with a valid IP address. Nothing more. Of course, for security, before we can connect to other computers, and others can connect to ours, the first time we will have to give permission to the operating system.
The first time we try to find computers on the local network, we will realize that network discovery and resource sharing are disabled by default. After accepting that first message, we will be able to see a yellow box in the explorer window from which we will be able to change this behavior.
We click on the banner and choose the option « Activate network detection and file sharing «. Windows 10 will ask us how we want to do it. We can choose to either turn our network into a private network, and enable this feature, or enable network discovery on public networks.
We must select the first one. If we check the second, we can endanger our PC, since it will always appear when exploring networks. Once this option is selected, we will be able to see the other computers connected to the same network, and that have previously carried out this process.
How to make a PC visible, or invisible, in local LAN
There are two ways to make our PC visible or invisible on a local network, but both use the same concept: to change the configuration between public and private network. We are going to see both cases, the first of them, indicating how to go from a private network to a public one quickly, and the second how to make ourselves invisible in LAN both from a private network and from a public one.
Changing the network type
The Windows 10 firewall allows us to quickly configure PC security depending on whether we are connected to a public network or a private network. As we have indicated in the previous step, we should only allow sharing within private networks. Therefore, if we change the firewall settings and configure our PC as if it is on a public network, then we will disappear from the network.
To do this, we will open the Windows 10 Settings menu, and go to the ” Network and Internet> Status ” section. Here we can see our Internet connection, and open the “Properties” section of it.
Now we can see a series of options related to the configuration of our network. The section that interests us is ” Network Profile “. Here we will be able to choose if we are in a public network or in a private one. If we change from private to public network, we will automatically stop appearing on the local network.
Change sharing options for the local network
In addition, Windows 10 allows us to configure network and resource sharing for each network to which we connect. This, although some versions ago it could be done from the Settings menu as we have seen in the previous point, now it is only available in the Control Panel, which implies going a step back.
To configure it, what we must do is open the Windows 10 Control Panel, and go to the Network and Internet section> Network and Sharing Center> Advanced sharing settings.
Here we will be able to configure the behavior of our PC when connected to public networks and private networks. First of all, we will be able to choose if we want our PC to see all the other PCs connected to the network, and be seen by them. And, secondly, if we want the PC to be able to use files and printers and share its resources on the LAN. We can configure this individually for public networks and for private networks.
In addition, we will also have a common configuration for all networks.
From this section we can choose the behavior of the PC’s public folders, configure the transmission of multimedia content within the LAN through protocols such as DLNA, configure the use of data encryption and if we want the files to be shared with a password.
Thanks to these simple configurations, we will be able to have much more control over who can, or cannot, see our equipment on the network and connect to it.
Use a firewall
In the end, the one in charge of allowing who can or cannot see our connections is firewall. If we do not have any security suite installed on the PC, the one that will take care of this task will be the Windows firewall itself. But if we want to have more control over the visibility we have on the local network, it will be necessary to resort to other, more complete firewalls.
When installing an advanced security suite, such as ESET, Kaspersky or Bitdefender (to give a few examples), we will be installing a firewall at the same time. Within its options we will find a great variety of different parameters that we can configure depending on the desired behavior. We can quickly hide our presence with a couple of clicks, or enable the functions to appear and share files and resources on the local network. We can even allow or block certain protocols or ports according to the needs at all times. This way we will be able to have a much more complete control of who can, or not, see our computer.