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How to quickly access your network connections in Windows 7 and Vista

This week we're running a series of posts that tackle common Windows networking issues, and some tips and tricks that might speed up or improve your network stability. You can find more tech tips in our Tips index.

One small Windows XP feature I used to lean on frequently was "Connect To" -- it provided easy access to a computer's network connections right from the Start Menu. I also like being able to right-click on a connection icon in the system tray to access the same screen. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, however, neither of those options are available -- so what's the best way to open your network connections screen in a hurry?

Option 1: use the search box

I'm constantly amazed by how many Windows 7 and Vista users have no idea they can search right from the Start Menu. Click your Windows button (or hit the Windows Flag key on your keyboard) and type the word connections in the search box. Wait a moment, and you'll see view network connections appear. Click it, and you'll be shown every network adapter.

Option 2: remember the magic words

No, not open sesame -- in this case, it's ncpa.cpl. A .cpl file is a Control Panel applet in Windows -- which you can see sprawled out if you turn on classic view when you have the screen open. Typing ncpa.cpl into either the search box or run dialog and pressing enter will also get you to your connections in a hurry. You can also enter control netconnections... but that's so many more letters!

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