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How to Change the Priority of Wired/Wireless Network Cards in Windows

Do you ever plug in your wired network card while your wireless card is still enabled? Ever wonder how Windows chooses which one to use? Here’s how to see the default priority—and how to change it if you want.

Note: there’s almost never any reason to change this, as Windows does a good job of choosing the right connection. Still, if you want to tweak it to work differently, this is how you would do it.

How to See the Current Network Card Priority

You’ll need to open up a new command prompt window and type in the following command:

netstat -rn | more

The | more part of the command will make sure that it doesn’t go flying off the screen, requiring you to scroll backwards—speaking of which, you should read our article about how to scroll backwards in the command prompt with the keyboard.

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At the top of the output you’ll see the Interface List, and the column on the left-hand side shows the metric of the interface. You’ll notice that the loopback interface has the highest priority, followed by my wired Gigabit card, and then my wireless card.

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If you’re wondering what all the other cards in the list are about, I’ve got some VPN software loaded, as well as VMware Workstation, all of which create virtual adapters that show up in the list.

How to Change the Network Card Priority

To change the priority, head into Network and Sharing Center and click on the Change adapter settings link on the left-hand side—or you can quickly open the network connections list by typing ncpa.cpl into the Start Menu search box.

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Now that we’re in here, choose the network card that you want to change the priority for, right-click it, and choose Properties from the menu.

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Now select the Internet Protocol Version 4 item in the list, and click the Properties button.

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Now click the Advanced button at the bottom of this window…. getting tired of clicking yet?

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And now, finally, we’re at the place where you can make the change. Uncheck the box for Automatic Metric, and then type a number into the Interface Metric textbox. You can consult the list that we found in the command prompt earlier to know what metric to assign—you’ll probably want to assign it something higher than 1, since that’s used for the loopback adapter.

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You may want to go ahead and change the priority for your other card as well, just to be sure that it is assigned the proper priority.

Note: again, there’s no reason to mess with this setting unless you are actually having a problem. Also, thanks to @rawmeet for the idea for this article.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/7/10

Comments (24)

  1. chazzz

    thanks for this article. I have always want to learn this.

  2. Christy

    I’ve always wondered about this – thank you! I changed my settings and re-ran the netstat command but the metric priority numbers did not change. Do I need to re-boot? Running Win7 Ultimate x64…

  3. Jesse

    You can also change priority using the pre-vista/7 way of doing it:

    Use the same instructions above to get to the list of network adapters, (network and sharing center, change adapter settings) but instead of going into properties, press the ALT key on the keyboard, then click the “Advanced” menu and choose “Advanced Settings”. In the window that pops up, use the arrows on the right side to move the Local Area Connection above the wireless connections. Then click OK.

  4. sanja

    my company uses 3G modems to provide employees access to the corporate network while out of the office. Is there a way to instruct Windows to use modem for acessing *.example.com (if connection is available) and LAN/WiFi for the rest?

    Thanks in advance for answering.

  5. Rialtus

    I’d love to figure out a way to do this in Group Policy (or Group Policy Preferences) for our corporate environment. Heck, what I’d really like is a way to have Group Policy DISABLE the wireless when a LAN cable is plugged in.

  6. Collin B.

    Is there a way to flop the priority when browsing to only certain domains? There is a certain domain that is blocked for some reason via my wired LAN, but is allowed via my wireless card. For all other sites, though, my wired LAN is much more stable and quicker. Thanks.

  7. John

    @Collin B and @Sanja – I’m doing this at my office. We have two connections coming in to our office, 1 is our corporate MPLS, and the other is a Verizon FiOS connection that we have for office guests to use. Our corporate MPLS connection is filtered and much slower than the FiOS connection. I connected to my work PC and am using them together. The problem doing this is that your PC can only have one default gateway, so it can only use the MPLS, or the FiOS connection for outbound connections in its standard configuration.

    I configured my PC up so it uses the FiOS connection as the default gateway, and then created a static route (google the route command syntax from the command prompt) for my corporate subnet IPs. So anything that resolves with an internal address goes over our MPLS (corporate) network and everything else gets routed through the FiOS connection, thus bypassing the filter and running at a much faster rate.

    Before anyone suggests that I stop before an admin finds out, I am the sys admin and the main reason I have this configured is I regularly have to download multiple GB ISO’s from Microsoft that would bring the entire office to a crawl when doing so over the MPLS.

  8. max

    Jesse is correct. Why would you go through all the trouble of changing the adapter priority when there is already a mechanism to do this and change on the fly.

  9. James

    Related question -
    Is there a way to force a program to use a specific interface? For example force uTorrent to use the wireless interface while the rest of the machine uses the wired?

  10. madhukarah

    what if i want to download only from wired and upload only from wireless ?

  11. JP

    It sounds to me that “John” has simply preset his DNS servers (using a static IP address) for his card connecting to his corporate MPLS (corporate VPN) network and has left his other network card connected to the FiOS connection and set it to be the default card. When he needs to access his MPLS network only one card has access to it and the PC defaults to that card for the connection due to the network path setup depending on the number of layers he has setup within that network, The topology layout is quite simple but a clever way of dealing with the problem never-the-less. As a sys admin I would hope John is taking security into mind while doing this though. Being connected to an open ‘guest’ network could lead to some serious security concerns.

    Collin B.
    Are you connected to both networks at once when you are trying to access this restricted website or do you have to make the change yourself from one network to another? You could try using a proxy server to bypass the network filtering setup on the corporate side of the network. You can set this up in the browser itself.

    madhukarah
    I’m afraid it does not work like that. IP protocols while varying rely on packet information for routing purposes. You could accomplish this but you would have to change the packet header information of all outgoing packet request and response request to the alternative IP address and router. This grows even more complex based on router and packet handling protocols of your network environment. Why would you even want to do this?

    James
    Have you thought about using a proxy server for your torrent streams or dividing your network up into segments to handle different protocol means? This would accomplish the same thing. You could even block your torrent port on your primary router and setup a secondary router to handle all torrent protocols. But once again, why would you do this unless your network is overly congested.

    Sanja
    Chances are you are on a closed VPN when connecting remotely to your company. If setup properly you will probably not be able change this behavior. Your best bet would be a proxy server to bypass the network filtering but why visit example.com while connected to the VPN? Is it that important a website for you that you connect while one the corporate VPN?

    Nice article.

  12. Mtz

    John is a wizard. Also, great article. I’ve always wanted to reconfigure that.

  13. loroo

    Thank you for the nice information

  14. jrburr

    here is my list:

    ===========================================================================
    Interface List
    13…d8 d3 85 3c 2c 5c ……Intel(R) 82577LC Gigabit Network Connection
    18…00 26 82 a7 ad 7c ……Microsoft Virtual WiFi Miniport Adapter
    17…00 26 bb fc c1 05 ……Apple Mobile Device Ethernet
    11…00 26 82 a7 ad 7c ……Broadcom 43224AG 802.11a/b/g/draft-n Wi-Fi Adapter
    1………………………Software Loopback Interface 1
    12…00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e0 Microsoft ISATAP Adapter
    16…00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e0 Microsoft ISATAP Adapter #2
    14…00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e0 Microsoft 6to4 Adapter
    15…00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e0 Teredo Tunneling Pseudo-Interface
    19…00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e0 Microsoft ISATAP Adapter #3
    ===========================================================================

    and I tried both methods to get my Intel(R) 82577LC Gigabit Network Connection to the top priority : first I changed the metric value to 10. While it saved the value it did not update netstat
    second I tried updating using the sort order that Jesse suggested. However, my numbers didn’t change.
    How do you get these numbers to persist?

    Thanks

  15. Googleyed

    Rialtus – if you have hp laptops, there is a wireless/lan switching option in the BIOS

  16. Praveen Puri

    Always wanted to know that. Finally..

    Thanks a ton.

  17. narra

    You rock!

  18. Hans Smits

    It had some problems with the way my Laptop, running Win7, used the adapters. At the end I figured out that when the session is started from the system with the two adapters, the priority mechanism work (after I changed the priority via the move up down method. So far so good.
    Although having the priority correct on the laptop I still had throughput problems with my sync program. Later I recogniced that the priority mechanism in Win7 for network adapters only works for sessions initiated from the system with the dual connection. Incomming sessions have no idea of this priority mechanism. So how can I setup other PC’s in a way that these always setup sessions (like backup / sync) using the fastes adapter? Hope someone can help here. I like to avoid I have to disable the wireless adapter each time I run backup / sync activities started from another PC.
    Hans Smits

  19. Ahilen

    BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS FOR AGES!

    Thank you so much! This is a really helpful, clear and detailed article!

  20. Hans-Georg Michna

    Does not work here. I have tested a computer with a normal LAN connection and an USB NDIS connection, which is seen by Windows 7 as LAN Connection 2.

    I have lowered the metric from 20 to 8. route print -4 shows it doubled to 16, but that is still a higher priority than the first LAN connection’s 20.

    LAN Connection 2 works for a couple of seconds, then stalls. If I disable the first LAN connection, the second one immediately picks up and works fine. As soon as I re-enable the first LAN connection, the second halts again. Is there any way for me to achieve that, as soon as I connect LAN Connection 2, only this one is used and the other one never, other than disabling the first LAN connection every time?

  21. Jerry

    Thank you.
    Clear and concise.
    Thank you

  22. Michael

    Is there a way to limit the NUMBER of wireless connections that can be used at one time ? We have a normal wireless network, and a G3 network. We do not want machines connected to both network at the same time as the 3g network is unsecure.

  23. Matt

    This article was exactly what I needed to solve my problem (which is, having a wired connection to my router, which currently has no Internet connected to it until the installer comes, while using a wireless connection to use as my portal to the Internet).

    Thank you very much!

  24. Dixit

    I have two windows installed in my laptop. one is ubuntu and other one is windows 7. I am unable to access network setting and wireless to access internet on windows 7. even i am not getting the list of available wireless neyworks. what could be the solution of this problem please send me the solution soon so that i can use internet on windows 7.

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