Chromebooks have become exceedingly popular, especially as an educational tool in public schools. Not only are they used in public schools, but the COVID-19 pandemic is also responsible for mass purchasing by both schools and parents for extended and at-home learning.

Whether you’re using your Chromebook for work, school, or personal use, we’ll cover how to successfully connect your device to public Wi-Fi and troubleshooting steps to take if it doesn’t work the first time.

How to Connect Your Chromebook to Public Wi-Fi

To enable a public Wi-Fi connection, click on the Quick Settings Panel on the bottom right. Select No-Network > Public WiFi > enter public password.

This is the simplest and quickest way, assuming that there are no other problems and that the public network window is opening properly. Unfortunately, that’s not always how things go when dealing with public networks. Sometimes, you’ll have to force the issue.

What If I Can’t Connect My Chromebook to Public Wi-Fi?

Sometimes you just have to use a battering ram when the hammer won’t do the trick. It’s not uncommon to walk into a public Wi-Fi spot and wonder why it’s not showing up when you open the browser.

One of the primary issues with public networks is that they don’t pop up, or your Chromebook won’t recognize an unsecured network. Several tricks will get you logged in and browsing the internet in no time.

Turn Off Alternative 3rd-Party Servers

If you’ve ever added another Domain Name Server, such as Google DNS or OpenDNS, it could be hijacking the public Wi-Fi network’s attempt to redirect you to their login page. That’s because you’re probably on an alternative DNS.

Try this:

  1. Right-click the Windows logo in your taskbar
  2. Select Open Internet and Network Settings
  3. Select Network and Sharing Center
  4. Choose your connection type/name (Wi-Fi)
  5. Highlight and select Properties
  6. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 > Properties
  7. Select Option an IP Address Automatically

This should open your Chromebook up to the default DNS server that the public Wi-Fi is directing you to.

Restart Your Chromebook

Sometimes the simplest way is the best. It’s always the same thing when it comes to a computer that isn’t trying to cooperate, a smartphone that’s acting up, or a tablet that suddenly freezes. Restarting is the go-to option because it often works.

When it comes to your Chromebook, a restart clears your RAM (random access memory), which could be overwhelmed enough that it isn’t the public Wi-Fi not loading or redirecting you, it’s just your silly RAM acting up.

When you restart the Chromebook, do a full restart, without just closing down all of your open windows. You’d be surprised at how often this works.

Open the Router’s Default Page

There are a couple of options here to force the public Wi-Fi to open their home page and let you log in, fully connected to their Wi-Fi network. Try entering http://localhost to see if that will force it open. You’ll enter this in your web browser’s address bar.

On occasion—if you’re at a business such as Starbucks or McDonalds—you can type in their website in the address bar, which will sometimes open up their public Wi-Fi login page.

Go into Incognito Mode

You can try clearing your browser’s cache before attempting to force open the public Wi-Fi login page. Sometimes your browser is simply trying to do what it is already familiar with when there’s an attempt to redirect it.

Open your web browser in Incognito mode or InPrivate. You can usually just right-click your browser logo, and you will see the option for opening a new window “discreetly.” You’ll have to try going to a non-HTTPS website. Since you’re working on a Chromebook, this address will do just fine: http://google.com/generate_204.

Your Chromebook is designed to keep your data secure, so if you already have a browsing history of jumping onto secured networks and you open your browser without being in incognito mode, your Chromebook won’t allow the redirect to keep your data secure.

When you get onto your web browser in Incognito Mode, all of the typical restrictions, history, and cache no longer apply. Because of that, there’s a good chance that attempting to go to a non-HTTPS will ultimately redirect you to the public Wi-Fi login screen.

Typically, it’s not enough to choose to connect to a public Wi-Fi access point. To be truly connected, you always have to log in to their homepage. Most of the time, that’s great, but sometimes you really have to jump through some hoops. 

All Things Considered

Nine times out of ten, everything will work out just fine. However, it’s occasionally a pain trying to connect to a public Wi-Fi access point. Hopefully, the above tips will get you across the goal line if it’s ever a problem.

Public Wi-Fi access is great until it doesn’t work, and that’s especially problematic when it’s a matter of you or your child’s education.