While Windows networking has certainly got more sophisticated about offline conditions over time, Windows 8 introduces a handy switch called Airplane Mode that works like the same feature on various smart phone platforms. It allows you to turn off all of the PC’s radios in one fell swoop when you know you’re going to be offline for a while—as on airplane ride—and then re-enable them when you arrive at your destination.

Years ago, when Windows was less sophisticated, we used to manually disable network connections in order to preserve battery life. But while this is not required with modern Windows versions, the number of network radios in a typical PC has grown in recent years: In addition to Wi-Fi, which is very common, we see Bluetooth connections and, increasingly, mobile broadband connections.

With Airplane mode, you can be sure that all of these wireless radio types are off: It toggles your PC’s or device’s cellular broadband, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios simultaneously. But as important, Airplane mode also signals to Windows 8 that you’re offline and thus that certain system-level features—live updates to apps and app tiles that require a connection, for example—don’t need to happen.

You toggle Airplane mode from the Networks pane, which is available from Settings (WINKEY + I, or choose Settings from Charms).

settings

To toggle Airplane mode, tap the slider under Airplane mode to change it to On.

Note: You will not see an Airplane mode option if you are connected to a wired, Ethernet-based network.

When you turn on Airplane mode, a number of things happen visually to indicate this mode.

First, the available wireless network connections in the Networks pane will note that they are Off.

off

Second, if you visit the Windows desktop, you’ll see an Airplane mode icon in place of the normal Networks icon in the system tray. (Tapping this will display the Networks pane so you can disable Airplane mode when desired.)

tray

Third, the Networks icon in the Settings pane (WINKEY + I) will change to an Airplane mode icon. (Tapping this will also display the Networks pane so you can disable Airplane mode when desired.)

apicon

To disable Airplane mode, simply tap the slider under Airplane to change it back to Off. Normal wireless activity will continue.

Note: Unlike with Windows Phone, you can’t engage Airplane mode and then later re-enable just Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. In Windows 8, Airplane mode only works as a global on-off switch.