Windows Prefers Wired Connections


Awhile ago someone asked me about how to make their laptop prefer their wired internet connection versus their wireless when both are connected to the internet. The short answer is that Windows (Vista, 7, 2008, and I’m pretty sure XP and 2003 does as well) does this by default. The key here is the network interface metric. When you have more than one default gateway defined (indicated by a network destination of 0.0.0.0), then the internet bound packets go out the interface with the lowest metric. In the case of a tie (same metric), then the internet bound packets will go out the interface listed first.

Below is the routing table of my laptop when it is docked at my home network where I am connected to the internet through my wired docking station and by my wireless access point. My wired IP address is 192.168.1.12 and my wireless IP address is 192.168.1.13. Windows is aware of this condition and automatically prefers my wired connection by giving it a lower metric of 20 versus my wireless connection metric of 25. In this case, this is my Windows 7 (Beta 1) laptop.

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You can, of course, permanently alter your metrics by editing your TCP/IP settings on your network adapter’s advanced settings. By default, it is set to Automatic metric allowing Windows to decide which metrics are best. Here is a screenshot.

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In conclusion, Windows will automatically prefer your wired connections versus your wireless connections when both are connected to the internet. This is great for us road warriors.

Scott Landry adds:

You should know that Vista made a change to how we handle existing sockets – after plugging in, connections will not be switched over, you must re-establish the connection in order to make use of a wired connection. For example, if you’re downloading something from a website and realize that it would go faster by plugging in, you’d have to cancel and start over after plugging in.  This is a change from XP and 2003. Here is a good reference:

The Cable Guy Strong and Weak Host Models http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/2007.09.cableguy.aspx


Comments (14)

  1. Anonymous says:

    ADCE 2013 from Synergix ( http://www.synergix.com ).  Not only does it set Wired as preferred but will also release the IP address assigned to Wifi before it disconnects from WiFi.  Works on xp, 7 … not yet sure about 8.0  So you don't have computers taking up two IP address in the DHCP pool and interestingly enough it will also remove the DNS record for the WiFi connection.  Neat !

    We are testing their beta version ( 2013 ) and can provide more comments in few days.

  2. Ulf says:

    This is not true, why do you think a question of how to force Win 7 to prefer wired over wireless connections gives a million answers on Google?

  3. Quantum says:

    Thank you very much for this. I wanted my wireless connection to be preferred to the wired one (wired is only to accept external connections) and it worked wonderfully.

  4. Renjith says:

    This is not true.windows 7 will not take the metric changed manually on tcp/ip properties.this is really

    big failure of windows 7 in network connections. XP was good as when we docks it automatically switch over from wireless to wired.can anyone truly suggest switch over in windows 7?

  5. Sanjay Devarajan says:

    It kinda worked for me in Win XP. Thanks

  6. Ratan Sharma says:

    It's Working for me in windows 2003. Thanks ………

  7. Anonymous says:

    It might be important to add that some people might look for really disabling the wireless interface when wired is available, although with different metrics that might not be necessary.

    Also, let's point out that even though wired mostly has a lower metric, the taskbar still shows the wireless network connected symbol! Which is understandable, but might lead to confusion for people not understanding that both can be available but only one connection is used!

  8. Ralph says:

    There are no Fail proof ways for Win 7 or 8 to make sure that AT ALL times Wire is used over WIFI. The metric setting is ignored by MS. I know cause my metric for the wired is 10 and for the WiFi is 9999, but at all times the WiFi is used instead of the
    Wired. This is by design as Microsoft being as inept as always did not properly design their operating system. This is a DESIGN DEFECT, which Microsoft will not admit to, despite the fact that it could be caused by no other method EXCEPT incompetent design,
    ignored during quality assurance testing etc. The reason there are a million people looking for a fix for this design flaw is that there is NO fix available. MS will not fix it as they got your money and could care less. Being that they are among the most
    evil and greedy companies currently in business is why it will never be fixed. I dare them to prove me wrong and fix the obvious design defect. I double dare all who read this to log in to the MS tech net and demand that they fix this DESIGN DEFECT. I have
    done so and will again today.

  9. Juan says:

    Ralph, show me an operating system where it does not have, in your words, a sign DESIGN DEFECT.

    Also show me a large company which you would regard as not being “evil and greedy”.

  10. Settle down says:

    Ralphie, did you ever consider maybe that some things are routed in IPv6? The blog picture above doesn’t even show this, and although a lot of us have ignored IPv6 for a long time, the operating system doesn’t always do that. There are other reasons why
    the default route & metric may not be used…. like some drivers and hardware can be broken… and then there is the super-secret settings on the advanced/advanced settings of Control PanelNetwork and InternetNetwork Connections that can alter things….
    firewall settings… it’s a mess.

  11. JColacchio says:

    I’ve got a brand new loaded Dell M6700… was getting 95 Mb/s download speeds via wired. Then I entered my router’s wireless info (to prepare the laptop for use all over the house) and then it dropped the wired connection and my download speed is now 25
    Mb/s via wireless – even though it’s still wired.

    How can this NOT be described as an epic fail? The FASTEST connection should ALWAYS be preferred by default. And it is NOT.

  12. JColacchio says:

    As follow up, the newer laptops, especially from Dell, have a "Smart Settings" icon in the notification center… it’s got an "airplane mode" that disables the wireless connection… for now, that’s my work around until SOMEONE at MS realizes that the
    fastest connection should always be the default preferred connection.

  13. shanetech74 says:

    The above instructions work, but may confuse you because the wifi icon is displayed in your system tray. I followed the directions, setting wired to 1 and wifi to 3…. I then toggled off the wifi , but wifi was shown in the system tray. I turned on wireshark
    and see that the vast majority of packets are going over the LAN instead of the WiFi… Looks like LAN is all traffic and wifi is just keepalive traffic.