Wireless is the norm these days, whether it's at home, at work or on the road, you'll often connect to Wi-Fi networks and hotspots for internet access. But it’s not the easiest functionality to either connect to or get to grips with.

With this in mind, we've rounded up 12 of the best downloads designed to make your Wi-Fi life easier. From locating and connecting to networks to staying safe when you're connected, we've got it all covered.

It is worth noting that a number of these programs require that your firewall allow them through, so make sure to tell the firewall not to block them.


Download WeFi to see how wireless networking meets social networking. It's a great way not just to find hotspots and connect to them, but also to get in touch with existing friends and make new ones. After you download the free software, it will show you all the nearby hotspots to which you can connect, including whether the network is encrypted or open, and the signal strength. Double-click any to connect. In addition to seeing the hotspots in the software, you can also see all nearby hotspots on a map on a web page.

If you want to meet up with people who are connected to hotspots near you, click the People tab, and you'll see a list of people nearby. You can then obtain more information about any of them, and contact them as well. The software also lets you easily upload information about the hotspots you've found and add them to the site's maps.

Plug and browse

If you often connect to more than one wireless or wired network, for example one at home and one at work, you know the meaning of frustration. Networks usually have different settings. One, for instance, may issue IP addresses via DHCP, while another uses a static IP address. One may have a certain set of firewall rules and a default printer, and another network a different set of rules and its own printer. Perhaps one network requires that a script be run when you connect, or has a set of mapped drives, and others don't.

Whenever you connect to a different network, you need to change all those settings manually, which can take a considerable amount of time. That's where Plug and Browse helps. This exceedingly simple tool lets you instantly switch to new, predefined network settings in a flash: you set up a profile for each different network, and then just double-click the profile you need when you connect to a particular network.

Making things even easier is the fact that you don't need to create the profiles manually. Connect to a network and tell the program to gather the settings, and it does it all for you automatically, creating a new profile. The program works with any kind of network, so it's useful even if you don't connect wirelessly. A free demo is available but the full program costs $40 (£20)

NEXT PAGE: JiWire Wi-Fi hotspot finder for Windows XP

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